I’ll sing it until I’m blue in the face, but public space is one of the most crucial components of an urban environment. Not only is it a huge percentage of any city, but more importantly it’s public. And that includes the sidewalks, parks, plazas, and streets – all (or most) technically belonging to the people. While it’s true that you can’t just camp out in the middle of the highway (not that you’d want to), it’s only manufactured policies that now dictate our streets are for automobiles instead of people.
But what if it was different?
That’s what the Rebar Group thought in San Francisco when they started the PARK(ing) Day event in 2005. Technically an art experiment, this design studio simply paid the parking meter as usual, and then set up a temporary parklet. It’s so simple, you can’t believe it hadn’t been done before. And why not? You pay for it. Do you really have to only put a car there? Needless to say, the event went viral and quickly became an international event. There are nearly one thousand PARK(ing) Day events around the world every year on September 20th. As Rebar says:
“In addition to being quite a bit of fun, PARK(ing) Day has effectively re-valued the metered parking space as an important part of the commons – a site for generosity, cultural expression, socializing and play. And although the project is temporary, we hope PARK(ing) Day inspires you to participate in the civic processes that permanently alter the urban landscape.”
And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
A group of fellow urbanists here in Portland recently came up with a crazy idea. Architects, engineers, anthropologists, what unites us is more livable streets for everyone and we decided to put on what could be the largest PARK(ing) Day event in Portland thus far. This year we are transforming about 15 parking spaces on an entire block of SW Stark between 10th and 11th downtown. With its painted bicycle lane, cafes, and newly opened Union Way shops, we are set to create a lively mixed-use street for people. And who knows? Maybe it will permanently alter the urban landscape.
So if you’re in Portland and you’re looking for a demonstration in lively public space, stop by! There will be places to relax, chat with your friends over coffee, and play ping-pong. Trimet will have a demonstration in public transportation and StreetFilms will play at our family room inspired PARK(ing) Space. Afterwards, you’re all invited to The Cleaners for another great event (and cash bar). Special thanks go to the Ace Hotel, the new Union Way alley, and all nearby businesses. Spread the word, or better yet, start your own! See you on the street!