Since we avoid congregating indoors to contain the spread of the coronavirus, many of us explore the great outdoors. But it’s also important to practice social distancing outside.
A new project, which includes AIA Austin, the Austin Foundation for Architecture and the Gensler architecture firm, has found a creative way to combine the beauty of nature with the need for social distancing. It’s called the PARKSPACE project and it’s rolling out in four Austin parks initially.
“PARKSPACE boldly interweaves the elements of architectural landscaping and a socially distant awareness campaign into an exciting public outdoor experience,” said Ingrid Spencer, Managing Director of AIA Austin and the Austin Foundation for Architecture, in a press release on June 23.
Volunteers set up one of the city’s PARKSPACE art installations at Pease Park on June 30th, headed by the Pease Park Conservancy. All installations are made up of colorful squares that are painted on the floor with environmentally friendly paint. They serve as a work of art that allows visitors to enjoy green spaces – picnicking, sunbathing, or practicing yoga, for example – while complying with social distancing guidelines.
In addition to Pease Park, Austin parks that receive the PARKSPACE treatment will receive Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park, Republic Square, and Zilker Park. The Guerrero installation was the first to be completed.
The installation of each park is inspired by a Texas wildflower. For example, Pease Park’s wildflower muse is the bluebonnet.
Gerardo Gandy, a Gensler architect in Austin, came up with the idea for the PARKSPACE installations, which are similar to park installations in other cities. Gandy wanted to liven up Austin’s installations by incorporating the colors of the Texan wildflowers. He was motivated by part of a quote from Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady and well-known conservationist: “Where flowers bloom, hope blooms.”
“Creative placemaking is a shared experience, and PARKSPACE is an installation for our time. A new way of being together, ”said Steve Adler, Austin Mayor, in the press release.
The release indicates that the entire four park pilot will be completed before the weekend of July 4th, although all parks in Austin and Travis Counties will be closed during the holidays to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Thereafter, additional local parks for PARKSPACE installations will be considered.
PARKSPACE’s other partners include the Austin Department of Parks and Recreation and the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation.