September has been filled with events in San Francisco geared towards the Architecture and the City Festival put on by the American Institute of Architects San Francisco. Design: Its About Time was the keynote lecture that included a panel of Walter Hood of HOOD Design, Jane Martin, AIA of Shift Design Studio, and Phil Ginsburg of SF Recreation and Parks Department with Deputy Editor Aaron Britt of Dwell magazine moderating.
In an urban environment, one can see the “apparent explosion of ‘pop-up’ interventions on streets, parking lanes, alleys, medians, and other underutilized urban real estate. Although the concept of temporary interventions in urban environments is not a new one, the ‘formalization’ of these by a myriad of grassroots programs – such as Park(ing) Day, Pavement to Parks, Pop Up Hood, SF food trucks and farmer’s markets associations – makes them more noticeable and perceived by many city dwellers as a movement.” This is very prevalent in San Francisco, and we are blessed to have these programs activate public space.
Discussions ranged from whether landscapes are better implemented permanently versus temporarily; what is the definition of a park currently; and the distinction between program and programming. Below are some highlights from the discussion.
“…temporary landscapes aren’t necessarily better than permanent.” -Walter Hood
“…need for more permanent civic space.” -Walter Hood
“…current economics greatly influence temporary design.” Mr. Hood went on to then say that possibly “more creativity comes from less money.”
“…instant gratification found in temporary landscapes.” -Phil Ginsburg
“…must make the distinction between guerrilla versus sanction.” -Jane Martin
“…my work is designed to be taken away tomorrow, but built for permanence.” -Jane Martin
“…early programming was the romanticized stroll through the park which changed as our values changed; moved to recreation and use of open space programming of parks.” -Walter Hood
“…park is place, and landscapes need to create a grammar of where we live.” Mr. Hood references Central Park and Golden Gate Park and how each forms an edifying image of their respective city’s and its people.
One thing that stood out is something that Mr. Ginsburg said regarding the need for physical manifestation of change and that need to be evident to the younger population. A great deal of architecture and landscape architecture projects take years to develop let alone be constructed and in many cases we age quicker than the progress of these projects. Temporary landscapes, parklets, food trucks, and social “pop-up” locations can provide that real change in a matter of months where permanent landscapes cannot.
In summation it was an excellent lecture. As the economy continues to tread water in many areas across the country, I believe temporary landscapes will grow in numbers as the public continues to embrace the concept. Temporary landscapes can be great social hubs of ideas and creativity, but there is a need to further develop permanent civic space when various municipalities have the wherewithal to do so. I guess until then let our parklets and urban designs further build on the foundation of creativity that is being fostered in urban cores.
Below are images of postcards of San Francisco at around the turn of the century on display at the lecture. Apologies for the poor quality.