Gallery: Talking Public Space and Urban Intervention With San Francisco...

Image ©Søren Schaumberg Jensen/Rebar
 

INHABITAT: One Rebar design that will be familiar to many San Franciscans are "parklets” - tiny urban parks and seating areas created from one or two curbside parking spaces. How are you collaborating with the city and business owners to create these?

MATT: One of the main reactions of the City of San Francisco to "Park(ing) Day" was to develop a permit process to allow businesses, community groups, and individuals to convert a parking space into a public plaza. We worked very closely with the city to develop the pilot project and build a parklet on 22nd Street, but now it’s an open permit process and anyone can apply. We’ve built about a half dozen so far, and several more are on the docket. People come to us [for design and building] because we have a real sensitivity to the needs of the business and community groups and how to balance those interests with the public interest in having a successful public space. The City just approved a couple dozen [new parklets]. This year on PARK(ing) Day I rode my bike down Valencia Street to survey the installations and I saw: “Parklet, Parklet, Parklet, Parking Day installation, Parklet…” There were very many more parklets than Park(ing) Day installations! So in a sense, our job in a city like San Francisco is done. Park(ing) Day is becoming less relevant, because the city itself now has a program to convert metered parking spaces. It’s quite gratifying to see something like Park(ing) Day influence the city in such a direct way.

INHABITAT: How did Rebar get its start?

MATT: Rebar started around a project called the Cabinet National Library. We were inspired by an art magazine in Brooklyn called Cabinet, which had bought a piece of land in New Mexico on eBay and invited cultural events and installations to occur on the land. I actually to them  a “National Library,” which would be a file cabinet in an earthen berm that would house all the back issues of their magazine. They thought that was great and hilarious. At the time, one of my friends, John Bela, was in graduate school studying landscape architecture, and we started talking about this project. We eventually developed a plan, and we built it in 2004. Following that very fruitful collaboration, we decided to create an organization, call ourselves Rebar, and pursue more projects. The second project was “PARK(ing),” which evolved into Park(ing) Day. Once that project blew up, there were so many opportunities, and so much interest in our work, that we really needed to form an organization and develop ourselves creatively.

INHABITAT: What can you tell me about the inspiration behind Park(ing) Day, and how is Rebar staying involved as the project grows?

MATT: We first did [PARK(ing) Day] on Mission Street, here in San Francisco. It started with occupying one parking space for two hours, which was the term of the lease offered on the face of the parking meter.

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