Small Spaces | Big Impact

August 4, 2017
Each September, all corners of the globe participate in an event called Park(ing) Day, a worldwide experiment in reclaiming public space. Rebar in San Francisco launched the event as a statement on the use of public space. Their one pop-up park was on display for a mere two hours – all the time the meter would allow. Unknown to them at the time was just how much people would embrace the concept, and what first began as an intervention has since exploded into a world-wide event, with some cities even allowing for multi-day installations. The movement has even spurred the implementation of permanent parks designed and maintained by private entities in the public domain for public use. There projects have many names: parklet, streetseat, micro park, people spots, to name a few. And here in Seattle, a new typology has recently emerged called a Streatery. This new idea marries an outdoor eating space with one of these parking space parks. Picture a fixed-location food truck with seating or an extension of a nearby established restaurant that resides where there was once a parked car.

As outdoor space in our cities becomes more and more scarce and the desire to make our streetscape more interactive — outdoor spaces where people can find respite from the concrete jungles as well as enhance public safety with more eyes on the street — people are exploring every possible angle to bring additional public space to the urban realm. What Park(ing) Day started was a revolution for people to look at the use of our public space more critically and consider the needs of the surrounding community. Today, these parks, both permanent and temporary, have taken on a wide range of looks and usage, well beyond the simple days of a park being little more than some grass, a tree and a bench.

What follows are a few inspiring examples of parks in the public space. First up is a micro-park project in London by WMB Studios called Parked Bench that converted two parking stalls into a bright, sculptural seating element from simple and inexpensive off-the=shelf materials that catches the eye. Both artful and functional, this park space offers comfortable seating for individuals, houses an air quality monitor and acts as a buffer between the pedestrian zone and the busy street. 

 photography by Ed Butler and Mickey Lee

In San Francisco, the birthplace of this movement, Interstice Architects designed the Sunset Parklet which looks like an undulating deck with pieces that rise up out of the ground for seating, both for small groups and community gatherings along with tables, spaces for native planting and an area that flattens out to provide bike parking. Inspired by the striations created through water and land, this parklet brings a natural feeling environment to an urban setting that provides much needed space for people.

  photographs and imagery courtesy of Interstice Architects

In Boston, Interboro designed two projects to kick off the parklet pilot program with the transportation department. Both are created with a simple yet smart movable block system they've called ad-bloc made from durable rotomolded plastic that are easy to configure and low maintenance. With only two pieces - a block and a cylinder - endless configurations and designs for seating, eating and greenery are possible and easily configurable for any size space. The blocks bright colors and fun, child-like appearance akin to giant legos, this system appeals to adults and kids alike.


 photographs and imagery courtesy of Interboro

This year’s event takes place in Seattle on Friday, Sept. 15 and we’re excited to participate. Stayed tuned for coverage of our own installation as well as the spaces we find inspiring from 2017!