Like the rallying cry to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (“they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”), artists, designers and citizens in cities around the world transform parking spaces into temporary public parks every September 21st in celebration of Park(ing) Day.
The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world. As of 2011, Park(ing) Day has resulted in 975 parks in 162 cities in 35 countries and 6 continents around the world.
The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.
According to Rebar, “Our original PARK stood in place for two hours – the term of the lease offered on the face of the parking meter. When the meter expired, we rolled up the sod, packed away the bench and the tree, and gave the block a good sweep, and left. A few weeks later, as a single iconic photo of the intervention traveled across the web, Rebar began receiving requests to create the PARK(ing) project in other cities.”
The first Park(ing) Day installation
The Vancouver Public Space Network has been celebrating Park(ing) Day since 2008, when they transformed a parking space on Main Street. In 2009, they set up shop on Hornby Street and played host to hundreds of folks in the downtown neighbourhood with a mini park comprised an interactive component and art station including Tibetan-style flags on which members of the public could write messages(pictures). In 2010, they set up an urban park on Davie Street (and held a dance party). They are in the midst of planning a Park(ing) Day installation for this Friday at Joyce and Kingsway in Vancouver.
While some Park(ing) Day public space interventions have introduced natural elements in a paved environment, others have used parking spaces to call attention to other specific community needs and values and use the event to draw attention to issues that are important to their local public—everything from experimentation and play to acts of generosity and kindness, to political issues such as water rights, labor equity, health care and marriage equality.
Park(ing) Day celebrates the essence of public space. That is, reclaiming a piece of the city and making it into an attractive, comfortable, blank canvas - free of cars - where people can express what matters to them.
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