What’s a simple, cheap, highly visual, and eminently practical way to demonstrate some of the advantages of finding alternatives to our existing car-heavy culture? If you’re Rebar, a San Francisco art and design collective, the answer is PARK(ing) Day. Go for it!
PARK(ing) PARK(ing) Day is an annual, full day, global event that encourages artists, activists, and ordinary citizens to “take back” part of their local car-oriented infrastructure by temporarily transforming conventional metered parking spaces into public parks.
The idea is so simple, it’s brilliant. For the price of a parking spot, concerned citizens can grab possession of some prominent public square footage, and create a 3-D “diorama” about urban life as it could be lived, once we all become less dependent on individualized transportation systems.
Intended strictly as a non-commercial project and promoted as a way to tap into individual and collective creativity, Park(ing) Day has become an engine of civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, human generosity and interpersonal play.
The practice of seizing control of metered parking space and turning it to other uses dates back at least to the 1930’s, when citizens of Oklahoma City played cards in parking spaces to protest the installation of those new-fangled instruments of Fascism: parking meters!
The idea was re-conceived in 2005, and quickly implemented when several members of Rebar seized control of a single metered parking space and ingeniously began using it as a public park. For maximum impact, they choose to do this in an area of San Francisco notably short of publicly accessible open space. The goal was simply to demonstrate that paying the metered price for a public parking space enables one to control that precious urban real estate for recreational purposes, at least for a short while.
According to Rebar, as much as 70% of San Francisco’s downtown outdoor space is dedicated to cars, trucks, busses, trolleys, and other forms of transportation. In comparison, much less space has been set aside for people. The Park(ing) Day movement started out as an effort to creatively explore how urban public space is currently allocated, and how it could be used differently. Rebar was curious to learn what people might do with that space, once given the opportunity.
Since then, PARK(ing) Day has become a worldwide phenomenon, supported, controlled, and advanced by independent groups of artists, activists and citizens.
PARK(ing) Day 2008 included more than 500 “PARK” installations in more than 100 cities on four continents. This year, the project continues to expand to urban centers across the globe, including first-time PARK installations in South Africa, Poland, Norway, New Zealand and South Korea.
PARK(ing) Day participants have also broadened the scope to fulfill a range of unmet social needs. “From public parks to free health clinics, from art galleries to demonstration gardens, PARK(ing) Day participants have claimed the metered parking space as a rich new territory for creative experimentation, activism, socializing and play,” says Blaine Merker of Rebar.
In San Francisco, Rebar will deploy its “PARKcycle” – a pedal-powered mobile park, capable of delivering public green space where and when it is needed. “This year we’re going to outfit the PARKcycle with a new type of park. We are keeping the details secret, but we’ll be out pedaling around and visiting other PARK(ing) Day installations around the city,” says Rebar’s Teresa Aguilera. “If you live or work in San Francisco, keep your eyes open for a twenty-two foot long park pedaling through the streets. It will be hard to miss.”
To help make the dream a reality, Rebar has found support from several non-profits, including The Trust for Public Land, the Black Rock Arts Foundation, and Public Architecture, that share the collective’s values and concerns about urban space. The growth and dissemination of PARK(ing) Day ideas and literature, such as the posters accompanying this article, would not have been possible without their support.
Basic Rules for a PARK(ing) Day Installation
Rebar encourages adaptation and “remixing” of the basic “park in a parking space” concept that characterizes Park(ing) Day, and especially encourages participants to consider going beyond the standard combination of grass, bench, and shade. Park(ing) Day parks have been used to examine and address a wide range of other needs in local urban contexts.
However, Rebar encourages adherence to a few simple rules, if only to preserve the original spirit and intent of the celebration. They include:
1) Non-Commercial Sensibility. Everyone who participates in PARK(ing) Day and uses its name must agree not to include any advertising and not to sell or in any way promote any commercial goods or services in or around their temporary park. The only exception is the free “Mark your PARK” poster from Rebar’s website (http://parkingday.org/), which includes a space for commercial organizations and merchants to insert their business names or logo. No other form of advertising is permitted in or near a Park(ing) Day park.
2) Give Credit To PARK(ing) Day, by including the following on all websites, press releases, flyers and other promotional materials: “PARK(ing) Day was originally created in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, as an experimental exploration in repurposing public space.” Although not the original inventor of the concept, Rebar does have rights to the “PARK(ing) Day” name and logo.
The term “PARK(ing) Day” is a registered service mark of Rebar Group, Inc., which grants free rights to the name for use in any non-commercial capacity related to PARK(ing) Day events, provided proper credit is given.
3) Waiver of Liability. Participation in PARK(ing) Day is open and undertaken at your own risk! Participants are acting independently of Rebar Group, Inc. and its owners, employees, officers, directors, members, volunteers, agents, assignees and partners, none of whom are liable for their actions. Rebar asks participants to please download and read their disclaimer/waiver of liability
Participants in PARK(ing) Day can, and probably should, connect with others around the world, and “register” their PARK by adding their PARK to the 2009 Map (http://my.parkingday.org/page/community-map-2009). Rebar says this will help increase the number of visitors at your park, because on PARK(ing) Day people like to tour local installations in their neighborhoods.
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About the author:
Robert Moskowitz is a business consultant, author, and time management “guru” who has founded two non-profits, worked as a Senior Consultant for Hill and Knowlton, helped develop several Internet startups, and won an Emmy for his work on a Public TV series about personal finances. He has written extensively on topics ranging from aging to investment, the Internet, marketing, business management, and more. He writes: “I am here cause I feel in my bones we’re living profligately on the planet and we need to find a formula for establishing quality of life without destroying the environment. Obviously, sustainable development and new modes of transport are key ingredients in such a formula.”