In a bid to rethink public spaces, Milan-based architecture studio Vudafieri-Saverino Partners has collaborated with PRR Architetti and Lorenzo Noe to develop Valet, a city development strategy to turn parking spots into public green spaces, also known as parklets. Created last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, the design concept aims to safely bring people back to downtown Milan and help stimulate the local economy. The designers plan to install the parklets with an eco-friendly, prefabricated system of modular plates built of recycled materials and photocatalytic elements.

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rendering of plants and benches taking over parking spots

Designed for adaptability and minimal site work, the Valet parklets will use a modular urban paving system for flexibility, quick installation and reduced construction times and costs. Each prefabricated plate will serve as a “motherboard” that can be equipped with different elements — such as landscaping, awnings, furnishings and lighting fixtures — in various configurations. The plates are to be made from Italian multinational construction company Italcementi’s engineered lightweight concrete, which was selected for its drainage benefits, recycled materials content and a clear coloration that helps combat the urban heat island effect.

Related: Portable ParkedBench parklet injects a breath of fresh air in London

rendering of parking spots filled with plants

“By converting the new social distancing rules into opportunities, the project aims to encourage sociality, where people retake possession of public spaces, streets become gardens and crossings becomes squares,” the designers explained. “Valet enables the transformation of entire neighbourhoods into green sites that are friendly and safe and enjoy better thermal and acoustic inertia. Valet uses only part of the parking spaces, reducing the section of the carriageway in order to help lower the speed of cars and transforming the road into a ‘compatible mixed traffic zone’. Redeveloping the road means acting on people’s quality of life, the profitability of commercial activities and the aesthetic impact of the urban landscape.”

map of roads covered in plants

The first case study for the Valet project will be installed on the Porta Venezia district’s Melzo Street. The parking spaces on both sides of the one-way road will be replaced with the modular plates, which will widen the existing sidewalks with furnished green spaces to encourage passersby to stop, socialize and shop at nearby businesses. The road’s speed limit will also be reduced to approximately 18 miles per hour to make the area safer and more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists.

+ Vudafieri-Saverino Partners

Images via Vudafieri-Saverino Partners