You may have seen this blogging around recently, since the indomitable Rebar collective staged a brilliant urban intervention in San Francisco last month by rolling out some sod and building a mini park in a metered parking space. My friend Gregory Kellett, who assisted in the production of Rebar’s video documentary, sent along a link to their trailer, which is now available for viewing at the Rebar website and shouldn’t be missed.
With many thanks to Matt Passmore and his Rebar brothers, we share with you some simple instructions on building your very own temporary urban park in a parking space. Just be sure you pay the meter. There’s no such thing as free rent…
Turn a Parking Spot into a PARK(ing) Space!
PART I – Choosing the Spot
Find a metered parking spot in an ideal sunny location for people to stop, rest, relax, and do nothing. Check to see if your city planning agency (or other open space advocacy group) has a map of areas underserved by public open space. Make contacts! You may be surprised how receptive people are to your PARK(ing) idea.
Other things to consider about the location are:
1. Type of metered space: is it a 2-hour spot or a 1/2 hour drop-off spot. We do not suggest “No-Stopping” zones, loading zones or commuter lanes.
2. People you are trying to serve: downtown office workers, tourists, the down and out, or the high-rollers. When will they be around to see and use the space?
3. Surveillance: are there nearby spots for you or your friends to take pictures or video of the installation?
4. Other environmental conditions: sun, shade, wind, weather, traffic, construction.
PART II – Building Materials
The fundamental elements of a good outdoor public space are seating, shade, a place to watch people and view scenery, and a sense of being in nature.
For Rebar’s first PARK(ing), we installed 200 sq. ft of lawn, a 24″ box/15′ tall tree, a park bench and an enclosing boundary. We also produced signs to indicate to the public that this space was created for their use and enjoyment and to invite them to feed the meter to keep the PARK open.
1. Groundcover: Even a small piece of lawn can transform the hard concrete or asphalt into a soft, green oasis. Sod is available at many garden centers for around $2.00 for a 1 ft x 5 ft roll. Be sure to place a tarp under the sod to prevent absorption of chemicals from the roadway into the sod’s matting. Other bits of nature that may work are moss, potted plants, sand, or anything that will feel good to bare feet.
2. Seating: The more seating you provide, the greater the chance of unplanned interaction among PARK(ing) visitors. Good used park benches can be obtained on the Internet or rented from a film/theatre prop rental shop. Also, don’t be afraid to utilize “Big Box” retailers with liberal return policies – perhaps you can buy a bench for your PARK(ing) and return it for a full refund when you are finished.
3. Shade: Some nurseries will lease trees by the day or week. Check with your local nursery to find a sturdy tree with abundant foliage for shade. Bamboo or a large indoor plant may work in your climate. Choose a tree you will be able to move and manage easily.
4. Enclosure: Plastic bollards linked with rope (AKA traffic tubes, available here for about $15/each) potted plants, or any self-supporting boundary is important to provide a sense of enclosure and safety for visitors to your PARK(ing) space.
5. Signs: indicating that this space has been transformed from a parking spot to a PARK(ing) space for public enjoyment and inviting visitors to feed the meter.
6. Spare change: Don’t forget to bring change to feed the meter to get things rolling before your visitors arrive.
7. Please make sure you have a plan to reuse, recycle, or donate the materials – such as the sod and tree – after your PARK(ing) project is complete!
PART III – Planning the Event
Things you should consider organizing in advance are:
1. Sourcing materials like tree, lawn and bench at least a week or two in advance;
2. Transportation for the materials to and from the site;
3. Friends or collaborators to arrive early at the site to hold a space and to help you setup and cleanup;
4. People to photograph/document the event;
5. A plan for dealing with police officers, traffic enforcement personnel, or people angry about you occupying a parking space. Keep in mind that you are acting in the public interest to add to the health, comfort, and vitality of your city. We recommend appealing to law enforcement’s sense of civic pride versus antagonizing them.
6. A place to donate the materials (sod and tree) when the project is over.
PART IV – Installation
Arrive early to secure your ideal space. A couple of strategies for installing PARK(ing) in heavy traffic are to: (1) Obtain two or more spots. One spot to temporarily park your transport vehicle and one (or more) for PARK(ing); (2) Alternatively, pull up alongside your spot. Turn on your blinkers, and place traffic safety cones or saw horses for safe unloading.
1. Begin feeding the meter.
2. Unload the turf or groundcover. Place the first turf roll against the curb, unroll, and proceed from there. Pruning clippers are handy to trim the turf for a perfect fit. Press the turf edges together snugly to create a seamless lawn.
3. Unload the tree. 24″ box trees are VERY heavy and will require 3-4 people to move safely and efficiently. Site the tree so that it will provide a bit of shade for the duration of your installation.
4. Place the seating, set up the boundary, then place your signs inviting the public enjoy the PARK you have just created for them.
5. Now sit back, relax and enjoy! People may be profoundly indifferent, nonchalant, curious or overwhelmingly excited by your PARK. You may wish to provide them with an explanatory flyer or an email, website or mailing address to contact you for more information.
Don’t forget to feed the meter!
PART V – Clean-Up
1. Once the meter expires, the sun has gone behind a building, or you have been asked to leave by the police or traffic authorities, load your tree, roll up the turf, and pick up the bench. Carefully sweep up any dirt or debris, and then dismantle the boundary structure. If you are returning a tree to the nursery, take care not to damage it while loading.
2. Ideally you have lined up a place to donate any materials that you don’t plan to keep or reuse. Once you have dropped off all the materials, returned equipment, and cleaned up, take the time to thank all of your friends and collaborators.
PART VI – Getting the Word Out
If you take pictures or video of your PARK(ing), please send them to Rebar at: [email protected] We will post pictures and stories about your PARK(ing) project on the Rebar site, and provide a link to your local organization/website.
We would also like to incorporate your video into a larger documentary project on the nascent PARK(ing) movement. Please email us for more information on the documentary.
Now get out there and start PARK(ing)!
Concept and materials copyright ? 2005 by Rebar.