Every year, since 2005 on the third Friday of September, PARK(ing) Day has made an impact on cities around the world. Global citizens, from artists to activists to landscape architects, temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The purpose of Park(ing) Day is to make the public revalue their needs of space by impacting the way they experience the urban environment.
Students in the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Student Chapter with the School of Landscape Architecture participate in the event each year, and bring design out of the classroom and into the streets of San Francisco. This year, our student group chose two parallel parking spaces outside of our studios at The Cannery along Beach Street, which is a main pedestrian route in the The Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood.
As we talked about different ideas, we saw that a big challenge was trying to work around how windy it is in San Francisco. After discussing a few ideas, it was decided that our design should take advantage of the wind. On a large scale, wind turbines are used to generate energy, and on a smaller, more personal scale, many cultures have traditions of making paper windmills by hand. This is where the windmill idea came from! We wanted to create a space where people could relax and take a moment to reflect on what is most important in their life and on the most basic things that make them happy. We wanted to provide a place where they could sit, where they could do something childish and playful.
We set up tables and chairs for people to write a wish on a piece of paper, fold it into a windmill and attach it to a tall pole standing in one of several grass planters. The idea was that when the wind blows, the moving air takes each wish to it’s own destination. From tourists, to bus drivers and a homeless man, various types of people stopped by at our park(ing) space. The response was awesome!
“A parking officer stopped by and asked if we had a permit for what we were doing,” said LAN BFA student Katerin Luquetta. Even though we were paying the meters for the parking spots, the officer was not used to seeing them without cars taking up the space. In the end, the officer could see that we were bringing something special to the block and, thankfully, she did not write us a ticket.
Every person that stopped at our site gave us an opportunity to talk about Park(ing) Day, our concept, and the School of Landscape Architecture. Even though this is just the third week here at the AAU for many of us, it was a great opportunity to see how the role of changing the outdoor environment, even for a few hours can have such an impact.