This Park(ing) Day installation allowed students to understand steps to acquire and craft public space; to engage the public to discover their wants and needs in downtown public space; and to see how to make comfortable spaces in the Mojave Desert. This project demonstrates how design-build can help to develop research to refine regionally appropriate design.
This three-week project challenged students to procure a public space, and design and build an installation as part of an urban design project for a new ‘Town Square’ in Las Vegas. We wanted to know what a ‘Town Square’ in Downtown Las Vegas should have. Going to the public with a temporary park let us engage and get responses in a serendipitous and unstructured manner. The climate in the desert and an understanding of comfort were critically important factors to understand for outdoor space. Discussion with the public to discover their programming needs and wants were also essential to be able to develop what a 'Town Square' in Las Vegas should be.
We experienced the region's climate during the beginning of Fall, which has hot and relatively cooler segments of the day. During the day in our park, we explored configurations and qualities of seating and shade to create Town Square seating guidelines. Learned patterns would give best practices for comfort to add to park value.
Project parameters included constraints and opportunity of location, policy, budget, and comfort. After an analysis of districts with parking spaces, we narrowed down to four site locations with good foot traffic where we might find people to engage. We decided upon the Casino/Entertainment area, the Art District and the Civic/Justice/Office core. The Casino area provided the most foot traffic - but mostly tourists. The Farmer’s market gave a chance to meet locals, but not a broad spectrum of people. The Arts District was a night pedestrian location without a broad spectrum of users. The location we chose had several advantages. The courthouses and city/office complexes gave a broad spectrum of citizens and a high rate of foot traffic. We chose a parking spot there to get shade for the latter part of the day - in the heat of the day.
We ‘purchased’ three parking spots; the city would not give us just one. This removed a conflict with the local food truck arriving first every day to gain the parking spot we identified. We offered them ‘free parking’ on the south spot, and used the north spot for logistical purposes. The food truck helped our foot traffic, too!
We followed local safety and access policy; we had to have protection from the lanes of traffic and other parking spots. The car and food truck in the north and south spots protected us, and we built a small wall on the street face by ‘folding’ up our staging floor. For universal access, and to get off of the oily and hot asphalt, we made a parklet floor flush with the curb.
We had no project money. All materials were donated or scavenged and recycled/recyclable materials. The design elements included a palette floor and wall, planters with pink-hued flax (owned by the designers already), seats, bench, community table for input and balloons for shade. Seating and shade elements could be moved for research and feedback on shade and comfort. Good, comfortable seating patterns are key to park sustainability - ease of use relates to longevity.
The community table/cube was made of donated construction waste material and kept in the university design center to continue conversation about a future downtown park. The table sat on casters so we could move it to the edge of the park to snag passers by. The height and size of the table facilitated group discussion and let less gregarious users occupy a side to record their thoughts.
The seating was built from repurposed milk crates and recycled cardboard. The floor and walls were created from wooden palettes. Planters and plants came from the local design center. All materials were returned and recycled. The donated balloons went to participants giving feedback and night time Park(ing) Day installations in Downtown.
Over 100 meaningful responses appeared on the cube through conversations; we mapped seating patterns, learned about the importance of shade, how to work with the city, and advocated for a park in a downtown that does not have one.
The UNLV Downtown Design Center thanks Gensler for their help on the design and fabrication of the project.