Pop-Up Parks Turn City Scaffolding Into Urban Retreats

Softwalks' goal is to market DIY kits that transform urban spaces.
Jan 12, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Anyone burdened by the onslaught of stress as a result of city living understands the value of stillness, and appreciates it even in its most minute doses. That’s probably why Softwalks, a startup that promises to turn construction scaffolding into a temporary mini-park, is gaining such Internet buzz.

Softwalks started out as a school project at New York City’s renowned Parsons The New School for Design. According to Softwalks’ website, design students Bland Hoke and Howard Chambers were inspired to create a method for city-dwellers to have access to more livable public spaces.

Fast Company reports the duo started out by erecting day-long garden installations along the interiors of New York’s construction scaffolding. These were made of removable pieces, like chairs, which hung on rails and plants and could be hooked to scaffolding bars in order to create a garden-like seating area for whomever walked by.

The pair even earned Fast Company’s Innovation by Design award for their efforts, but recently made a bigger push to bring their DIY mini-park kits to market.

Softwalks just completed its first successful Kickstarter campaign to test and refine its kits. The parts so far include hanging chairs, plants, stand-up counters, light reflectors and screens.

MORE: Let's Go Downtown and Get Lost in the Forest

Repurposing an urban blight like construction scaffolding isn’t an entirely new idea. Recently, New York City did away with all of its single-car parking meters, leaving behind thousands of iron poles sticking out of city sidewalks. Instead of cutting them down, New York’s Department of Transportation is spending $2 million to turn them all into bike racks.

Anyone who lives and bikes in New York City knows that racks are few and far between and this project would double the number of them currently available. Philadelphia did the same, but took an artistic approach to it, installing decorative rings as part of the locking mechanism.

And in other cities, designers are getting more creative about turning urban features into opportunities to slow down and congregate. Known as the pavement-to-parks movement, it’s spawned creations like the Vancouver Art Gallery’s temporary picnic grove, which it erected in its city’s downtown area.

Projects like these are usually met with enthusiasm by residents because the busier our lives become, the less connected to them we tend to feel. By carving out these moments of relaxation and engagement, it’s easier to remember who we are and why we’re here.

What sort of pavement-to-park manifestation would you want in your own city? Let us know in the Comments.