Parklets–little parks constructed where street parking used to be–are popping up in more and more cities, adding little areas of green space and seating to the streetscape where formerly there were only cars. The first parklet, though, wasn’t sanctioned by any government. It was just a group of activist artists taking control of some city space in downtown San Francisco in 2005. The planners fed money into a parking meter, rolled out a piece of sod on the concrete, and added a potted tree and a bench. It lasted for two hours, but it sparked a movement. More recently, parking spaces have been converted into temporary bike racks and cheap office space.
In April, an artist took the concept to an even more absurdist extreme: an installation that makes public space even when there are parked cars in the way.
[Photo: courtesy Benedetto Bufalino]
“The idea was to intervene as an act of vandalism,” says Benedetto Bufalino, who created the installation at Concéntrico 05, an architecture and design festival in Logroño, Spain. “The pedestrian rediscovers their place.”
Three scrapped cars from a junkyard were parked on a city street for a week, with a custom wooden terrace on top following the outline of the cars. People immediately started to climb on the terrace and use it. It’s not a project that’s as likely to lead to as much new urban design as the first parklet, but it plays a similar role in pointing out the amount of space that cars take up in cities (street parking and parking garages and roads use more than half of the land area in some U.S. cities)–and how it could be used differently. When people look at the installation, “I would like them to tell themselves that anything is possible,” Bufalino says. “Also, that they can take power in the city.”