In late September the 9th annual International PARK(ing) Day was celebrated across 6 continents, 35 countries and over 160 cities. But let me back up, this project had very modest beginnings in 2005. The scale of success was never imaged when the project first began.
The original project was born out of a desire to draw attention to the fact that over 70% of San Francisco’s public space was dedicated to the private automobile. Rebar wanted to challenge the status quo and make an innovative, creative point. The idea was simple, yet effective.
By paying the parking meter fee, urban space can be leased on a short-term basis for an alternative use then its original purpose. From this idea a single parking spot was transformed into a temporary public park. The original PARK was erected for two hours. When the meter expired, the temporary park was deconstructed. When a single photograph of the project began circulating around the Internet, Rebar began receiving requests to create a PARK(ing) project in other cities. Instead of duplicating the same installation, a how-to manual was developed to empower international communities to create their own parks. With this, “PARK(ing) Day” was born.
Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has been adapted, modified and reinvented. Each year, the project seems to highlight another urban challenge. The original PARK(ing) project asked citizens to reconsider how they valued public spaces. It challenged the notion that planning decisions are permanent and sought to deconstruct traditional perceptions of public spaces.
In recent years, projects have expanded beyond calling attention to the lack of green space in urban areas. Free health clinics, temporary urban farms, political seminars, art installations, bike repair shops and a wedding ceremony have all taken place in a parking space.
These examples illustrate the power of the PARK(ing) Project. It encourages local communities to draw attention to missing neighborhood attributes. This project fosters an entrepreneurial, creative spirit that can only make people smile as they walk past these pop-up installations. PARK(ing) Day also provides the opportunity for local communities to highlight areas for improvement and ask local authorities to address these issues.