PARK(ing) Day 2016
History & Background
‘Why is there so much space in our cities for vehicles and so little for public gathering? How might we repurpose our urban spaces to make them less brash and more humane?’ – Rebar, the San Francisco based design studio, used these questions as inspiration to build the concept of a PARK in a parking space. Rebar successfully rented and erected the first PARK in October 2005. San Francisco’s legal code for parking is not limited to private vehicle use only. This provided Rebar with the opportunity to fill a metered downtown space, cover it in sod and furnish it with a bench and a potted tree. Rebar’s PARK was globally recognized and initiated the annual celebration known as “PARK(ing) Day.”
PARK(ing) Day Design Competition
Historically, the ILASLA Chapter has never sponsored or built a PARK in Chicago. As this year’s new Public Awareness committee chairmen, it was essential that our chapter properly implement and sponsor a PARK(ing) space in the city. The planning committee began by inviting chapter members to participate in a design competition. Each member was asked to submit a design that used Iconic Elements of Chicago, i.e. Cloud Gate, Chicago’s Historic Boulevard system, Buckingham Fountain, etc.
The Victor & Planning:
The chapter victor, was ‘Cloud Gazing Park’ designed by a veteran landscape architect, Christopher Gent. His park was inspired by his childhood, lying in the schoolyard watching the clouds roll by getting lost in his imagination. His park-let was meant to provide visitors a temporary escape from their day, to meditate and relax. Our next step was to locate a PARK(ing) space in the city of Chicago that met the criteria of the mission. Our criteria consisted of a heavily populated area with tons of foot traffic, and a spot that was enveloped by the built environment and inaccessible to public green space. Ultimately, we chose a spot across the street from the Grand Blue Line stop, at 511 N Halsted Street.
After the design was complete and the location was established our install team met on site Friday September 16th at 7am to begin the construction of ‘Cloud Gazing Park.’ Mariani Landscape generously donated 3 cubic yards of sand, (8) pieces of 4×8 timber, (4) 4 x 6 pieces of plywood and 10 rolls of sod. The day before Chris and company cut various colors of plexiglass sheets into clouds, PVC tube supports in varying heights and prepared the hardware to fasten everything into place.
Once all of the materials arrived on site, we placed the timber curbs and plywood base, connected the clouds to the post supports, fastened them into the plywood, leveled out the sand into the timber curbs, and laid out the sod, all according to Chris’ drawings and vision.
Chris’s PARK sparked an impressive amount of joy for surrounding residents, local business employees/owners, dog walkers etc. A resident from across the street vented about her dog, never having access to grass to lay on and enjoy, as her dog refused to leave and would not stand up to continue their walk.
Overall, Park(ing) Day Chicago 2016 was a success, our chapter volunteers and everyone involved were pleased with the amount of recognition the installation received. We hope to establish this as a tradition each year, to continue spreading the awareness of the importance for more green space in our cities around the globe.