Let's face it— developing parklets is pretty much uncharted territory. There's not really a "playbook" to go by, but for designers that's like winning the lottery!
Not only will they have an opportunity to publicly display their work, but they also add their voices to the national conversation about what a parklet could and should be.
Many credit the group Rebar in San Francisco as the first to explore parklet construction back in 2010.
Since then, many cities worldwide have followed suit as pedestrians and business-owners begin to reinvent what the sidewalk and curbside means to them. Many of the goals established by those early pioneers, such as promoting connectivity and community interaction, exist today in projects like Curb'd.
But what exactly are the long term effects of having a temporary or permanent structure added to the streetscape or storefront? Are there any concrete numbers on the environmental or economic impact of parklet construction? Not really.
Parklets are so new and innovative that there hasn't been much solid research done on their greater social impact. Although we can look to other parklet success stories at home and abroad for a better understanding of what's to come.
A sleek new parklet lines Tooley Street in London, England. This urban sculpture, titled ParkedBench, is portable, "sittable," and is very refined in terms of design and construction. Made primarily with low-cost materials, this parklet provides a much needed buffer zone between sidewalk and street. Research shows that public interaction with the parklet differs from person to person. Unlike a regular park bench, people feel more inclined to explore and play. Some groups prefer to gather in a particular niche, while children tend to explore the tactile nature of the design.
This parklet comes complete with plant and an air quality monitor that provides real-time data.
That's the beauty of the parklet.
It's main purpose is to give us a greater sense of context to our own surroundings. It provides a place for people to just be without an agenda, leading to inevitably to conversations about the street, the neighborhood, or the environment.
While the ParkedBench installation is only temporary, the public is left with all the meaningful reflections that it allowed.
Many community members are already excitedly talking about future parklet designs.