Park(ing) Day invades Winnipeg streets

Drivers expecting to find metered parking spots in some downtown Winnipeg locations on Friday might have found sofas and chairs instead.

Artists, designers and citizens took part in a worldwide event called Park(ing) Day, transforming parking spaces into temporary park places and other types of social gathering spots.

"It's a neat idea just to reclaim the street from cars for a while, for part of the day and say, you know, cities are dominated by cars and maybe that isn't always the best idea," said Matthew Havens, who sunk into sofa at the intersection of Portage Avenue and Kennedy Street and watched the traffic go past.

Liz Sellors, an interior designer, said the event is a way to change a space from something cold and concrete into something warm and inviting, such as the space at Portage and Kennedy, outfitted with a carpet, table, chairs and people playing cards.

"[It's about] the importance of green spaces, of trying to soften downtown areas so there's not so much noise, traffic; just having some space where people can relax,” she said.

Park(ing) Day began in San Francisco in 2005 as a two-hour installation on a single parking space. The photo quickly spread online and the experience became a movement adopted in cities around the globe.

In 2006, there were 47 miniature parks created in 13 cities in three countries. And by 2011, there were 975 parks in 162 cities in 35 countries on six continents.

The mission [of Park(ing) Day] is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate debate about how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat, said Matthew Passmore of Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio that started the event.

"The planning strategies that have led to traffic congestion, pollution and poor health in cities everywhere do not reflect contemporary values, nor are they sustainable," he stated in a news release.

"Park(ing) Day raises these issues and demonstrates that even temporary projects can improve the character and quality of the city.”

There are eight Park(ing) Day locations throughout Winnipeg this year.

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