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Here Now, Dumpsters, Old Cars, and Other Quirky 'Parklets'

In a world where oligarchs buy $88M condos for their 22-year-old daughters, urban parks have never been more important; price escalations are squirting those who work in urban environments into the outer boroughs. Without oases of public spaces, the bulk of a city's daytime population have nowhere to, well, relax. We hereby welcome, then, one example of public spaces of the future: parking spots transformed into parks.

It all started as a guerilla art installation in 2005. San Francisco-based studio Rebar sparked the phenomenon by clinking a collection of quarters into a metered parking space, claiming temporary reign over the meager square footage. There the studio rolled out fake grass, put up a park bench, and let strangers rest their feet. That was just the beginning. The installation sparked something called PARK(ing) Day, in which artists in 160+ cities create temporary, pintsized parks—and are encouraged to be experimental. Though San Francisco is the unmistakable ruler of the parklet, the trend is spreading. Have a look at eight exceptionally cool examples, below. Spoiler alert: one has goats.

↑ This verdant ecosystem in San Francisco is actually carved out a 16-foot-by-6-foot Dumpster. The purpose of these "parkmobiles"? To be plunked in busy parts of the downtown area, where they, according to the L.A. Times' story on San Francisco's Dumpster parks, "throw a little shade, elicit regular double-takes and fill curbside spots that otherwise would go to cars."

↑ Perhaps the most succinct representation of parklet philosophy can be spotted in the Marina district of San Francisco, where a bike shop and design studio teamed up to repurpose a Citroën H Van into a place for pedestrians to hang out. The chairs, tables, and bike parking within the gutted auto embody the micropark battle cry—that is, there's probably no better way to show off the potential of converting spaces for cars into spaces for, well, people then to literally recycle a car for that purpose. Plus there's the fact that it's all very reminiscent of that ultra sweet racecar bed your friend had when you were eight.

↑ In downtown L.A.'s historic center, designers at Berry and Linné and builders at Hensel Phelps created a micropark that's brimming with sophisticated outdoor furnishings, including hardwood decking, minimalist benches, and wooden planter boxes. Of course, there's still room for the fun stuff: Astroturf, swing seats, foosball tables, and no-energy exercise bikes, for example. "We wanted them to pop," Rob Berry of Berry and Linné told Architect's Newspaper. "A lot of parklets can be pretty minimal."

↑ Every year, in September, SPUR, a San Francisco-based, century-old nonprofit tasked with "developing solutions to the big problems our cities face," hosts PARK(ing) Day, a day when people in more than 160 cities transform metered parking spots into public space. In 2012, a company called Urban Putt built a mini golf version of Golden State Park, complete with the bison paddock, Ocean Beach, and Stow Lake.

PARK(ing) Day is, apparently, "the progenitor of a distinctly San Francisco model of iterative placemaking," which roughly translates to "the thing that started the whole micropark trend." It's basically intended to use pop-up parks to build momentum for permanent installations of public spaces.

↑ For last year's PARK(ing) Day, San Francisco bested even its prolific batch of tiny parks with a "goatlet," what essentially is a hay-hewn swatch of the Swedish alps in summertime—real-life goats included.

↑ This micropark, complete with a house, hills, and boulderous bean bags, is another byproduct of PARK(ing) Day.

↑ This summer Boston welcomes a handful of new microparks, each a kind of vibrant, Lego-ish production by Brooklyn-based design firm Interboro Partners. Why go with such a mod, cartoony feel? It's actually to make sure the parks remain public, and not just (unofficially or otherwise) extensions of nearby private businesses. The designers explain: "Many of the existing parklets (in San Francisco and elsewhere) look like they are the outdoor terraces of the adjacent cafes or restaurants (who typically also maintain these parklets). We wanted our project to look decidedly non-domestic, like a piece of DOT [Department of Transportaiton] street infrastructure, to make it very clear that this is the property of the street, not the adjacent business."

Park[d] Plaza is a sunny slot of parking lot in Long Beach, Calif., designed by nonprofit design studio City Fabrick. The studio partnered with city parks people to add "a bright yellow color palette, street furniture, and large stenciled infographics representing facts and data about the neighborhood and development of the new open space." In all it's 2,250 square feet of public space in the city's East Village, made possible by just $6,000 siphoned off into 30 gallons of paint and a truckload of patio furniture. Park[d] Plaza is also Curbed LA's proof that Long Beach is "racing ahead of Los Angeles in the parklet department." They even call this rather benign plaza a "coup."

· All Outdoors Week 2014 posts [Curbed National]
· All Parks posts [Curbed National]