Park(ing) Day as Urban Acupuncture

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By Sherryl Muriente

Do not start making any borders between architecture, urban design, urban planning, environmental art, sociology, anthropology, cultural theory and the rest within the fteld of the built human environment. These are just disciplines, meaning MEANS of studying things. When a THING is found, the MEAN can be thrown away as it has done its duty. Working for a discipline is nothing, forget them and start breaking boundaries.”

-MarcoCasagrande,2008

Through the project of Park(ing) Day throughout the world, the process of urban acupuncture has been used to create a purposeful small intervention that can gage how people use public space in the city. The design was a collaborative process to create a contextually responsive project. The local knowledge of different stakeholders that live and work in the area was collected through a series of openly public meetings, including some on- site gatherings, and later interpreted by students, researchers, artists, builders, and other external collaborators to create a design that reflected the needs and desires of locals into physical form.

Urban acupuncture “uses small-scale interventions to transform the larger urban context” (Casa- grande, 2010). In the case of West Palm Beach in 2013, we used a total of one-thousand two-hundred and eighty square feet (1,280 sq ft) of asphalt, or five on-street parking spaces, to give the citizens a linear “park” system that provided areas to lounge, sit, relax, and play. These prototypes included one physical parklet that was designed and constructed in a modular form. Through observational research, data was collected by using time- lapse video and physical mapping of how people used the space before and during the installation. Including the research component makes this project viable to assess the project’s level of achievement.

This hands-on approach to teaching, or experiential education format, is very useful to further develop future planners and designers that have a sense of human-oriented design and a conscious understanding that whatever we may build in a space directly affects people. Cities are very complex systems and to address this adequately, we must use a cross-disciplinary approach to modify our urban environment in a contextually appropriate way.

 

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