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Playing in the Streets: PARK(ing) Day 2013

Sep 30, 2013

This year, both our VIA Seattle and Vancouver offices celebrated PARK(ing) Day – an annual worldwide event that that focuses on elevating the use of urban public space by transforming metered parking spaces into public parklets.

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The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space and to generate critical debate about the nature and role of streets in the public realm. In addition to being a fun community event, PARK(ing) Day challenges existing ideas about the use of public urban space and empowers community groups and other participants to help redefine space to reflect local needs and values.

For us at VIA, PARK(ing) Day is a great excuse to add to this dialogue and to work toward our goal of creating quality urban spaces. For this year’s event, the VIA team volunteered time to design and set up two parklets in front of our Seattle and Vancouver offices in order to create great (albeit temporary) urban spaces and to cultivate a fun and memorable urban experience for participants and passers-by.   Both parklets were focused on the idea of play and included space for social interaction, refuge and respite.  We worked to partner with local businesses and used almost exclusively recycled or reclaimed materials in our parklet designs.

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VIA Seattle Parklet (7th Ave & Olive Way)
 

The Seattle parklet, a small court for lawn games, was focused on creating a space for play. Located adjacent to our neighbors on street level, Café Senso Unico, the Italian sport of bocce ball was a natural fit. Using pallets donated from local businesses, we built a low fence to demarcate the temporary space. Astroturf, already destined for the landfill, was given a brief stay of execution and provided our playfield. Small “plaza” spaces were created using pavers donated by Mutual Materials, which provided a setting for café tables and chairs on loan from Café Senso and allowed the coffee shop to expand their lounging space onto the street. The parklet served as the setting for an informal inter-VIA bocce tournament as well as a site for informal meetings, sipping coffee and even an impromptu picnic. Passers-by were invited to participate in the games and to spend time lounging in the outdoor café space.

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VIA Vancouver Parklet (1050 Homer Street) 
 

The design of the Vancouver parklet also explored the concept of “playing in the street”. We chose to enhance the street by extending the zone of pedestrian activity beyond the curb, highlighting the multimodal nature of streets and their potential for connecting communities. We invited ZipCar to display one of their car-share Mini Coopers in our installation and to publicize the results of a recent study[1] finding that “each carshare vehicle removes 9-13 vehicles from the road.” Shipping pallets served as curb-level flooring and defined the edges of the park. Movable furniture allowed for flexibility in the space and temporarily donated potted plants provided a touch of nature.  The design included a canopy of umbrellas, inspired by street cover in Barcelona and translated to fit our Northwest climate.

Both parklets were successful in transforming our adjacent streetscapes into enjoyable public spaces and facilitating a fun afternoon of playing in the street.  VIA looks forward to PARK(ing) Day 2014!

Official PARK(ing) Day website

SDOT PARK(ing) Day website

Vancouver Public Space Network

 


[1] Martin E., Shahee S., Lidicker J. University of California Berkeley 2010. “Impact of Carsharing on Household Vehicle Holdings” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Volume 2143/2010.