Last Friday was an interesting day in cities around the U.S. as parking spots were allowed to be turned into miniature parks or “temporary public spaces“. PARK(ing) day began in 2005 in San Francisco and has spread to several major cities including Washington, DC. This year, one of my work colleagues and I decided to explore a few of the spaces near our workplace. In total there were 34 PARK(ing) day participants in DC; I was able to visit 6 during my lunch break.
First up, we walked to GW’s campus to see the space designed by the GWU Sustainable Urban Planning Program. The space had cardboard boxes that looked like a city and a fair amount of people sitting around and using the space. Success #1.
Next, we went by the Golden Triangle BID/Gensler parklet–the only semi-permanent parklet in DC. Compared to all of the makeshift spaces we saw, this was definitely the only one that looked like it was designed to be used for more than a day. Unfortunately, no one could use the space on PARK(ing) day because there were wet paint signs on the structure.
goDCgo had a nice multi-use space with a massage area and a reading nook. It was a good idea, but it’s hard for people to sit down and read a novel during their work day. The Urban Land Institute parklet we passed had a giant Jenga, which would have been fun to play, but we were on the wrong side of the street and had to get back to work.
One of the biggest things I noticed when observing the parklets in DC was that very few people were using the temporary spaces. This might be because the District has a wealth of small public parks, squares, and tiny green spaces sprinkled throughout the downtown area. I can understand that in some cities, this may open up a dialogue regarding the need for public space. I also did not want to enter many of the spaces because almost all the parklets had coordinators there to talk to people who stopped in or to hand out flyers.
I would have much preferred the ability to explore the spaces without listening to a spiel about why it was created. All in all, it was fun to walk around and see the different concepts groups came up with. Maybe next year I will be more proactive in entering the spaces. For more pictures from other areas of the city click here (I felt a little weird taking pictures of the parklets with people standing around). My final thoughts: PARK(ing) Day is a fun and innovative way to open the discussion of what constitutes public space of what streets can be used for.