Paid parking spots along Congress Avenue were transformed into pop-up parks Friday during a daylong event known as Park(ing) Day. First held in 2005, the worldwide event invites designers, architects and artists to do more with less, by constructing installations to promote the need for parks in developed urban cores.
Logan Saldivar, an urban designer with TBG Partners, helped create a park space complete with picnic benches and flowers where people popped in for coffee or lunch.
“One of our design intents was to make the space warm and inviting," she said. "We want to create parks that people can interact with.”
In line with the event's objectives, Saldivar said, “The great thing about our space is we have about 15 to 20 people [in two parking spots], rather than [just] two cars."
Devon Upton said she saw an installation outside her office on Eighth and Congress and decided to take a stroll on her lunch break to see the other spaces.
“It’s a nice way to break up the day and bring some culture and nature into downtown Austin," she said. "It’s been really fun.”
Four-year-old Grady and his mother, Dana Arnold, were enjoying the miniature park spaces. Arnold, who had gone to a Park(ing) Day event in Los Angeles, said she wanted to take her son to see some of the cool designs.
“I liked that they were very different kind of spaces," she said. "I like them activating the street and getting people involved and learning about the different nonprofits. For my son, obviously, everything was a playground. He liked them all equally."
Katie Coyne, an urban planner and ecologist with Asakura Robinson, said there isn’t enough low- and middle-income housing in the city and that's due, in part, to the space allocated for parking, even in areas where other transportation options are available.
“This year we decided to co-opt the idea [of Park(ing) Day] and turn it into a commentary on housing in Austin,” she said. Her company's two parking spaces were converted into a small living space, complete with a sofa, table and kitchenette.
TBG Partners' installation provided some shade, as well as an opportunity to relax in a structure covered in a network of colorful hammocks. Melissa Nezamzadeh came by to hang out in a hammock after seeing the structure from her office across the street.
Lee Clippard, director of communications for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, stood in the middle of a miniature nature park with pecan shell mulch covering the ground, sunflowers and an upside-down juniper tree stump covered in ball moss.
“We want to build some awareness about the importance of native plants and the importance of having green space in the city," he said. "Hopefully it gives people an idea of what they can do in their own space.”
When asked what the reaction of people had been through the day, Lee said, “I think people are so happy to find nature in the middle of the city. That’s what we’re really here for.”