On Friday morning, Zakcq Lockrem and his confederates got to the parking lot at the corner of Main and Capitol in time for the early-bird special. For a total of $21, they claimed three downtown parking spaces for the day.
Then the designers and activists got down to business. They unrolled Astroturf. They unloaded sleek modern patio furniture and loads of potted plants. And to shade their new domain, they erected netting with blue and green balloons that bobbed in the breeze. For the rest of the day, those three spaces weren’t parking. They were a park.
The occasion was Park(ing) Day, an annual event on six continents in which space for cars is temporarily transformed into space for people.
The idea, write its founders - at a San Francisco design studio called Rebar - is to “call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate about how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!”
Nowhere are those issues more pressing than Houston, which experts believe may have the highest parking-to-people ratio on the planet - 30 spaces per car, according to a widely used (but hard to confirm) figure. And remarkably, even as the city is growing denser, packing in more residents per square foot, it’s maintaining and maybe even expanding that ratio. It’s estimated that parking takes up one third of our land. We’re an asphalt city.
And at any given time, the vast majority of those spaces are empty. Park(ing) Day reminded us what a waste that is. Our city ordinances could change to require relatively fewer spaces. And even if they don’t, we can at least colonize the empty ones and change them, temporarily, into something better than an asphalt wasteland - into micro-parks, food truck courts, mobile clinics, outdoor theaters.
Those spaces are our frontier. And we don’t have to wait for the next Park(ing) Day to colonize them.
Full Story: Let’s transform our asphalt wastelands
Source: The Houston Chronicle, September 21, 2012