One day in 2005, a bench, some grass, and a tree suddenly appeared on a parking spot in central SanFrancisco. The parking meter was paid for two hours, and after that the installation disappeared. Thisaction by the art-design-activist organization Rebar has led to the annual global event Park(ing) Day andan official planning program in San Francisco, From Pavements to Parks, inspiring cities around the worldto introduce their own parklet projects.Many cities are facing challenges such as economic deficits and a lack of open public spaces, and growingconcerns exist regarding the need for urban greenery. This paper discusses how parklets are challengingthe role of public spaces and urban nature, drawing on discussions and conceptualizations of publicness,observational data, literature review, and document analysis to explore the influence of parklets as anurban design strategy at a local and global level.The symbolic change from parking space to public park space and the tactical urbanism inspiration ofthe concept constitute both parts of the symbolic value of parklets. At the same time, the line betweencommunity activism and urban strategy has been blurred. The city reviews, permits, and inspects theprojects; and the sponsor is responsible for the design, financing, maintenance, and liability. The paperconcludes that, even though parklets might provide a new public space and bring greenery to streetscapes,publicness, roles and responsibility, as well as the functionality of nature in these projects, remain crucialquestions.
Elsevier, 2015. Vol. 15, 165-173 p.