Park(ing) Day 2017

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We’ve been following Park(ing) Day for almost a decade and it’s fun to see how it’s evolved. If you’re not familiar with this one day event, Park(ing) Day is now a  world-wide event on the third Friday of every September. It is an opportunity for  artists, designers, and community members to create temporary mini public parks in metered on-street parking spaces.

Installations include games such as ping-pong, seating, or an interactive planting display. This year we were able to spend Park(ing) Day in the city where it all started – San Francisco! Originally developed by the brains of the folks at Rebar this event has taken on a life of it’s own. You can learn more about Park(ing) Day here but historically the event was a guerrilla effort to occupy and activate vehicular space for the delight of people! It’s a welcome site to see it take on a more permanent and active role as well as maintain it’s whimsical origins.

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The participatory and guerrilla efforts by community groups and citizens to create their own spaces for the public is something we love at DOE! As planners, designers, and curious explorers, we love the way Park(ing) Day taps into the latent power of a parking space. In a small twenty-foot by ten-foot area, events can be held, friendships can be made, or a simple smile can be inspired.

We visited four Park(ing) Day exhibits in San Fran this year and they exhibit a good variety of what Park(ing) Day can be.

Public Recreation (link here) This bright and lively space showcased a versatile public furniture line that supports active folks. The modular benches and bars look sculptural from the perspective of the passerby but they are so much more – pull up bars, yoga platforms, and surfaces for stretching or lifting. We hope to see these integrated into permanent parklets and public spaces near us someday soon!

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Wish Cloud The Wish Cloud structure may look like balloon jail from afar but it fostered a lovely activity where pedestrians were invited to affix their wish to a helium balloon and contribute to the aggregation of white balloons within the structure. The collection of big white balloons created an inspiring cloud of wishes. We appreciated the small button take-away as a momento to cherish.

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Bubbles Who doesn’t like bubbles?! We had a blast making big sudsy orbs with the oversized vats of soap. This Park(ing) Day exhibit shows that a simple concept can brighten people’s day!

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SPUR Care Packages This installation took a more serious tone. At this spot folks were invited to assemble care packages for the local homeless population. The packs of toothpaste, soap, socks, and a friendly note were to be distributed to those in need. We respect the effort to build awareness and sensitivity for homelessness while offering a simple action-oriented way for people to take a moment to help.

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Park(ing) Day didn’t seem to garner overwhelming participation in San Francisco this year and, as part of the evolution of event, we think that can be viewed as a good thing. One-day exhibits are now replaced by ubiquitous semi-permanent parklets throughout the city. These expansions of the sidewalk offer enhanced public space; seating, tables, as well as advocacy for important civic issues. Kudos to the City of San Francisco for embracing a good idea and developing a Parklet Manual through their Pavement to Parks Program.

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In parts of the city every other block we noticed a parklet and the idea it represents – that not only can vehicular space be reclaimed, but Ideas can be tested and refined. With a parklet, we may give up a parking spot but we are rewarded with placemaking, public space, community, and delight. We love the guerilla nature of Parking Day and hope that individuals and cities continue the trajectory of embracing opportunities for improved public spaces.

See you next Park(ing) Day!

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