2005 is the year that most urban historians recognize as the origin of the parklet – a multipurpose community recreation space extending from the sidewalk into the parking lane of a given street.
As the story goes, the parklet concept developed from a San Francisco-based art and design studio, called REBAR, and their “open source” public art project, entitled PARK(ing) Day. At the time, the basic idea of this social experiment was to inspire others to pay a meter fee at a parking spot in order to “rent” and occupy that space creatively for an hour or two.
The next year, the project became a guerilla art installation complete with synthetic turf, a tree and a traditional park bench. Before long, Park(ing) day became an event celebrated across the country and what started as a playful way to start a discussion soon inspired a worldwide parklet movement.
How has the pandemic influenced the popularity of parklets?
When city planners and business owners across the country were searching for a quick and affordable solution to help struggling local restaurants maintain social distance, the parklet, spread like wildfire. At first, this was considered a temporary solution, but now, city leaders are recognizing just how integral these extra outdoor spaces have been in restoring community vitality.
To quote The Seattle Times, “If city planners and design firms integrate their unique perspectives while prioritizing the specific needs of restaurant owners, they can create accessible and useful outdoor spaces that not only help local businesses now, but can affect the entire city and its economy well into the future.”
But outdoor dining just scratches the surface of what parklets can be used for. As time goes on, more and more city planners are describing their parklets as multifunctional spaces.
What does the future of parklets look like?
There’s no question that there is a demand for parklets to stay post CoVID 19. That said, for parklets to continue to operate throughout all four seasons, DIY parklets are going to have to be replaced with something more substantial. Architecturally designed and fabricated decks could easily overrun city streetscape budgets, but there are more options.
Archatrak’s StreetDeck modular deck kit, for instance, includes all the necessary components to assemble self-contained structures in a matter of hours. These exceptionally durable parklets and pedlets can be installed over sloping or uneven substrate and create a seamless transition from the sidewalk for pedestrians.
These decks offer unmatched flexibility in size, configurations and customization. The substructure of the platform is accessible even after installation for debris removal and to monitor water drainage. Plus, all StreetDeck parklets comply with the majority of city parklet guidelines.
The evolution of the parklet, despite its charming DIY origin, is trending toward permanence. That means that a modern parklet needs to be structurally sound and well thought out.
In the beginning, installation factors, like the slope of the street and the importance of creating a barrier in the event a traffic accident may occur, were often overlooked. Working with professionals in the industry is recommended to ensure that all of these considerations are taken into account prior to installation.