Parklets are popping up in cities throughout the world, intended to provide some much needed green space in urban areas.
Parklets are public seating platforms that convert curbside parking spaces into vibrant community spaces. A parklet typically combines elements such as seating with nature including trees, flowers and shrubs. They often include bike parking too.
In London, parklets have become essential spaces for local communities, providing a pit-stop for those en route to somewhere, a place to nurture plants and admire nature, and to encourage community engagement.
Parklets are often the product of a partnership between the city and local businesses, residents, or neighborhood associations.
The Shoreditch Parklet, located in Calvert Avenue, has brought some much needed relaxation and nature to the busy Shoreditch area of London.
The venture is a joint partnership between Hackney Council, Islington Council and Tower Hamlets Council, with backing from the Mayor of London’s office.
The Shoreditch Parklet is part of a larger initiative to encourage green spaces, cleaner air, and promote cycling, under the Len City Fringe initiative and the Low Emissions Neighbourhood programme.
Amidst the 14-person seating area, The Shoreditch Parklet accommodates two large trees and a 12 metre-long trellis of climbing and sprawling plants, featuring some edible plants, including rosemary, cherries, and bay bushes. It also houses parking for bikes.
The Parklet’s maintenance and horticultural care is provided by those who are in a recovery programme at local charity, Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT). The charity provides support and practical training to assist people who have been homeless and suffering from addiction, poverty or social isolation.
SCT also run the nearby coffee shop, Paper & Cup. Since the parklet was installed, SCT has seen profits at its Paper & Cup rise by 20%.
The Shoreditch Parklet, which was designed by Meristem, is mobile – meaning it can be taken down and put up somewhere else – as well as modular, offering the option to upgrade or replace parts easily.
The first parklets were installed throughout San Francisco in 2010. Every year since, more parklets have appeared around the city under the sponsorship of nonprofits, small businesses, neighbourhood groups, and others.
As cities make a commitment to prioritise clean air, parklets have also become the mission of individuals in neighbourhoods. Last summer, Brenda Puech, a resident of Hackney’s London Fields, set up her own parklet to provide provision for walkers to rest kerbside.
Brenda Puech sought to purchase a resident’s parking permit last year from Hackney Council, which she could use as a community space providing a pit-stop for walkers.
The green campaigner felt that even if she didn’t have a car she should still be allowed access to a parking space. She created the People Parking Bay – complete with plant pots, garden furniture and a fake lawn – after Hackney Council told her she could only use a parking permit for a car.
She says: “Walking is the most common way for people to get around and yet car parking dominates kerbside space. There is little or no provision for walkers to rest. Many people, including older and disabled people, and people with kids need regular rest stops while walking, and many pavements are too narrow for walking, let alone for benches.”
In spite of being popular with Hackney residents, Brenda Puech was forced to take down the mini-garden by the council. The People Parking Bay no longer exists today, but Brenda Puech acknowledges that had she not set it up, then “people wouldn’t have realised it was even a possibility”.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea