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PARKing Day challenges perception of Calgary’s urban spaces

The folks at Vivo brought in a fireplace, lit it, and were roasting marshmallows for PARKing Day along Kensington Road in Calgary.

They call it fire pit Friday. It’s something they do every Friday in communities around their Country Hills location.

Shannon Black with Vivo said they wanted to bring it to PARKing Day to remind people about connecting with one another.


“What we’re noticing in our communities is that we’re moving less, we’re connecting less, and our communities aren’t necessarily making us healthier,” she said.

“They’re actually making us less healthy. And we have a hunch that if we bring things like fire pits out to communities, we give unstructured player opportunities, people are going to live their healthier and happier lives.”

For Vivo, Black said the idea of PARKing Day is that it helps change people’s perspectives on how we’re using public realm space. Instead of a patch of asphalt where a car sits, you can actually roast marshmallows. (They also did have popcorn.)

“I think we need to be constantly evolving. And I think we also need to constantly be innovative. I think sometimes what’s always worked in the past doesn’t necessarily always work in the future,” Black said.

“We use a space that it’s not necessarily the intended purpose. And I think that that’s when magical things happen.”

Shane Budish (foreground), from ISL Engineering and Land Services landscape architecture team, talks with participant Denise Kitagawa as they paint on a canvas at the group’s PARKing Day stall in Kensington on Friday, Sept. 20. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

PARKing Day an international event

PARKing Day is an international event founded in 2005 that challenges common perceptions about the use of public space.

Kate Zago, urban planner with the City of Calgary, said there’s untapped potential in our streets to be more than traffic arteries.

“Around the world, people are starting to take the view of kind of looking at things and seeing spaces and seeing how they could be reorganized,” she said.

Zago said the PARKing Day event, which saw 19, 6 metre by 2.4 metre parking stalls on Kensington Road between 10A Street and 11 Street NW transformed by businesses, artists, engineers and designers, into creative spaces, is also a testing ground for new ideas.

“This gives them a one day opportunity to try that out,” she said.

Zago said after the first PARKing Day in Calgary, they expanded the idea and turned it into a parklet – a summer-long project that made use of parking stall for a public park space.

Place to mash up ideas for new spaces

Sarah Lumley (left), Valerie Manica and Pamela Downey from O2 Planning and Design are experiementing with passive and active recreation spaces at PARKing Day. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Sarah Lumley, Pamela Downey and Valerie Manica from O2 Planning and Design wanted to see if they could mash up active and passive recreation into a parking stall to demonstrate how it might be used in larger parks. They had a lounging chair that had a bean bag toss game on the end.

Manica said that want to encourage more informal recreation, and to be able to do it in a variety of different spaces. They had both hockey and soccer activities in their stall.

“I think it’s important to have the ability to support that kind of informal play with kids and adults,” she said.

“So, it’s really important that when we’re planning or designing spaces, that we’re not oversubscribing a place and we’re leaving it up to interpretation. People can do what they do, and enjoy themselves.”

The event is being held from 12 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 20. For more information on PARKing Day, you can visit the city’s website.