On Friday, September 15th, Philadelphia celebrated its 10th anniversary of PARK(ing) Day, a city-wide celebration of public spaces and tactical urbanism. From 8am–5pm, over 250,000 pedestrians throughout the city stumbled upon delightful and creative mini parks, or “parklets”, which invited them to relax, to play, to learn, and even to adopt puppies! Tactical urbanism is the process of implementing small, temporary changes to the city’s public spaces, such as placing planters or painting temporary traffic lanes, to allow the public to see how these changes might improve their lives if made permanent.
Over 60 local teams developed, built, and staffed the tiny parklets, each no larger than an on-street parking space. The parklets were created by design firms, city government departments, non-profits, neighborhood community groups, and even just motivated individuals. The purpose of the day is to ask the public to question whether, as a society, we are making the best choices regarding use of our limited public spaces, and whether we might prefer more green and pedestrian spaces to the current profusion of on-street parking. Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director of the Center, notes that “the creative teams who built these parklets allow us to imagine a more delightful future city by demonstrating how small changes can make being a pedestrian more enjoyable.”
After the parklets came down, the teams and public were treated to cake, drinks, and dancing at the Center, as well as the awarding of the coveted Golden Cone awards for our favorite parklets. During the celebration, Nate Hommel, Director of Planning and Design for University City District presented his talk, Hack > Tinker > Analyze > Design, which provided an overview of the successes and challenges of developing and growing The Porch at 30th Street Station. This public plaza, which began life as a complicated tangle of parking and roadways, has grown over the past six years into a fun destination for locals and a welcoming portal to the city for visitors arriving by train.
The concept for PARK(ing) Day was invented by San Francisco design firm REBAR Group 12 years ago. The festival was then introduced to Philadelphia 10 years ago by local architect Pam Zimmerman. Since then, administration of the local program has moved to the Center for Architecture and Design under the care of volunteer coordinator, Erike De Veyra, who has managed the program for the past six years. The Center would like to thank Pam and Erike for their vision and hard work to make this program the success it is today. And of course, the day wouldn’t be anything without the dozens of volunteer teams who dream up and build the fun, engaging parklets – thanks to them all!
Photos by: Kenneth Miraski