On September 19th, like every third Friday in September, parking spots around the world will transform into temporary public spaces.

The very first International PARK(ing) Day took place in 2005 in San Francisco – instigated by local art and design studio Rebar. Prompted by the sheer amount of outdoor space designated for car use, thus inaccessible to the general public, Rebar members rented a two-hour parking spot and occupied it with a tree and bench. After the allocated time was up, they simply packed up and went their way. Yet a picture of the temporary park soon went viral online and led to enquiries from around the world. Would they be willing to transform parking spaces in other cities with their tree and bench? Although flattered by the attention, Rebar did not want to plagiarize their own actions. Instead, they decided to turn the spur-of-the-moment idea into an open source project, replete with manual and guidelines for anyone who wanted to start their own project. After all, each city has different needs and requirements when it comes to public space. And although the minds behind Rebar started working on different projects this year, their International PARK(ing) Day lives on – and keeps going strong thanks to its open source approach. There is no limit to what can be done within the confines of a parking space: from impromptu gigs, ephemeral urban farms, and political seminars to a real wedding!

A 3-meter parking spot - perfect for a smart fortwo, photo: eyelab/ photocase.com
A 3-meter parking spot – perfect for a smart fortwo
Photo: eyelab/ photocase.com

Yet what might sound like buckets of fun has a more serious grounding. Metropolises lack public space – and cities need to open up discussions on how to let as many people as possible benefit from what’s available. So, the parking (ad)venture is all about highlighting better use scenarios for public space.

Some cities already promote and support a switch to smaller cars by supplying special 3-meter parking spots – perfect for a smart fortwo at a mere 2.69 meters … and leaving more room “for the good stuff” in the city.

Header image: mathias the dread/ photocase.com