Urban Change

The hugely popular Adelaide PARK(ing) Day returns to the CBD this September bringing with it a healthy discussion on the need for more public spaces.

The hugely popular Adelaide PARK(ing) Day returns to the CBD this September bringing with it a healthy discussion on the need for more public spaces. The need for more public open space in Adelaide’s CBD is an issue the state’s best architects and urban designers are working hard to resolve. In a city that doesn’t have a strong walking culture and whose only real major public space is Rundle Mall, the solution may not come quickly. But there are plans underway to activate the CBD by creating more permanent people-focused spaces. As these plans come to fruition the outcome at an urban level will be a positive one. In the meantime Adelaide PARK(ing) Day should be celebrated for what it brings to the discussion of public space. Who knew that plastic pink flamingos, melting ice sculptures and a makeshift trapeze had a place in urban design? The point exactly is that they do and this is why the interactive and accessible nature of a temporary one-day event like Adelaide PARK(ing) Day is so important to the discussion. This will be the fourth year Adelaide participates in International PARK(ing) Day, which had its origins in San Francisco in 2009. The Adelaide City Council has allocated 50 parking spaces on a specific route in the CBD for registered participants to take over and transform. The idea is for these participants to educate as much as it is to entertain and each transformation is a hub of activity, creativity and ideas. If past years are anything to go by this year’s event will be bigger, brighter and better –with the chance for engagement and interaction between participants and passers-by multiplied. For Alex Hall, one of the Adelaide event’s co-ordinators, the opportunity to take part in this activation is exciting. He is a senior architect at Hassell and works predominantly on large-scale urban design projects so Adelaide PARK(ing) Day is demonstrative of the broader issues at hand, while also being a valuable source of data and practical information. “The event generated 60 percent more foot traffic last year, so that means more people in front of shops, more ability to create revenue, more vibrancy and more atmosphere,” he says. “All positive outcomes that take place when spaces become public.” Adelaide faces a situation typical of many global cities with an urban sprawl that continues to creep out into the suburbs; only a small percentage of residents live in the CBD. “Look at cities like London or New York where there’s greater living density; these cities are vibrant,” says Hall. “If we want to create a city that has a strong culture then it comes down to how many people actually live in the CBD and if we don’t have public spaces then people aren’t going to want to live there.” In 2011 International PARK(ing) Day involved 162 cities in 35 countries across six continents. Of those cities the top ranking in terms of participation were San Francisco, Paris and Adelaide. Making this top three list is not only promising – it is downright impressive. At its most fundamental level Adelaide PARK(ing) Day is about experiencing the city in a different way. We can learn from this event, and understanding the CBD’s potential for activation as well as people’s desire for new experiences is our first lesson.

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