Sept. 27, 2019

How to turn parking spaces into parks and social spaces

Landscape architecture and planning students work to build community through creative approaches on Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day was held around the world on Sept. 19, inviting designers, artists, and citizens to convert street parking spots into parks and social spaces.

Nineteen parking spots along Kensington Road in northwest Calgary were turned over to installations that demonstrate how these spaces could be used differently. For this one-day event, parking spots were transformed into community places such as miniature parks, playgrounds, social space, art installations and even a paint-by-numbers art stop.

Calgary’s contribution to Park(ing) Day represented a partnership between the City of Calgary and the Alberta Association of Landscape Architecture (AALA), resulting in a day of demonstrating creative approaches to using the street for something other than parking.

Rethinking the dominance of the car in occupying public space and community streetscapes is what Park(ing) Day is all about. The participation rate, creativity and collaborative effort shown by senior Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) students and members of SAPL’s incoming class of MLA and Master of Planning (MPlan) students was impressive. So impressive, in fact, that Karly Do and Connie Tran won the Judges Choice Award for their installation of Alice in Dumpsterland, a place for tea party made entirely from recycled materials (see photo above).

“The new MLA and MPlan students generated five designs from a one-day charrette during Orientation Week with the help of senior MLA students,” says Dr. Mary-Ellen Tyler, interim associate dean (academic) of the planning and landscape architecture programs at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape.

“The MLA studio last week looked like a garment factory, with Karly and Connie and their helpers working to complete their Alice in Dumpsterland installation and we’re proud of their success. Getting involved in Park(ing) Day, which is inherently about social interaction and public engagement, was a perfect way to start up the school year.”

Other SAPL installations included Re-tire by Raye Liu, Ji Yong Chyung, Jason Park and Judy Liu, which received of two grants from the City of Calgary and AALA; and Metropod, by Ivan Osorio-Avila.

Todd Reade, executive director of AALA, says “It was super fun to watch the student process, especially the translation of ‘I’ve designed this thing’ to ‘now I have to build it’.”

Reade is pleased with the participation and impact of this year’s Park(ing) Day. “The projects really highlighted the level of professionalism the design community in Calgary brings to things.

"Even simple ones were well done, showcasing our ability to do a lot with very little. Lot of booths handcrafted, upcycled and used recycled materials, and most had a plan for re-use. For me, engendering reuse, repurpose and redeployment of materials is critical.”

While Park(ing) Day is only once a year, Calgarians can continue to have conversations and host activations about how design changes in communities can take the street back from the car to create more walkable, beautiful places for people.

Young visitors join the Park(ing) Day tea party

Young visitors join the Park(ing) Day tea party under a colourful canopy with CD chandeliers.

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape