happy parking day

Downtown Houston parking spaces transform into usable art for one dynamic day

Downtown Houston parking spaces transform into usable art for a day

Parking Park(ing) Day Houston downtown
For once, a cool reason why that parking space is taken.  Photo courtesy of Rice Design Alliance

Some very sophisticated street art will be on display in downtown Houston on Friday, September 21, as PARK(ing) Day once again welcomes designers to make parking spaces into immaculate installations.

PARK(ing) Day is a global event, where citizens, artists and activists temporarily turn metered parking spaces into temporary public places, also known as "PARK(ing) spaces." This started way back in 2005, when art/design studio Rebar converted a parking space into a public park in downtown San Francisco.

It would soon hit Houston a few years later, as designers and artists decided to do their own individual spaces. It wasn't until 2015 when it became a city-sanctioned event. "We got together and said let's partner with the city and do the event together," says designer Lisa Girard, who was also part of the planning board. "The city has been extremely supportive. Houston has been a great place to put this on."

Members of Rice Design Alliance (RDA) and the American Society of Landscape Artists (ASLA) teamed up to send out a saved date to several, local design/architecture firms, in the hopes that they'll have a idea for a space. "We ask everyone to register and, then, it's up for the firm or design team to come up with something," says Girard. This year, eight groups — including TBG Partners, SWA Group, APA Houston, and Bike Share Houston — will take part in this year's day, happening on one block on McKinney. 

Over the years, people have been known to put anything in their space to make it a cool, hangout spot: ping-pong tables, yoga mats, and coffee klatches. But these spaces can also be educational, as past spots were devoted to hip people to such subjects as bees. "It's fun to see them all together," says Girard. "When your imagination kinda takes over, it's really great to imagine what they turn out to be."

For the folks in Houston, PARK(ing) Day is all about giving passersby — especially the nine-to-fivers who need a brief break from the daily grind — something cool and creative to experience for one day.

"People are always coming over and seeing something on their own," says Girard. "From there, once the public is engaged, we're able to tell them what PARK(ing) Day is all about... I think it's really refreshing. It's a very subtle kind of event." 

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PARK(ing) Day sets up shop at 1221 McKinney St. on Friday, September 21 from 9 am to 3 pm. Free. For more information, visit the official site