BY: Alexandra Venner
Park(ing) Day: an extraordinary worldwide event to facilitate dialogue about the use of urban public space.
It all began in San Francisco in 2005 when Rebar, a local art and design studio, successfully transformed a parking meter in the downtown core into a mini park. This simple, yet unique, take on the street life sparked alternative views of cities and their futures and has since inspired people from around the world to create their own Park(ing) event.
No doubt this is an event that is incredibly important to us as volunteers of VPSN, since it speaks to our visions about the importance of having more open urban public space.
Knowing that this is an event that promotes the awesomeness of open public space in Vancouver and can also bringing people together to exchange ideas and engage in dialogue about public space, six volunteers from VPSN came together to transform a regular parking meter space on Kingsway and Joyce Street into a mini farm.
A truck loaded with hay bales, 50 corn stocks, planter boxes, a few two by fours, and a toolbox were unloaded to revive a parking space outside a sushi restaurant, a random undergarment shop, and a few apartments alongside the consistent stream of Kingsway’s typical busy traffic. The space was completed with the decoration of colorful vibrant cloths and musical bluegrass beats to accompany our theme.
Undoubtedly, the creativity of VPSN’s volunteers was demonstrated once again with their spin on a ubiquitous feature of urban life: the parking meter. As responsible urban citizens, the meter was fed from 10am-3pm even though there was no actual car parked, but this was not wasted pocket change.
The day was successfully spent immersing ourselves and Vancouverites in dialogue to challenge the definition of a city in the 21st century. Indeed, our mini farm-themed parking space made people look twice as they walked by and it even stopped some from walking to their destination to talk with us about what exactly was going on.
One man sitting in the sushi restaurant next to us liked our urban initiative so much that he bought the group sushi for lunch. Another man stopped by on his way to work to join in on our art activity of leaf printing to make a card for his boss. One woman living in the apartment above our mini farm brought us coffee and tea and entertained us with her humorous thoughts that our urban intervention initiative is only the beginning to gentrification within this Kingsway corridor.
All in all, this meaningful and random urban act is a simple means to bring the people and community together to spark thought-provoking conversations, which is exactly what happened on this day.