Reflections on Park(ing) Day 2010
September 18, 2010
by Dave Hampton
A revolution in park(ing).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay all day this year, but as I was biking away, two thoughts struck me which I think are important:
1. How it went down
2. Who came to visit, or… what’s “normal”?
How it went down
First, we’ve got to admit that we at UHC were busy before Park(ing) Day this year.
We’re an all-volunteer organization, so it’s easy for us to get stretched thin, and no matter how early we seem to start, as it’s coming together there never seems to be quite enough time.
However, the morning of Park(ing) Day, shortly after erection, while we balanced heavy pieces of lumber as cars and trucks whizzed by, this project came together in a way that is happening more often.
We seem to do things “on the fly” pretty well.
And sometimes… it makes things better.
Yes, we thought about the design beforehand.
Yes, we did plan.
Yes, we did discuss.
These things are good and necessary.
However, in this case, last-minute decisions - such as how to drape the shade canopy, or the placement of fabric windcatchers, or which plants went where - made for a harmonious whole in a way that drawing and planning it till the cows came home couldn’t have done.
The warm, inviting interior and sense of enclosure was due, in part, to those big timber uprights. But, the fact was that as more of our team gathered and decisions were made “in the field” the day-of, I really believe this made it better.
Citizens of Chicago… park it!
Who came to visit, or… what’s “normal”?
At UHC, we’ve striven for five years to take ideas such as producing food more locally or reusing building materials from the realm of the “unusual” to being normal.
We really do think it would be weird to truck a head of lettuce 3,000 miles when it could be grown in a backyard or up on a roof.
We really do think it would be crazy to tear down a perfectly good house AND throw the materials away.
What we’re finding out… you agree!
And it’s happening more and more often and with a winder range of types of folks.
You see, in the beginning, we expected to attract the sort of folks who might pickle their own okra or reuse 2×4’s to make a loft.
What we didn’t forecast was the extent to which the ideas and principles we hold dear seem to resonate - the stuff we care about means something to YOU too.
How do we know?
Because we listen to you.
Because you’re voting with your feet: you are coming to our lectures, our workshops, and you came out for Park(ing) Day.
Apparently, we aren’t the only ones who think it’s not normal to devote an incredibly disproportionate amount of asphalted area to park cars and think of none for a place to “park” people!
Without prompting, YOU, our dear neighbors and friends and fellow citizens - from grandparents to artists to businessmen to tradespeople and bikers and car-drivers and truck-drivers and pedestrians, from grown-ups to kids- didn’t seem to think it was so weird for us to set up a temporary park when usually only vehicles sits.
You stopped by, you gave us your thumbs-up, you brought your own plants or drinks or quarters, you sat with us, you told us about yourselves…
And for this, we cannot thank you enough.
You make us feel great.
You make us feel needed.
You makes us feel… normal.
And most importantly, you make us feel that what we do should be normal.
And, with your help, it can be.
Thank you, Chicago.
Annie and Nick know how to celebrate a sunny Friday in Chicago… dippin’ their toes in the grass.
A whole slew of people helped make this thing a success:
Brian Lutey, for guidance and trailer loan
D.A. Beastz at Northside Prep, for help with construction
John Edel, for helping erect the day-of while passing by
Revolution Brewery (Greg, Michelle, and the awesome waitstaff), for hosting us and feeding both the meters AND the UHC crew
Architecture for Humanity Chicago Chapter (Laura, Marc, Joseph, et al), for moral support and help with acquiring sod (and their donation of sod after the event to Joy Garden!)
If we’ve forgotten someone, please let us know.
In the meantime, you know who you are!
I want MORE Park(ing) Day!
You got it!
Fall diversions in Logan Square: PARK Day installations, Peopling Places
Parking Space Gardens, Mike Nowak Show (look to the lower right… if it’s gone by the time you click, oh well…)
PARK Day 2010, Chicago Reader