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The Roanoke Times file photo Mark and Nida DeBusk make a sign for their parklet space on Campbell Avenue during last year's parklet competition.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
This Friday, local architects, artists, community partners and residents will transform Roanoke into a greener, safer and more accessible place. In an experiment occurring in cities across the nation, parking spaces will be repossessed by the public and transformed into little parks.
The concept of transforming automobile infrastructure into temporary public spaces originated from PARK(ing) Day, an activity first organized by the Rebar Group from San Francisco in 2005. The motivation sprang from a desire to “activate the metered parking space as a site for creative experimentation, political and cultural expression, and unscripted social interaction” (The PARK(ing) Day Manual). In April 2012, the Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Institute of Architects coordinated its first parklet experiment in and around the downtown City Market.
The experiment appealed to us. As an architect from Turkey, Nida found it curious how little people walk, bike or interact with each other on the streets in America. Alternatively, Mark felt inspired as a builder and craftsman who seeks to beautify his surroundings through woodworking.
Even though we had not designed a parklet before, we knew that we could channel our collective knowledge and create a unique public space. We decided to use sustainable wood elements mixed with fragments of greenery to encourage social interaction and redirect the focus from cars to people.
We aimed to provide pedestrians with a warm and welcoming space — in stark contrast to the typical patch of uninviting asphalt. We wanted to transform this image. So we strategically erected our timber frame under a tree (the shade for pedestrians was an added bonus) and called our parklet “Bike and Walk.”
For the frame, we used recycled wood and ensured all wood was locally harvested within 100 miles. We also designed and built planter boxes and a wooden bike rack. Ultimately, it was our goal to foster a sense of community by increasing social interaction among pedestrians and cyclists. We were pleasantly surprised to see the positive reception from the public.
Roanoke parks currently make up less than 5 percent of downtown land. The number of trees in Downtown Roanoke — once a tree capital of the South — has fallen to an unprecedented low number. To find a bench, where you might rest or eat lunch in the shade, could require you to walk a dozen blocks. The parklet experiment reminds Roanokers of these once commonplace amenities and encourages us to reconsider how we use public space.
Come and enjoy the experiment this weekend. The event begins Friday morning and extends through Saturday afternoon.
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