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Landscape Architecture Students Build Parklet to Raise Awareness

At Academy of Art University, student architects not only enjoy opportunities to test their skills outside of the classroom, but also critically engage with the world around them.

For the sixth year in a row, the School of Landscape Architecture participated in PARK(ing) Day, an annual global event. Undergraduates Francisco Mendoza and Felix Torres rose to the occasion, constructing a 55-feet long parklet spanning three parking slots. Their ambitious and well-planned project — which included a stylish elbow bar and potted succulents — looked perfectly at home in the bustling heart of San Francisco.

PARK(ing) Day Project Close-Up

Connecting to the Community Through Landscape Architecture

On PARK(ing) Day, architects and activists transform streetside parking spaces into temporary parklets and rest stops. The goal is to call attention to how public space in urban settings is often allotted to cars rather than local community members.

As such, Mendoza and Torres strove to center the needs of the workers and residents in the area while designing their parklet. 

“I noticed a lot of people get food from the food trucks right here, so we wanted to make a space where they could go to maybe eat their food, talk with some coworkers or friends, have a semi-private space,” said Mendoza. “In this area, it’s kind of hard to get that without having to go so many blocks away. We were trying to give them, for at least one day, a little bit of respite from all the urban conditions here.”

PARK(ing) Day Project Close-Up

Moreover, the phenomenal effort that Mendoza and Torres put into their PARK(ing) Day project didn’t go unnoticed.

Torres said, “We had some people come by and talk to us about it, and I think that’s a huge part about raising awareness. As long as we raise some awareness for our cause or what we’re thinking of, it’s a success.”

Building on Their Academy Education Outside of Class

Mendoza and Torres’ Academy training shone through as they applied the skills that they gained in class to a real-world endeavor. 

Aside from tailoring the parklet to their target audience, they demonstrated their deep understanding of construction and materials during the design process. With environmentalism featuring so prominently in current public discourse, they also prioritized sustainability by sourcing 20 wood pallets from Manuel Padilla, owner of Organic Pallet Design.

“All the materials being used here are completely upcycled,” said Mendoza. “They were destined to be either ground up into wood and made into sawdust and compacted, or used for raw material or maybe just even fire.”

“If we can give a new life to it in the form of PARK(ing) Day or what have you, we try to continue that upcycling and continue to renew resources that way,” Mendoza added.

PARK(ing) Day Project - Landscape Architecture

In addition, Mendoza and Torres had to carefully consider how to manage a project of such sheer size — and how to build it in two to three days.

“You learn a lot by doing this, how much manpower you need, timing and planning,” remarked Executive Director of the School of Landscape Architecture Jeff McLane. “You have to commit when doing a project like this.”

Story and images originally published by Nina Tabios in Art U News.

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