From Parking To Parks

LAN students take part in PARK(ing) Day, a global event that uses art and social interaction to encourage discussion


Visitors learn to fold origami cranes during PARK(ing) Day. Photo courtesy of the School of Landscape Architecture.

Since 2005, cities all over the world have celebrated PARK(ing) Day annually on every third Thursday of September. PARK(ing) Day is a public event celebrated globally by a variety of people including artists, activists, and landscape architects. 

The primary objective of PARK(ing) Day is to occupy public parking spaces and transform them into small, temporary parks. By transforming parking spaces into “parklets,” the general public is encouraged to participate and experience their city in an entirely new light. Overall, the purpose of PARK(ing) Day is to make a statement and create discussion among citizens on the value of open spaces in urban settings through art and social interaction.

Students from the Academy of Art University’s School of Landscape Architecture that are affiliated with the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Student Chapter participate in this event each year. This event gives us students the opportunity to bring our ideas and designs out of the classroom and into the streets of San Francisco. 

Each year has yielded a different experience for each participating student. With different resources and different students volunteering, how PARK(ing) Day will go can change drastically. This year, we needed to work at top speed in order to put together a design and come up with different ways to encourage passerbys to participate. After only two days of planning, we were able to finalize our design and arrive at the Cannery early enough in the morning to claim a parking spot right outside the building.

We set up our display and asked citizens to participate by joining us and learning how to fold origami paper cranes. As students, we’re constantly busy and stressed out with our day to day lives and we know that we’re not the only ones. Everyone has to resist buckling under the pressure from work, school, and the general complexities and annoyances of life every day. As a response to this, we wanted to create a space where people could sit and relax and immerse themselves into the serene world of origami and to escape real life, if only for a little while.

On PARK(ing) Day, we set up tables and chairs for people to sit and make the cranes. Participants often struggled at first, as origami requires patience and a clever hand. However, everyone who gave it a try left with a smile on their face and some weight off their shoulders. At one point, a woman who works in the building across the street from the Cannery approached us and asked us what we were doing. We told her that we were doing a school project and asked if she wanted to join us. She said, “Sure, why not?” and sat down stating that she already knew how to make a crane. What she didn’t know was that there are several different ways to fold a crane and we showed her a new variation that she hadn’t known before. We talked the entire time and when she was finished, she said, “This was relaxing, my stresses are all gone,” which we were thrilled to hear!


The School of Landscape Architecture’s origami cranes on display at this year’s PARK(ing) Day event. Photo courtesy of the School of Landscape Architecture.

Every person that stopped by our site gave us an opportunity to talk about PARK(ing) Day, our concept and the School of Landscape Architecture at the Academy. We consider this to be another successful PARK(ing) Day for our department and its students. During this sunny September day, we had the opportunity to make an impact and impart new experiences and knowledge onto the public of San Francisco which is what makes PARK(ing) Day so special.