Happy PARK(ing) Day
Anyone looking for a parking space Friday in downtown State College will have three fewer options than usual. And for good reason.
Friday is PARK(ing) Day, a loosely connected international event started in 2005, when some artists in San Francisco decided to make a statement about the lack of open public space in American cities. They picked a parking space, filled the meter, laid down a roll of sod, added a tree and a park bench, and voila, a temporary oasis of green squeezed between a couple of parked cars. Since then, the idea has spread internationally to hundreds of cities, one of them being State College. For students from Penn State’s Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, it’s a chance to make a point and get some experience that’s applicable to their future careers.
Starting before sunrise Friday on the first fall-like day of the year (I know because the heat clicked on in my house this morning), students began setting up their “parks” in three downtown parking spots, on South Allen Street, West College Avenue, and East Beaver Avenue. Each project forced the students—generally a mix of freshman architecture majors and upperclass landscape architecture majors—to build a structure they’ve spent the previous few weeks designing, while also raising awareness about sustainability and the need for green space. The park on Allen Street (above) features a veritable forest of discarded plastic bottles; over on College Avenue, an interestingly designed wooden frame (below) held dozens of spruce saplings—which students offered to passersby—and a two-sided canvas on which the curious were invited to “paint a tree.”
Having moved to State College from Manhattan, I appreciate the seemingly endless acres of green on and around campus. I also know I’ve never not been able to find a downtown parking space when I’ve needed one (and here it seems worth mentioning that the students paid $20 per spot to secure the spaces for the day). What hadn’t occurred to me, beyond the larger point being made, was what a useful practical exercise this is for a fledging architect: As one student told me, “It’s the first time we really had to build something and make sure it wouldn’t fall apart.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor