Back in 2005, a trio of San Francisco designers asked a big question: Could public street parking spaces be more than temporary storage for one’s automobile?
To answer this question, they did what any law-abiding citizens would do: they found an empty parking space on the street, paid the meter to the max, rolled out some sod within the space, installed a bench and a potted tree, and they waited. Mere minutes later, a passerby eyed their newly installed “park” and decided to sit on its bench and have his lunch. The installation was an instant success. An innovative approach paired with an incredibly low-cost effort had turned an urban utility into an urban amenity. A space had become a place.
The installation was, in fact, so successful that it quickly went viral (back in a pre-Twitter era no less) and inspired other people (and eventually other jurisdictions) to create their own park(ing) places. This swift rise in popularity gave birth to Park(ing) Day, a day that is now celebrated every third Friday in September in cities across the world, including Washington DC, where citizens come together to transform public parking spaces into anything and everything. Over the past 13 years, one big question has led to many thought-provoking answers.
This year, for the first time in OPX history, we’ve decided to offer our own answer.
Just a few weeks ago, we launched our first ever Park(ing) Day Design Competition (Booyah!). OPXers were tasked with conceptualizing their own park(ing) installations to be designed and built for this year’s Park(ing) Day, hosted locally by the District Department of Transportation. While creating concepts, participants were asked to consider these questions:
OPXers were then asked to present their concepts to the rest of the staff using the popular Pecha Kucha format. Working both solo and in teams, we collectively produced (6) total concepts for what an OPX park(ing) installation could become. The resulting concepts were diverse, thought-provoking, and engaging:
In “Working Better with Rube Goldberg” by Patty Rose & David Owen, the concept was to create an exchange around a “desk” between the public and an OPXer, where a conversation could take place about what it means to work better. As a small reward for stopping by, visitors would receive a token of appreciation via a mesmerizing Rube Goldber-esque machine adjacent to the desk.
For the “Weave Pavilion” by Holly Chang, the installation would collect data from the public using strings of various vibrant colors, each of which representing specific data or questions related to working better. These strings could then be manipulated by the public, and the pavilion would act as a living infographic. The interior of the pavilion would include furniture for the public to rest on and ponder the information.
In “The OPX Umbrella” creator Shelby Mamizuka sought to illustrate how OPX tackles any problem under the umbrella of “making good companies work better”. The resulting installation would take the shape of a wave-like structure made up of umbrellas that would include nuggets of wisdom on working better and could even be removable for the public to take away.
“The Wishing Park”, by Kamran Riazi, Lexie Bryne, and Erik Wyche, borrows the concepts of both a wishing well and a wishing tree to provide a method by which the passersby would be able to record and leave their wishes (fully anonymously) on how to “make DC work better.” Visitors would be free to interpret what “making DC work better” means. OPX would ultimately record and publish the findings.
In “Turning the Office on Its Side!” creater Bobby Croghan said ““Sometimes in order to work better, you have to turn everything on its side.” Enough said!
In “How Can DC Work Better? The Question Unfolds” by Matt Vargas the concept is about putting this aforementioned question out in the public forum. In the concept’s first life, as a park(ing) installation, the question would live at the bounds of a typical parking space, literally surrounding people as they pop in to experience it and ponder it. Visitors would be prompted to write responses to this question and “stick” them onto the installation for all to read. In future iterations, the installation (and the questions and answers) would have the ability to unfold to tell the story in a more expansive public place…
A simple question with a simple intervention led to a worldwide movement and has gained countless followers and inspired thousands of installations. By following in the footsteps of the Park(ing) founders, OPX is on a path to engage DC citizens with our own questions while offering an inviting (yet temporary) public amenity.
It is now our difficult task to sift through these concepts, determine a winner, and figure out exactly how we’ll implement by late summer. Stay tuned for more as OPX Park(ing) Day develops!