written by:
photos by:
May 18, 2012
Originally published in The Now 99

Eager for public space, communities re-create their streets as temporary cafes, playgrounds, and bike lanes.

Picnurbia pop-up park Vancouver Art Gallery

Truck in potted trees. Set up cafe tables. Paint in some bike lanes. The temporary streetscape might be the perfect urban fix for our times. Because pop-up spaces enable cash-strapped cities to create parks and plazas without spending a bundle, they’ve become a form of instant municipal gratification. Temporary parks allow cities to test-drive new public spaces, says Prema Gupta, who masterminded several instant parks in Philadelphia. “We don’t have to wait four years to get a great public space.”

The concept grew out of the pavement-to-parks movements in New York and San Francisco. “We talked about using the parking lane for something other than storing vehicles,” explains San Francisco Pavement to Parks project manager Andres Power. “We liked the notion of being playful with the street.” Thus was born the “parklet,” a cross between a terrace cafe and a pocket park that occupies one or two curbside parking spaces. Temporary oases have surfaced nationally and internationally, but San Francisco leads with 24 and has 30 more instant parks in the works.

Temporary streetscapes have expanded beyond basic seating and greenery. On summer weekends, residents of Queens, New York, close a busy block to cars and turn it into a “play street,” with free movies and yoga classes. After Philadelphia replaced its parking meters with automated kiosks, the old meter heads were retrofitted with decorative rings for locking up bikes. No two instant streetscapes are alike. However, the public’s response is, generally, universal: overwhelming approval.

From Vancouver, British Columbia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, these three guerrilla landscapes stand out from the crowd.

Picnurbia
Visitors emerging from the Vancouver Art Gallery may assume that Picnurbia (above) is another art piece. Not quite. The colorful, wavelike structure is a temporary picnic grove in the heart of downtown that features festive umbrellas and cozy spots to spread out an al fresco lunch. picnurbia.com

Better Block Project
Fed up with a block of vacant commercial buildings in Dallas’s Oak Cliff section, residents organized a one-day demo of the street’s potential, installing trees and benches, and populating the block with pop-up shops. Now, almost all the storefronts are occupied. betterblock.org

The Porch
To slow traffic outside Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, the city widened the adjacent concrete median and created an outdoor waiting room called the Porch, with cafe seating, umbrellas, and planters. Completed in 2011, it’s now a popular venue for concerts and a farmers’ market.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

kannerresidence 6 mcinturff architects
Abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn inspired the fresh coats of paint at this Maryland home.
May 31, 2016
burton residence concrete floors metal panel sliding outside
An easy construction process reduces any drama for a couple in California.
May 31, 2016
Modern outdoor deck with wooden ceiling and metal fence
Working with a limited footprint, a daunting slope, and killer views, architect Bruce Bolander went vertical with a secluded canyon house in Malibu.
May 31, 2016
Sustainable home with galvanized steel shed roof and siding
A rural house in Ontario doesn't fuss around and fits right in the surrounding landscape.
May 31, 2016
Modern prefab summer home in Madeline Island, Wisconsin
Prefab construction simplified the building process of this northern Wisconsin summer home, where all materials required ferrying across Lake Superior.
May 30, 2016
This unrealized plan reimagined the city’s downtown and included a large green area next to the capitol building and paths to bring people to the Delaware River
In her new book, Wild by Design, Margie Ruddick shows us how to get closer to nature.
May 30, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent joa herrenknecht berlin cstudio joa herrenknecht berlin loftsw livingr02 studiojoaherrenknecht 2015
Size doesn't intimidate this ambitious designer.
May 30, 2016
modern fjallbacka sweden pine boxes vacation facade
Architect Gert Wingårdh creates a passionately outfitted vacation home for two midcentury furniture dealers on the western coast of Sweden.
May 29, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent driaan claassen cape town south africa ccourtesy of driaan claasen dualpage82
Driaan Claassen combines a variety of materials and a love of history to create distinct objects.
May 29, 2016
energy star dirk wynants extremis poperinge beligium sustainable farmhouse facade
The owner of an outdoor furniture company updates a 19th-century farmhouse.
May 29, 2016
Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
A toddler, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
rec
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
7
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016