Sunday, October 1, 2017

Space to play: A LEGO-style parklet for New Haven

As a transplant from the relatively parklet-rich San Francisco Bay Area, and since I love all the grassroots outdoor energy in my home of the last four years, New Haven, I was excited to hear about this recent parklet design competition from goNewHavengo and MakeHaven. The challenge: to think of a novel public space for a New Haven neighborhood that would fit into the space of two parking spots, and expand the possibilities of what public space can be and mean. Awesome.

I personally don't have a background in architecture or design, and didn't think I'd have anything much to contribute to the contest. But I loved hearing about others' ideas at the mid-September open house held at MakeHaven, as covered in colorful detail in Lucy Gellman's New Haven Independent article. And when I saw Kassandra Leiva and Misha Semenov's Urban Canopy model, and heard it mentioned more than once that there are few parklets that are actually made with children in mind, it gave me this little idea...

Why not make a parklet out of LEGO? I had a bunch of old sets from when I was a kid (and, let's be honest, a few new ones in the time since), and as I checked out more and more pictures of parklets online, I found myself most fascinated by parklets that created new shapes, angles, curves, and elevations, and that seemed to open up new spaces for the imagination in the tiniest of spots. There must be some great collections of images out there from cities around the world (Brazil seems to have quite a few?).

I'm interested in getting deeper into this but for the meantime I'll just share a few more pictures of what I imagined for New Haven, and wonder...could a LEGO-style parklet actually come to fruition?

In this parklet, a hill-shaped climbing and sitting structure is surrounded on both sides by places to sit...

...park your bike...

...and check out a map of the neighborhood.

Might as well imagine what it'd look like with people, right? Traffic is moving by in the street behind, but everyone in the parklet seems pretty content to be chatting, playing, relaxing, getting to know each other better.

From above and...

...from a nearby storefront.

A close-up of the central hill section

A parked bike in the foreground (is that a Schwinn?) and, in the back corner, a 3-tiered tree-shelf for leaving and 'borrowing' toys, like one of New Haven's little libraries for free book exchange.

Why not join the conversation?

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