Red balloons floated over a parallel parking space filled with chairs and tables Downtown as UNM students converted the space into a seating area last week.

CityLab, along with the Student American Society of Landscape Architects (SASLA) and the American Planning Association of UNM (APAUNM), hosted Park(ing) Day at the intersection of Fifth and Central Friday as part of a global program.

According to the Park(ing) Day website, the event is an “annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK” spaces: temporary public places.”

The three groups who participated in Park(ing) Day in Albuquerque had different themes for their spaces. For example, the APAUNM laid a turf with a chair at the foot of the space to set up for a “drawing in perspective” class, while the SASLA transformed its space into a shaded seating area filled with plants.

Catalina Salinas, a student from the CityLab, said the red balloons were meant to raise awareness for Park(ing) Day.

Erin Chavez, secretary of APAUNM and promoter for the event, said her organization participated in the international event for the first time this year.

“The SASLA has been doing Park(ing) Day for years,” she said. “This is, as far as I know, APAUNM’s first experience with Park(ing) Day. But just based on who we have on our board we were all really interested in it as an event. And so we made sure to coordinate with them to make sure that it was something that all the groups could take part in.”

Chavez said the event is intended to make people rethink how to use urban spaces.

“The idea of Park(ing) Day is to show, for one day out of the year, just what the different options are that can happen in something as small as a parallel parking space,” she said. “And also, just to show how much space is taken up by parking that can be used for a variety of other things.”

Funding for the APAUNM space came from various sources, such as fundraisers and UNM’s Graduate and Professional Student Association, Chavez said. She said participants decorated their spaces under a tight but sufficient budget.

“We have a lot of donated materials here and a lot of things that were just inexpensive to come by,” she said. “That’s part of the thing of doing these student events is to try not to break the bank. In our space here, we have a lot of materials donated by the Convention Services of the Southwest. They were really generous in letting us pull things from their warehouse.”

She estimated the decorations for her group’s parking spot cost less than $100.
Jennifer Sandoval, president and coordinator of SASLA, said she hoped the event would help people become “more aware of public space and the lack of it.”

“We have tons of parking spaces Downtown and not that many places for people to just hang out,” she said.

Meredith Gresham, treasurer for SASLA, said the event does not necessarily have to be school-related.

“It’s a national activity for anybody who feels that they want to occupy a space and show their creativity in a public domain,” she said. “It’s just kind of a fun day. It’s just kind of an awesome activity and a day to come down and show your creativity — to show what a public space could be instead of just an asphalt-filled parking space.”