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Reclaiming Urban Landscape | Part 1

This week, we’re looking at ideas that claim our urban space back from the gruesome grip of commercialization, concrete and the general ugly of the city, or what scaffolding has to do with Bambi.

Nothing says “give us back our space” like some unexpected greenification amidst the pavement-and-concrete dullness of the city. So we’ve picked the top 5 ideas that bring a tasty bite-sized bit of green to our urban stew of gray.


The PARK(ing) Project started in 2005 when REBAR, a San Francisco collective of artists, designers and activists, decided the city was in desperate need of an intervention: the dire lack of outdoor human habitat in downtown public space deprived people of their very basic need for a space to sit, relax and do nothing.

At the same time, 70% of the city’s downtown outdoor areas were dedicated to vehicles. So REBAR decided the way to go was to temporarily reclaim some of those parking spaces, feeding meters as a way of “renting” some precious outdoor space for up to 2 hours and transforming that space into a mini-park where people could just sit and enjoy themselves.

Think of it as a bonsai version of The Great Outdoors.

Since then, urban PARK(ing) has been popping up all over the world — Santa Monica, Glasgow, Sicily — producing the expected chain of befuddlement followed by amusement and eventually a delighted grin. And we say anything that brings more smiles to our sidewalks bustling with steel-faced pedestrians is a brilliant idea.


The Parkwheel, a grass-lined wheel that lets you take the park with you, is the product of a student project aiming to make a social statement about the lack of green space in cities — and the irony of how we’re not even allowed to walk on the few public grass areas that do exist.

This nifty “park to go” came from David Gallaugher and two more students at the Dalhousie University of Architecture in Nova Scotia.

And, hamster jokes aside, we really, really want one.


Ugly billboards are everywhere, polluting our cityscape with bad ads, uninspiring imagery and general corporate unseemliness. So when one pops up and actually brings something fresh and inspiring to our urban scenery, we dig big-time.

Like this one for the adidas Grun, a shoe collection of questionable design that may indeed look much better on your building’s facade than it does on your feet.

Spotted in London. (Why is everything better in Europe?)


Ah, construction sites. With their raw industrial scaffolding, they’re just about the ugliest and least outdoorsy city sight. So when something not only covers the big ugly but actually greenifies the sidewalk, it’s a very, very good thing.

That’s exactly what Japanese architecture studio Klein Dytham did in Tokyo back in 2003 when the city’s largest mixed-use development was being built.

The Green Green Screen spanned an impressive 900 feet, covering the construction site with vertical stripes of 13 types of living evergreens alternating with green-leaf-themed graphic patterns. The Green Green Screen stayed up for the entire 3-year duration of the development, delighting passersby with a parklike experience that every New York sidewalk could oh-so-desperately use.


As much as we respect graffiti culture, it has become one of the most universal reminders that you’re in a city — nothing says urban clutter like a graffiti-clad concrete wall. Which is why we dig street artist Edina Tokodi’s green graffiti — moss installations transforming drab public spaces like neighborhood streets and subway trains into living, touchable art galleries.

The Hungarian-born, Brooklyn-based artist is appalled by our city-dweller lack of a relationship with nature and hopes her art sends us into “mentally healthy garden states” — she sees herself a as a “cultivator of eco-urban sensitivity,” and relates her art to deeper emotional memories of animals and gardens from her childhood in Central Europe.

We just wanna pet Green Bambi.

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Published May 5, 2008




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