In February, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference, the nation’s largest smart growth and sustainability event, was held in San Francisco, CA. As a promotional sponsor, ASLA led the sixth annual Parklets Initiative along with the Local Government Commission (LGC). The interactive installations were created by design and planning firms as well as local non-profit organizations. The parklets were located adjacent to the conference session rooms, and provided an opportunity for attendees to carry over the dynamic interactive sessions into the common space, where they could network with colleagues and engage in dialogue around smart growth implementation. The programming elements of the parklets included urban forest products, creative placemaking though public transit stops, complete street design components, and participation-based urban planning tools.
Experiential Forest Parklet
The Experiential Forest Parklet was designed for all ages of curious urban residents who would like to learn more about the nature that does exist around cities. In this urban forest setting, visitors could look, touch, and smell the urban forest products that are commonly located throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, engaging with unique scents, textures, and shapes, and learning through connecting with plant and tree elements.
Residents of dense urban centers can benefit from interacting with nature both passively and actively. Trees planted in the sidewalk along with their associated gardens and landscapes provide strong relief to the harsh lines and hard surfaces we so commonly experience in our cities.
Accepted research shows that plantings along our streets not only slow traffic but reduce stress and provide “…decreased feelings of fear and anger or aggression.” Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D., Urban Nature Benefits: Psycho-Social Dimensions of People and Plants.
Seasonal change in plants and trees encourage some to ‘stop and smell the flowers.’ For example, one may look down to see unusual winged-seeds all over the sidewalk. These tree elements offer visual relief and an opportunity to physically experience seeds, flowers, and scents by providing a connection that will be remembered, perhaps forever. The fragrance after the first rains on a street may initially be questioned and investigated, then later recognized and remembered when encountered again or shared in a conversation.
Tiny Wonderful Parklet
Radian|Placematters has partnered with Great Outdoors Colorado to create pop-up design events for grantees that are looking to get youth connected to nature and the outdoors with projects that encourage walking, biking, and overall enjoying parks and open spaces. The Tiny Wonderful Parklet demonstrated tools and techniques for rapid deployment of pop-up design, and allowed conference participants to experiment with the materials. Pop-up design uses temporary installations like playground structures, benches, art, wayfinding, plants, and street amenities (like protected bike lanes) to help users access and interact with familiar public spaces in new ways. Pop-up structures enable residents and agencies to experiment with design solutions before making them permanent while generating excitement and a sense of communal ownership behind what gets built.
commUNITY station: Connecting People and Place
A community’s ability to move and connect with friends, jobs, recreation, and experiences happens in the public realm. The commUNITY station can provide the space for gathering and encourage more sustainable transportation options.
The Riverside University Health System-Public Health and Alta Planning and Design explored the potential use of parklet designs as bus stops. This concept comes as a result of the need to raise awareness about how communities across the nation are transforming these public spaces. In addition, the commUNITY station is intended to inspire, planners, landscape architects, engineers, and health advocates to work with transit agencies to think beyond the typical bus stop.
The Mission Interactive Model
sponsored by Place It!
The Mission Interactive Model allowed participants to envision the San Francisco’s Mission District by reflecting, exploring, and moving small structures. The model was developed as a tool by Place It!, a design- and participation-based urban planning practice that uses model-building workshops and on-site interactive models to help engage the public in the planning and design process.
Through the PLACE IT! process participants are able to learn about the role of planning and design in shaping how we live, and to translate their dreams and ideas into physical forms and models. From these physical results and their accompanying stories, the team can generate plans, drawings, and policy recommendations for municipalities, NGOs, and elected officials.
by Katie Riddle, ASLA, Professional Practice Manager at ASLA