Design firms have long employed events-based communication to build relationships and reach project stakeholders in public planning projects. But considering over-saturated media markets, experiential outreach is playing an increasing role in fostering long-term dialog with both project partners and the community at large. Innovative events-based outreach initiatives are a critical component of Sasaki's communication practice and are central to the firm's ability to accomplish broader human-centered design goals. Sasaki's recent participation in PARK(ing) Day as part of the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard project illustrates the potential—and fun!—of such outreach.
Started in 2005 by the San Francisco-based firm Rebar, PARK(ing) Day is a national event during which public parking spaces are temporarily transformed into pop-up parks. The Sasaki team used the event to grab the attention of the general public and foster dialog about the proposed Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard plan with those who would be unlikely to attend traditional outreach events, such as public meetings. During PARK(ing) Day, Sasaki was able to engage the public in the kind of high-touch personal interaction that is critical, but often absent, in outreach efforts for human-centered design. Sasaki's PARK(ing) Day participation was the finale of a summer full of outreach events along the Allegheny River, which included a bike ride, trivia night, and a traditional public meeting.
Sasaki and local organizations collaborated to create a simple, cost-efficient design that represented what the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard will be in the future: a public space that integrates a trail, transit, open space, and native plantings. The temporary installation was located at 100 43rd Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The design foregrounded the proposed multi-use path within the Allegheny Valley Railroad corridor. With temporary chalking paint, stencils, site furnishings, potted plants, and a couple of chairs and folding table, the seven by twenty two-foot parking space was transformed into a highly visible, welcoming communication device.
Not only was the PARK(ing) Day installation an effective way to reach the community, but it was also a great team-building exercise for the project. Coordinating a presentation for a steering committee is one thing—physically producing an installation is another! The event provided the design team the opportunity to play and collectively create a tangible product. The creative process included the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Lawrenceville Corp., CTAC Pittsburgh, KMA Associates, Landscape Forms, and Urban Gardener. PARK(ing) Day came as planning work of the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard winds down and the implementation of the project ramps up. Although small and temporary, the PARK(ing) Day installation serves as a microcosm of collaborative design, and sets the stage for larger built work.