Back on Campus, Figuring out Park(ing) Day

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Walking across the University of Maryland campus last week*, I happened upon the school’s National Park(ing) Day exhibit.

I’ve never quite gotten National Park(ing) Day, but now I understand that at least in this case it’s a day for the Landscape Architecture Department to promote the profession, which no doubt could use some public exposure.

But naturally there’s more to it. This post on The Dirt, the blog of the American Society of Landscape Architects, describes it like this:

On Friday, September 21, landscape architects and designers around the world participated in the 14th annual PARK(ing) Day to demonstrate the power of public space. PARK(ing) Day helps the public see the difference a designed space, even one as small as a metered parking spot, can make in their community.

To see how creative the results can be, peruse the 424 entries by ASLA members  on this tagboard.

There was no budget for this exhibit, so they borrowed newly bought plants from the campus grounds department. Now a week later, they’ve probably all been planted in the gardens on campus.

Supervising the exhibit was Professor Jack Sullivan, shown taking advantage of the park bench. I took the opportunity to pitch him a doctoral thesis idea for one of his  students – to assess the original Utopian New Deal vision of Greenbelt MD, now 80 years after its founding. While the plan is heralded for its greenness and walkability, residents like myself can testify to the results being mixed. Very worthy of study.

Educational banners on display for the Park(ing) Day helped me understand (finally) that Park(ing) Day isn’t about parking at all! It’s about the potential of designed spaces (and the profession), demonstrated temporarily along city streets.

So let’s see how they do that. With the designed parking spaces, students chatting up passersby about the deparatment, and some ecological instruction.

This banner I found instructive, as it displays the primary fields within landscape architecture. They are: ecological restoration; parks and open spaces; urban design; plazas and streetscapes.

What’s not there? Gardens, or residential landscapes. Which surprised me only a bit.

*Why I’m on campus these days is because I’m a fully matriculated college student again! I’m happily partaking of the school’s Golden ID program, which allows retired residents over 60 to take classes tuition-free. This semester I’m taking a terrific class in Art History and am eyeing one or two Film Studies classes for next semester.

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