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austin puts the park back in park(ing) day

posted
10.19.17
author
Catherine Saunders
category
culture

Park(ing) Day has become one of the most anticipated annual events in our office, and our ability to design, plan and execute has definitely improved each year.

Last year our goal was to create a modular element, called BoomSpace, that could be reused for many events as a key organizing feature. We continued in that spirit this year as we built our collection of reusable elements from other pop-up events, including as a performance art backdrop, Co-Lab Projects artist exhibit, SXSW Eco installation, and for the 2017 SXSW Festival’s Artist Village.

This year, using those repurposed items, we asked ourselves: How can we create a space where people come, stay, and interact with the space? After all, isn’t that our intent for all the spaces we design? If people don’t use the space, then what is the point?

As we started designing our Park(ing) Day installation, we intentionally used vibrant colors, a mix of textures and a variety of seating options. The 4-foot-tall letters PARK stood between the parklet and the street, creating an interesting composition that integrated the letterforms on top of The Contemporary Austin (“FOR ALL”) from both the sidewalk and across the street. Painted in a coral hue, the letters stood out at the end of the soft lawn. Then came the modular BoomSpace, with which we framed edges and created rooms to help break down the space from both the street and the sidewalk. In those rooms, we used modular furniture to appeal to individual people as well as groups by clustering or isolating seating. As a final layer of texture, we added plants to both the ground plane as well as hanging from the BoomSpace structure to add color and make the space feel more comfortable.

As if the space was not enough, we provided informational signage to help explain the purpose of Park(ing) Day for those who wished to discover the space independently, as well as a robust program of events throughout the day. Inspired by our neighbor, The Contemporary Austin, a local art museum, we dove our program into the arts. The first artist to showcase their abilities was Kristen Smith, a local harpist, who filled the space with a variety of music accompanied by her soulful voice. People were immediately drawn to the parklet and were delighted to sit and enjoy her performance. Other program elements included:

  • An art hour where Tom Afflerbach brought sketchbooks and painted the streetscape and STATE sign outside of the Paramount Theater across from our parklet
  • Mischievous Mapping lead by Ann Armstrong
  • A contemporary dance performance featuring Ally Morales dancing to cello music from Ian Howard

It was great to see how just a little activity drew people to stay, experience and appreciate the space for so much longer. We couldn’t think of a better way to transform two mundane parking spaces into an active parklet for the day for so many people to share.