In 2005, San Francisco firm Rebar wanted to make a statement about the dwindling green space throughout their city. They selected a metered parking space, acquired a simple bench, a roll of artificial turf, and a tree. There they paid the meter for 2 hours and set up their parklet. When the meter expired, they rolled up their park and went about their day.
The photo shown on the right was taken from across the street of Rebar’s parklet. It went viral, and when the correspondence started coming in from across the country, Park(ing) Day was born. For the past 12 years designers, artists, and activists have been taking to the streets on the third Friday in September to bring awareness to the public about much needed green space in the ever expanding world of asphalt and concrete.
In addition to green space, this has also provided an opportunity for advocacy about other hot topics affecting the communities and public realms across the world. As landscape architects, this platform is usually taken on topics like water use, climate change, walkability, and urban design.
My favorite aspect of Park(ing) Day is the role it plays in the community. Last year I organized the event at a train station, where we were able to bring commuters together in a space we had transformed from asphalt to green. The simple act of providing a communal green space in the midst of a parking lot provided commuters with an opportunity to come together and share a space. The impromptu parklet offered a space for people to sip their coffee and converse with someone they may have never met before, but shared a train daily.
Having an opportunity to set up these temporary parklets and provide this communal space offering social, environmental, and educational experiences for the community – even with something as simple as a parking space on a busy street in downtown Los Angeles – is what drives my passion for my profession. I’d encourage everyone to make it a point to seek out and visit a Park(ing) Day exhibit in your city.