Parking Space or Public Space? Reflections on PARK(ing) Day’s Approaching 10th Anniversary

As the 10th annual PARK(ing) Day approaches, we’re moved to reflect on the concept of public space and how the day asks us to start thinking about the spaces we use and move through on a daily basis.

Miamians taking part in last year's PARK(ing) Day

Miamians taking part in last year's PARK(ing) Day

What is now an international event began in 2005, the brainchild of a San Francisco based design firm called Rebar. The first PARK(ing) day was little more than a strip of grass on a parking spot and lasted for two hours - the amount of time that could be bought on the meter. From there it has grown into an international event, one that Miami’s citizens have embraced for the past three years.

A public square, the traditional gathering place for citizens - Image Courtesy David Grant

A public square, the traditional gathering place for citizens - Image Courtesy David Grant

Fundamentally, PARK(ing) Day is about ordinary citizens claiming space in a way that challenges everyone who passes by to consider how our public space is used and allocated. Public space is an old concept and closely tied to democracy, citizenship, and freedom of speech. The public square of older times - which served as a gathering place for the public to converse and protest - is now mostly symbolic in the U.S., and our understanding of what constitutes public spaces and their use has expanded over time. But, our recognition of their importance has never disappeared.

A livable, lovable city that is walkable and bikeable is good for business too! - See the details here

A livable, lovable city that is walkable and bikeable is good for business too! - See the details here

In addition to their ties with democracy and citizenship, in modern city life, vibrant, plentiful spaces for everyday citizens to gather are also a sign of a healthy, livable, lovable city.

PARK(ing) Day is a response on many levels to all these aspects of public space. By reclaiming, even for a day, a parking space designed for a car and turning it into an inviting area open to public use, citizens are challenging how cities allocate space and proactively engaging their communities.

Parking spaces are a great place to relax on PARK(ing) Day!

Parking spaces are a great place to relax on PARK(ing) Day!

In Miami, PARK(ing) Day’s growing popularity has been exciting to witness, and UI Lab’s Co-founder Irvans Augustin sees it as a reflection of the “shift in how Miamians engage the city. It is one more indicator of how Miami is embracing the walkable, livable communities we have been advocating for over the years.”

This year, we have over ten PARK(ing) spots being turned into parks, and organizations like Metro 1 Community, who are participating in the day, is turning their spot into a mini-oasis, offering massage, yoga and games. In the central downtown area, The Miami Foundation will have games and activities for passersby while CappSci and The Frost Science Museum invite people to check out aquaponics, aeroponics, and what a floating science lab might be all about. Back in Wynwood, the Miami-Dade Parks PARK(ing) Day spot will take visitors on a mini eco-adventure.

Each site will be unique, but what emerges is the sense of just how much is possible in a roughly 20’ x 8’ space when the goal is to add value to the community and create a truly walkable, lovable place and focus the space on people.   

So come out and experience your community in a different way on PARK(ing) day by checking out a PARK in your neighborhood, and take a few moments to consider how public space is allocated and used.