Design student rethink urban space for worldwide (Park)ing Day

Tiny parklets and environmental installations sprung up around campus last Thursday in celebration of Park(ing) Day, an annual event reclaiming urban space for public use.

SF State students in the design and industry department organized nine unique installations this year, all of which were geared toward critically examining how we utilize environmental resources.  Rebar, an art and design studio based in San Francisco, created the first Park(ing) Day spot in 2005 as a creative response to concerns that the downtown area lacked open space.

The project evolved from one parklet, a small space serving as an extension of the sidewalk to provide amenities and green space for people using the street, occupying a single metered spot into an international event with thousands of participants each year. According to a press release from Rebar, the Park(ing) celebration in 2011 included 975 unique installations, spanning across six continents.

At this years event a group of students fashioned a tree out of repurposed materials such as cardboard tubes and plastic bottles for their project, inviting pedestrians to add their own trash to the design. The design and construction process took several weeks, but the installation was only in place for a few short hours. The team provided a small seating area and a trash-sorting game as well.

Zoli Kauker, industrial design major, said his team’s project, titled “everGreen”, focused on building community and teaching people about recycling.

“We felt that a lot of students are coming here from places like L.A., or other places that didn’t really have a focus on compost, recycling or even just dividing trash properly,” Kauker said.

According to Kauker, students on campus don’t get enough chances to interact with their peers in a casual environment. The group wanted to provide that opportunity while also educating students on proper recycling practices.

Michael Nick, a literature major visiting from University of California Santa Barbara, said he thought Park(ing) Day was an awesome idea because his school doesn’t have nearly the same amount of foot traffic.

Sitting on the benches provided as part of the everGreen installation, Nick said the tree conveyed how rapidly trash can accumulate in a short period of time.

“I don’t think (the installation is) pretty in the classical way, but it’s constructive,” Nick said. “It definitely catches your eye.”

“The Lemonade Pit Stop: A Place to Fill Your Tank” on Holloway Avenue provided pedestrians with free lemonade. The only rule was “B.Y.O.B.” – bring your own bottle.

Belem Sanchez, a senior at SF State, said the lemonade stand was great way to draw people in due to the inconvenience of getting drinks at the Cesar Chavez Student Center on a busy day.

“It’s another way of encouraging people to commute,” Sanchez said. “It makes you ask yourself the question, ‘Do I even need to be driving?’”

The lemonade pit stop installation was one of three projects that occupied metered spots, the remaining six installations were spread out across campus.

“In terms of negatives, I’m not really seeing any,” Sanchez said. “It’s space that’s not being used. Make it useful.”

Professor Carlos Davidson teaches in the environmental studies department and was happy to see students continuing the Park(ing) Day tradition.

Davidson said projects like Park(ing) Day are important because SF State students will be among the people shaping the world as it moves forward.

“It’s wonderful because so much urban space is dedicated to automobiles and parking,” Davidson said. “Park(ing) Day helps open our imagination of how things can be different.”

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