Park(ing) Day: Temporary public space, lasting impression

Park(ing) Day installation in Dublin, Ireland.

In many urban environments, open, public space is often a commodity in short supply. Parks, gardens and green space compete with roads, parking lots, commercial development and other demands of the city. But what if for a few precious moments, these urban spaces could be temporarily transformed into public parks? What effect would it have on the surrounding neighborhood? Would the transformation leave a lasting impact on how people view the space?

These are some of the questions asked by the Park(ing) project held on the third Friday of September. Now in it’s tenth year, Park(ing) Day invites neighbors, artists, activists and others to transform metered parking spaces into public space for the time purchased on the meter. Once the meter expires, so does the “lease” on the space. The temporary park is packed away and the space returns to it’s original purpose as a parking space.

The first Park(ing) day installation by Rebar.

According to the Park(ing) day website, the project was originally conceived by Rebar, an art and design studio on San Fransisco. They felt the majority of public space in downtown San Francisco was dedicated to private vehicle use with little space to serve other public needs. So for two hours, the time allowed by the parking meter, rebar transformed a downtown parking space into a public park complete with grass, a tree and a park bench. When the two hours on the meter expired, the park was taken down and the only evidence that remained was a picture of the temporary park (right).

Since that first transformed parking space in 2005, Park(ing) Day has turned into a global event with parking spaces being temporarly transformed into everything from free health clinics to urban farms.

One of the goals of Park(ing) Day is for local organizers to identify community needs and create spaces that bring attention to these needs. It is hoped that the building of the temporary space will draw attention to the need for and stimulate the building of more permanent open public spaces.

Over the years a number of organizations have embraced the Park(ing) Day project including the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). You can see their review of the 2014 Park(ing) Day here. They will also be collecting photos of Park(ing) Day projects using the hashtag #ASLAPD.

The TKF Foundation is committed to providing places for people to interact with nature. And while the short lifespan and inherent environment of a Park(ing) Day project may make it hard to have a truly sacred experience with nature, it does provide the opportunity to highlight a lack of permanent green space within a community. Even though small and fleeting, a well designed Park(ing) Day project has the potential to create a stark contrast with the surrounding neighborhood and in doing so, demonstrate how even the smallest space can be transformed into something of value. An abandoned lot, forgotten street corner or other neglected space all have the potential to be transformed into valuable green space which can be enjoyed by the entire community.

For those interested in participating in Park(ing) Day which takes place on September 18, the Park(ing) Day website has a wealth of information including everything from a Park(ing) Day manual to a DIY Park(ing) Day Network where park planners can talk and share ideas. It’s not too late to start planning and we look forward to hearing about your Park(ing) Day project.