PARK(ing) Day 2009: Renting Public Space


This PARK(ing) Day, we consider what could happen if the streets weren’t just unitaskers for cars. Chicago contains roughly 8,000 miles of surface roads, amounting to 77,575 acres of pavement dedicated to the driving and parking of automobiles.  Automotive real estates further balloons when you consider the private parking lots, garages, and alleys. Comparatively, Chicago dedicates 7,300 acres to public parks.

The streets of Chicago are typically inhospitable to anything but cars, choking out pedestrians, funneling stormwater runoff to inappropriate locations, contributing to air pollution, and obstructing a genial atmosphere amongst the users.

Imagine the possibilities if streets served more than just a single automotive purpose. A place where, in addition to transportation, water was recharged, food was grown, and people were present. On Friday, September 18, from 9a-6p at 3552 North Southport Avenue, moss, along with collaborators Strand Design, will transform a surface street parking corral into public space for PARK(ing) Day. Reclaiming the public realm for the use of all of the public.

PARK(ing) Day is a one-day, global exploration of the creative potential of streets that celebrates urban parks and promotes the need for more of them by converting public parking spots into temporary parks for a day—a ‘reimagining’ of a public space.  Artists and citizens work together to transform metered parking spots into PARK(ing) spaces: temporary public parks for all to enjoy.  The annual event was originally created in 2005 by Rebar, an art collective, in San Francisco, California.

The theme of our collaborative design for this year’s PARK(ing) Day is a “Bicycle Comfort Station”.  With a higher percentage of street space currently allocated to vehicles and gas stations, and only a fraction allocated to the public realm, the bike comfort station is the bicyclist’s non-gas, refueling station. The Moss/Strand design team will lease two parking spaces for the day and convert them into a bike and pedestrian friendly oasis. The oasis will be complete with trees, donated by Grand Street Gardens, and relaxation stations where weary bikers can kick-back and enjoy a cold beverage, provided by Southport Grocery, or re-fuel with grilled “potato power packs”; all part of the comfort station.

The concept of PARK(ing) Day is based on the idea that putting money into a parking meter one is “renting” urban public space.  The range of possibilities for the short-term lease of the metered parking space is limitless.  The thought of the design team was what if, tomorrow, there were no more cars on the road; what would we imagine the street parking spaces to be?  This sparked our imagination and being active bikers and stewards of the environment we wanted to create a usable, temporary park, a park that bikers using the Southport bike lane could turn into, refuel, and relax.  We also envision the park being enjoyed by those working and walking along the Southport corridor.

Park(ing) Day has grown from one metered parking space in San Francisco in 2005 to over 60 participating cities worldwide today. It is an act of playful, generous activism and is strictly a non-commercial enterprise.

parking day flier