By Katie Donahue, M.Arch Candidate, AIAS Denver – Vice President, AFH Denver – Board of Directors
A woman jumped up and down atop the hood of the car, denting it, trying feverishly to kick in the windshield. I joined in, tearing off the side mirror and beating the hood mercilessly. And it felt great. It was my first dose of tactical urbanism and my first time experiencing Park(ing) Day. This made-up holiday was invented to take a day out of the year to plug a meter at a parking spot, and instead of filling the place with a car, fill it with people. Parking spots all over Denver were filled with plants, picnic tables, art work, people working, people playing, and – incidentally – one spot with a jar the was labeled “complaints in life,” a sledgehammer, and a car to take it out on. It’s a cry for action, calling for community members, urbanists and designers to think about what we can do to make our cities more inspiring other than just covering them with parking spaces.
It made me think of what it means to be a designer or an architect in a growing urban place like Denver. I don’t think it means that smashing all the cars and doing away with parking is the answer. But I do think it means that we have a social responsibility, and that we should consider the power that design has to transform urban places. We have the chance every single day to lend our design expertise to projects that will spawn community interaction and bring joy to those who pass through.
Architecture for Humanity-Denver (AfH) just started the Parking Lot Project. It’s our attempt at an urban intervention to hack a derelict parking lot into a multi-purpose community space. The current lot belongs to the Museo de las Americas, a wonderful museum that supports art of the Americas and believes in art education. The cramped windowless basement with low ceilings is home to the Museo staff as well as their Museo de las Americas Summer Camp (MASC) targeted to help the at-risk Latino youth population. All the while, the best space on the property with fresh air, glimpses of the mountains, art murals, and access to 300 days of Denver sunshine is occupied. By empty cars.
The Museo is an incredible community asset, and so we at AfH came up with a way to repurpose salvaged materials to redesign their parking lot. Old hollow-core doors will be made into a fence, old flooring will become an awning, and old sailboat sails will become a canopy during the summer. The design for the Parking Lot Project is flexible and can accommodate cars when the Museo isn’t holding summer camp, community film nights, gallery events, or fundraisers out there.
This project is important to help the Museo continue its summer camp, to give back space to the neighborhood, and to foster a creative climate. We’re using crowdsource fundraising to make this project happen because we need your help. We have to finish raising every single penny of our $20,000 goal by May 23 at 9:00PM MST on our Kickstarter page, or we don’t get any of the money that has been pledged so far. In exchange for your support, we are giving away rewards that we have made, like earrings and necklaces made out of salvaged materials or putting your name in the donor garden. Watch our video to learn more and to hear what kids suggested for the design of the classroom, including chocolate fountains and walls made of Jello. Think about what kind of creative spaces you would like to support, and considering helping this one become a reality!