Imagine just walking down a street and suddenly seeing a little, grassy park sitting between some cars inside of an otherwise empty (9’x 15’) parking space.
These little DIY “parklets” emerged as an idea back in 2005 in San Francisco as a cool way to transform underappreciated urban spaces. The idea grew into a global event, (PARK)ing Day, held annually during the third week of September. This year, Colorado State University students enrolled in Visual Expression of Designed Environments, a 120-person interdisciplinary Interior Architecture and Design class, joined in on the fun.
Transforming CSU parking spaces
While the students in INTD 110 didn’t create grassy parks, they were tasked with using their parking space in a unique and purposeful way to generate positive social interactions. Moreover, students were challenged to incorporate re-used or reclaimed materials as a part of their creations.
“In this assignment and class we emphasized the role we each play in transforming space into meaningful places, drawing on theories such as placemaking, sense of place, third places, and affordance theory,” said Leah Scolere, assistant professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising, who is teaching the course.
The primary goal of PARK(ing) Day is to challenge expectations about existing spaces. Students attempted to apply ideas of socio-spatial dynamics, which they’ve been studying in class, to a real-world design. Through this event they were able to watch how people engaged with their space and understand the importance of design created with and for the users of a space.
Students’ creative designs included interactive chalk boards, places to paint, and sustainability boards. The environment was fun and lively, and each group was excited to talk to the passing students who stopped and participated in the design concepts along the Pitkin bikeway.
“This event showed me that we overlook space a lot. Who knew you could put something that lets the community interact in a ‘parking space!’” said Sarah Brown, a first-year student in the Interior Architecture and Design Program who is taking INTD 110.
The class was lucky enough to partner with Doug Mayhew, associate director of operations for parking services, who was instrumental in making this educational experience a reality. Mayhew thought the event was unique and well-planned.
“Leah’s concept of pairing her academic learning event with (PARK)ing Day was very thoughtful,” Mayhew said. “The event’s concept of taking a space and designing it as an interactive space fit well with the size of a parking space. Utilizing the space in conjunction with (PARK)ing Day was a perfect match for the event.”
“I hoped this creative assignment would empower students to see the potential in underappreciated spaces and, more importantly, to see their own role in helping to shape not only the built environment but the social interactions and meaning imbued in those spaces,” said Scolere.
The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.