Next Friday, September 19, is PARK(ing) Day. Don't be alarmed if your usual parking spot has been covered with sod and foliage. Instead, be prepared for a little impromptu R&R on a new, albeit temporary, patch of green open space.
What is PARK(ing) Day?
PARK(ing) Day 2008, sponsored by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), was conceived in 2005 by REBAR, a group of interdisciplinary artists in San Francisco, California. The intent of PARK(ing) is to creatively reimagine outdoor space dedicated to private vehicles as open space dedicated for people. There is no doubt that we live in a society that is dominated and dependent on the automobile, which can be seen in our land use patterns, personal commuting habits, and increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. REBAR cites that more than 70% of most cities' downtown outdoor open space is reserved to the automobile, while many cities today lack dedicated open green space for residents. The built environment's landscape prioritizes the automobile and marginalizes the natural environment and our overall quality of life.
As a result, PARK(ing) Day encourages concerned citizens, activists, business leaders, and artists to form a dialogue and to temporarily transform metered porous asphalt into active green spaces. With a few rolls of quarters and a whole lot of imagination, parking spots across the world will be transformed into urban parks. Participants in the past have converted porous 10 feet by 20 feet asphalt spaces, one of which included San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's parking place, into tree nurseries, flower gardens, playgrounds, dog parks, lemonade stands, and gathering hubs for potlucks and tea. These acts of transformation display the value of open green space not only for its aesthetics and benefits to the environment, but also the social life that open spaces provide to city's residents, workers, and visitors to relax, converse, and enjoy.
Though originally conceived by a group of artists, the idea of "PARK(ing)" has caught on as cities are beginning to recognize the importance of public open space. This past summer, New York City's Transportation Department removed two lanes of traffic on Broadway from 42nd to 35th Streets in order to create an esplanade complete with umbrellas, chairs, planters, and a bike lane. The intent of the project, which cost $700,000 to construct and maintenance to be provided by the surrounding business improvement districts, is to provide more spaces for office workers and visitors to relax. The new Broadway esplanade may not be the luscious green spaces that the supporters of PARK(ing) Day would hope for, but the esplanade underscores the city's recognition of open space as an important requirement to everyday urban life.
PARK(ing) in Greater Philadelphia
This year Philadelphia is one of the sixty-five US cities participating in PARK(ing) Day on Friday, September 19th. Philadelphia's twenty-five registered groups come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including architecture firms, neighborhood councils, local businesses, non-profit organizations, car share programs, and students. Ardmore and Mount Holly also are participating.
To promote further discussion on the intent of PARK(ing) Day, the Academy of Natural Sciences' Town Square program is hosting the September Urban Sustainability Forum entitled "Taking Back Our Streets - Cars, People, and Pavement" on Thursday, September 18th at 6pm. And to find the closest "parks" near you on September 19th, please visit http://www.parkingdayphilly.com/.
-- Christy Kwan, Graduate research intern