The third annual Harrisonburg Park(let) project is taking place today. This event was created three years ago when a group of us got together to figure out how to bring an event downtown that encouraged more green spaces in an urban space, promoted interaction among citizens, and celebrated local artists. We based our idea on the now worldwide event started by Rebar in San Francisco called Park(ing) Day, which always happens on the third Friday in September. The idea of transforming an urban area such as a parking space into a vibrant place for gathering and sharing ideas is ground breaking for some and other it should be done and permanent. In Harrisonburg we have great community, businesses, and lots of events downtown, but we lack informal places for gathering and green spaces. These types of spaces are vital to a healthy community and this event is our annual attempt to bring more awareness to their value. I hope someday we will have more park space downtown, perhaps a playground, and even more trees along our streets, but until then, I hope you will come and visit the park(let) projects that are being built today and will be open from 5pm – 8pm on court square.
Design matters. Taking time out to develop the idea is an activity that should NOT be considered a luxury,but should be seen as a required planning tool that cannot be overlooked. In our fast paced society we look for solutions that are fast and simple. We don’t want things to be overly complicated. We simply don’t have time or energy for it.
So where does that leave design. Is it a luxury that only those with extra time and money can implement for their projects? Is it something that can be purchased in a magazine? Is it something the builder / creator can figure out as he goes along?
As a society we have allowed design to be put on the back burner . The “spec” market for housing is a booming industry with players that build the way they built last time no matter the lot conditions, the solar orientation, or the needs of the future home owner. Those purchasing these homes adapt their lives to the inefficiencies rather than having a home designed around their specific needs. Design solves these problems in the planning stage before you ever try to get dinner ready while watching the kids do their homework in the next room. Design creates healthy indoor air quality rather than homes that need to be cleaned on a weekly basis. Design creates solutions for problems you know need attention and problems you have not yet encountered. Design acknowledges the place, climate, community, and users abilities.
Our community has a “pull on your boots and get it done” kind of attitude. That attitude is why this valley was settled and survived. It was a rough area with lots of potential, dangerous, bountiful, and beautiful. The immigrants that survived in this area knew there was a need for hard work and quick solutions to life’s problems. There is nothing wrong with that heritage that has been handed down through the generations. However, we need to also infuse design into the conversation so that we can be efficient with our resources, make daily life a little easier, and continue to thrive in our valley.
On October 5th and 6th, a conversation about design in downtown will take the form of small parks, the size of parking spaces. Artists, community groups, students, and local residents will build these parking spaces into areas that promote conversation, engage community, and celebrate the act of design. These parks will be short-lived expressions of what our downtown could be in the future. Join us for the conversation, without you we will not have community, which is essential for successful design to matter.