PARK(ing) Day is an annual festival dedicated to car parking spaces… not the celebration of car parking, but to rethinking the possibilities of the parking space as a public space which can be meaningfully used for social activities. The festival began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Images of the first guerrilla event were widely distributed online, and Rebar received many requests for the same parking space conversion in other cities.
Instead of replicating the mini-park installation, Rebar decided to promote the idea as an open source urban project. Anyone with an interest is able to undertake a PARK(ing) Day project independently, without the direct involvement of Rebar.
The guidelines created by Rebar most importantly limit the commercial exploitation of the event, and keep participation focused on the principles of community service, creativity, experimentation, generosity and play. PARK(ing) Day is about making new experimental forms of public space for public activities, not for commercial uses or promotions.
People in different urban contexts have adapted and redefined the event to address relevant local issues. The photo collage above shows some of the many interesting ideas that have been employed so far.
There are a range of ways in which PARK(ing) Day events are established. In some cities, individuals and artists independently curate their own installations each year. In others, not-for-profit organisations, local councils and universities undertake larger events.
With the support of local councils, universities and private sponsorships, Brisbane and Adelaide have organised PARK(ing) Day events almost every year since 2008. Both cities have run the event as a student design competition and paired it with seminar and workshop programmes. In Sydney, PARK(ing) Day is advocated by a national not-for-profit organisation, Object. Object facilitates individual participation, and assist with submitting projects for design approval. In both Melbourne and Tasmania, the festival has only interested a few private enterprises and small groups of students. Less than 5 PARK(s) have been produced over the past two years… Do we already have enough public space?
Since its humble beginning with one PARK in San Francisco in 2005, it expanded in 2011 to 975 parks in 162 cities around the world. In some cities in South Africa, the festival runs each year for a whole week. PARK(ing) Day created the term parklet and inspired the United States’ Pavement to Park Programme which provides permanent benefits to local communities.
This case study shows the potential of a temporary / small art movement in challenging the way people think about urban space and encouraging the active participation of the public in civic processes. Its flexible structure allows many different ideas to be explored, and a strong sense of ownership by local organisations. It is also easy and affordable for anyone to participate, not only large organisations and design institutes. As we can see, it allows everyone to contribute to the social environment in a fun and easy way!
- Rebar Group; About page; PARK(ing) Day; accessed August 2014
- Rebar Group; PARK(ing) Day Manifesto; PARK(ing) Day; p. 9
- Rebar Group; Home page; PARK(ing) Day; accessed August 2014
- PARK(ing) Day origins; this and subsequent images copyright of author.
- The birth of PARK(ing) Day.
- Typologies of PARK(ing).
- Past installations.
- Do we have it in Australia?
- Influences and values.