PARK(ing) day is an annual worldwide event that encourages locals to reclaim car parking space in cities for rest, relax and play. For one day a year artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. Started in San Francisco in 2005 as a Guerrilla art Project by Rebar Art + Design who converted a single metered parking space into a public space. The event is now global and in 2011 there were 975 parks in over 160 cities, on 6 continents.
PARK(ing) Day has largely been a grassroots and open source event. They’ve used the internet to make it easy for people world wide to participate by creating tools such as a free ‘how to’ manual online, social network and an interactive world map, all allowing for participation. Thus allowing people to adapt the space to their idea for creative, social and political causes relevant to their urban conditions. It is a reaction to the dominance of cars in our cities and has struck a chord with city dwellers. The act of transforming a parking space encourages people to “reimagine the possibilities of the urban landscape” as Matthew Passmore who helped start PARK(ing) Day explains.
The events success has inspired some governments to create legal mechanisms to allow the public to engage with the public realm. In San Francisco, the planning department installed a prototype “park let”, and started the pavement to parks “Parklets” program, which provides a permit system for individuals, local groups and businesses to transform metered parking spaces into small ‘Parklets’ open to the public. New York City has also started the “pop up cafe” program that permits local cafes wanting to give a sidewalk service.
“What has been really gratifying,” says Rebar principal Blaine Merker, “is that PARK(ing) Day, which began as a guerilla art project, has been adopted by cities and integrated into their official planning strategies. A relatively modest art intervention has changed the way cities conceive, organise and use public space.”