PARK(ing) Day: Reimagining car spaces as people spaces

I went to a lecture last week by Martha Schwartz, a world-renowned landscape architect who became famous for challenging the status quo by using purple aquarium gravel and shellacked bagels in the midst of a very formal, baroque garden setting. Also a Harvard professor, Schwartz discussed how her class at the Graduate School of Design looked at how autonomous vehicles would change the face of the city by eliminating 50% of parking. Her students envisioned how this newly available space could be turned into a hard-working landscape by conveying, treating, and holding stormwater in preparation for the droughts that climate change was predicted to bring.

Research estimates that the United States has up to 2 billion parking spaces, and reimagining what this collective area of over 11,000 square miles could become is an exciting challenge for designers.

Park(ing) Day seeks to do just that.

Our society has built roughly EIGHT parking spaces for every single car in the United States.

In 2005, a San Francisco design studio named Rebar unrolled some sod, placed a tree and a bench in an on-street parking space for two hours – the time the parking meter allowed. The parking space was transformed into a temporary public space, and since then Park(ing) Day has become a global movement.

Parking is a controversial topic to just about everyone. It’s considered vital to business owners and tenants, but sneered at by hardcore bikers and mass transit enthusiasts. Park(ing) Day plays right into the controversy, aiming to spark a critical debate around how public spaces are used and why our society has built roughly EIGHT parking spaces for every single car in the United States. As designers and planners, we know that vehicles and parking are necessary for functioning cities; but we also view public space for people as vital for thriving communities.

For this year’s Park(ing) Day Portland, our team of SERA volunteers is transforming two parking spaces to create a forty-foot long installation. SERA is also partnering with Friends of Trees, a great community organization greening our urban areas, who is lending us a dozen magnificent trees. Using beautiful reclaimed materials, live plants and trees, real-time environmental data collection, art and interactive sculpture, we are aiming to create a space for dialogue to consider: “If cars went away, what would you put in all the parking spaces?”

So grab some refreshments from the myriad of nearby businesses as we invite you to join us on Friday, September 21st at the corner of NW 10th and Everett. Come see how SERA reimagines and transforms a small corner of the city!


  1. Shelby Schroeder says |

    Thanks to Nick and all of this year’s Park(ing) Day volunteers! Can’t wait to see the final product!

  2. Very Cool Project Nick!
    Good Luck and Very Happy you are repurposing that Fallen Black Locust tree
    Can’t wait to see the final project
    Maria Warmbold

  3. how late is the park open?

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