PARK(ing) Spaces

Other
Friday, September 19, 2008
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Always one to take our own advice, AN headed out for a stroll along Sixth Avenue at lunch today to check out a few of the PARK(ing) spaces that had been set up there by enterprising designers.

The first stop was the Yahoo! Purple Bike Park, granted not designed by anyone we know, but it was the closest to the 14th Street 2/3 Station–part of the reason AN is such a fan of PARK(ing) Day is because AN never drives. Because there were no big plots of grass around (more on that later), we failed to find the Yahoo! park on first pass. On to Cook + Fox.

Located on a harrowing stretch of the Avenue of the Americas–then again, what stretch isn’t at midday–the renowned green architects had created an entirely reusable park. Instead of grass, the firm laid down green interface carpeting that can be used in the offices above, along with some plants from the Greenmarket. “We’ve already got spots picked out for each one,” Sarah Caylor said.

The centerpiece, though, had to be the green “roof.” When Cook + Fox moved into its new space a year ago, they created one of the greenest offices in Manhattan, complete with a green roof. Because the landlord wouldn’t allow them to build on the roof, they needed to create a less invasive system, which is comprised of one-square-foot soil bags planted with seedums. This allowed the firm to cannibalize a few dozen bags and “plant” them in the park.

That's the green roof at far left.

“We decided to use PARK(ing) Day as an opportunity to make people more aware of the potential for green spaces on the rooves of their buildings,” Caylor said. “And the response has been great. Lots of people stop and stare, some pick up brochures, and quite a few have even sat down and hung out for a while.” She said about 8-15 people stop by per hour, though none while we waited–granted it was lunch and the benches were already pretty full will employees on their lunch break.

Amrita Dasgupta (left) and Ruth Gyuse represent on their lunch break.

Amrita Dasgupta (left) and Ruth Gyuse represent on their lunch break.

Up the block at the even busier intersection of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street, a number of people stopped by during AN‘s visit, even though a dozen people were already crammed onto the 8’x12′ sodden “park.” “I saw it from my apartment window and just had to come down,” Carl Zekaria said. “I’ll definitely be telling my friends about it this weekend.”

Ensoo Shimas Park–Japanese for “I am going to perform”–was a co-production of Yoshihara McKee Architects and Artec, a performing arts design consultancy. Building on the “expertise” of the latter, the team set up, in addition to their lawn, which was provided by Transporation Alternatives, and a Tuscan Red beach umbrella, was a stage.

Stage left.

Stage left.

Geoff Zink, who coordinated Artec’s work and has been doing a similar project in Park Slope for three years, admitted that none of his friends who were meant to play had shown up. A bango sat next to him untouched as ambulances and taxis screamed by. “Nonetheless, we’ve created a park space and it’s been used all day,” Zink said. “And it still achieves our goal, which is to get people to start thinking differently about how street space, how public space in general is allocated. Then they’ll become advocates and all this will become mainstream.”

A passerby asks YMA principals about the project.

A passerby asks YMA principals about the project.

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