Providing temporary public open space . . . one Columbus parking spot at at time.
Columbus PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces in Columbus into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals in Columbus (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world.
The mission of Columbus PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!
A brief history of Columbus PARK(ing) Day
Like Rebar’s original PARK(ing) project in 2005, Columbus Parking Day transformed a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of Columbus that the city had designated as lacking public open space. The great majority of Columbus’s downtown outdoor space is dedicated to movement and storage of private vehicles, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to serve a broader range of public needs. Paying the meter of a parking space enables one to lease precious urban real estate on a short-term basis. The Columbus PARK(ing) project was created to explore the the range of possible activities for this short-term lease, and to provoke a critical examination of the values that generate the form of urban public space.
Our original Columbus PARK stood in place for two hours – the term of the lease offered on the face of the parking meter. When the meter expired, we rolled up the sod, packed away the bench and the tree, and gave the block a good sweep, and left. A few weeks later, as a single iconic photo of the intervention (left) traveled across the web, Rebar began receiving requests to create the PARK(ing) project in other cities such as Columbus. Rather than replicate the same installation, we decided to promote the project as an “open-source” project, and created a how-to manual to empower people to create their own parks without the active participation of Rebar. And thus Columbus “PARK(ing) Day” was born.
Columbus PARK(ing) Day has since been adapted and remixed to address a variety of social issues in diverse urban contexts around the world, and the project continues to expand to include interventions and experiments well beyond the basic “tree-bench-sod” park typology first modeled by Rebar. In recent years, participants have built free health clinics, planted temporary urban farms, produced ecology demonstrations, held political seminars, built art installations, opened free bike repair shops and even held a wedding ceremony! All this in the context of this most modest urban territory – the metered parking space.
And this is the true power of the open-source model: organizers identify specific community needs and values and use the event to draw attention to issues that are important to their local public—everything from experimentation and play to acts of generosity and kindness, to political issues such as water rights, labor equity, health care and marriage equality. All of these interventions, irrespective of where they fall on the political spectrum, support the original vision of Columbus PARK(ing) Day: to challenge existing notions of public urban space and empower people to help redefine space to suit specific community needs.
In addition to being quite a bit of fun, Columbus PARK(ing) Day has effectively re-valued the metered parking space as an important part of the commons – a site for generosity, cultural expression, socializing and play. And although the project is temporary, we hope Columbus PARK(ing) Day inspires you to participate in the civic processes that permanently alter the urban landscape.
Read more about the original PARK(ing) installation on the Rebar website, or to delve deeper into the theoretical framework of the project, consider downloading the PARK(ing) Day Manifesto.