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PARK (ing) Day

What is PARK(ing) day? Well, the concept of PARK(ing) Day is simple: on the third Friday of every September, local businesses turn a parking space outside their building into a small sanctuary.

Trevor Bacon’s installation on South William St (image- Faolán Bashford)

Started by David O’Connor, Stéphanie Fy and Sinéad Bourke in 2011, the event follows the example set by San Francisco, who created the event back in 2005.

O’Connor, a planning lecturer in Dublin Institute of Technology, and architects Fry and Bourke, saw it as an opportunity to bring a global event to Dublin.

Faolán Bashford, an organiser of the event, explains: “The purpose is to open the debate into how we as people of the city have access to public space. The culture is revolved around the needs of the motorist, but when alternatives are there, is the storage of private property really the best use of our streets? We only need to look at the pedestrian areas in Dublin such as Grafton Street and Henry Street, to see that more space given to people is good for business and good for the city.”

Though PARK(ing) Day was more prominent in the city centre, on a gloomy Friday I ventured around the historic area of the Liberties to see who had taken part in the area. Without a doubt, Francis Street was the immense winner. One usually grey and dull parking space had been floored with black and white tiles, together with embellishments of toilet and life size white and pink polka dot bathtub. Other ornaments like pink stools and bunting adorned the makeshift bathroom. Finally, alongside the rim of the car park space was a neat white picket fence.

Standing by the space were two young volunteers, Sam and Hugo, who were handing out biscuits to passersby. After knocking on the door of the buildings facing the parking space, I was greeted by Robert Higgins from DHR Communications. As we chatted, I learned that the unusual set up was made by his workplace and another management company next door, Cuckoo Events.

From left; Sam Clanson, Hugo Auersall and Robert Higgins – by Catherine Devane

 

“The theme of our design is tranquillity and peace which for a lot of people is the bathroom. We collaborated with Oxfam for the project, as we wanted to draw attention that not everyone has the luxury to their own bathroom; like asylum seekers and homeless people,” said Higgins. The design, which took about an hour to put together was also the first time the business had taken part in PARK(ing) Day.

There isn’t a limit on the amount of spaces that can be used around the city with Siobhan Maher from Dublin City Council saying that “the parking spaces are available for as many activations as people wish to propose.”

It’s easy to imagine some sort of backlash that the event could receive from commuters, but Faolán ensures that “the reception is overwhelmingly positive on the day. There are some business owners, who are supportive but have small reservations, but usually this is because of other issues beyond our control. We don’t see ourselves as being anti-car, it is important for us to keep the roadway clear. We are very much pro-business.”

Dublin City Council holds the same view, with Siobhan saying that “obviously we don’t want to hinder business, but I think it’s fair to say most businesses welcome the interventions; and the unique experience it offers visitors to the city and those who work here.”

Credit: Hugo Fitzpatrick

Finally, what’s the future for PARK(ing) Day? “I would like to see it evolve into something bigger and better. I would also love to see more people getting involved, because without people being active in changing our city the results will fall short.” Faolán says.

It’s food for thought for local businesses around Dublin. The day not only creates a more colourful city but it also involves a community coming together to make something beautiful. It seems PARK(ing) Day will only grow stronger, with this year proving to be the biggest success to date with 27 installations all over the city.

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March's events in The Liberties: Comedy, Techno and a Pop-Up Gaeltacht

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