On a sunny afternoon in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a group of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gathered to transform a metered parking space into a temporary pop-up park. Located at the busiest intersection of downtown Franklin Street, the sliver of open space is part of a global effort calling PARK(ing) Day started by San Francisco art and design studio Rebar.
The annual open-source event brings together citizens, artists, and activists to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces in order to draw attention towards the development of more urban open space. The project originated in 2005 by transforming a single-metered parking space into a temporary public space in an area of San Francisco known for a lack of public open space. After paying the meter for two hours, the PARK(ing) project aims to explore the range of possible activities for a short-term lease on precious space. The project generated a discussion around values generated from a variety of urban public space use, and the project quickly grew into other cities.
The project has continued to expand, even incorporating features beyond the traditional “tree-bench-sod” park typology. Chapel Hill’s organizers built a miniature golf course as well as artistic displays and live music for citizens to enjoy. Many participants took time to lounge in chairs with umbrellas or take a nap on a shaded futon cushion propped up on cinder blocks.
The event’s student organizers devised the idea after returning from a study abroad trip in Europe, where they witnessed many grassroots efforts supporting creative ideas to promote sustainability and the use of public spaces as part of community-wide movements. The park created in downtown Chapel Hill resonated with students and residents alike, with local citizens thrilled with the effort to encourage more public space for the general public to enjoy.
The town of Chapel Hill is experiencing rapid changes stemming from high-density development, which has hindered the availability of public space along the downtown corridor. By taking over a parking space squarely situated in front of a busy Starbucks, the PARK(ing) Day project celebrated high quality public spaces showing how it can contribute to a multi use, vibrant downtown.
What other forms of green design can be used for cultural expression or to encourage civic processes? Has your city or town participated in the global PARK(ing) Day event?
Credits: Images by Rachel Eberhard. Data linked to sources.