Pop-up parklet comes to Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square

A group of local designers hung out all day Friday in a little pop-up parklet they created on the western side of Old Courthouse Square. The space - a carpet of sod with orange chairs and stools perched atop it - took up two of the square’s metered parking places from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, with the city’s OK, as part of a larger call to think about the way cities utilize urban space, billed internationally as Park(ing) Day.

A parklet is a pedestrian patch extending beyond a sidewalk into the street, intended to provide additional recreational amenities for people in areas typically devoid of them.

In Friday’s case, the parklet abutting Santa Rosa’s reunified square - a temporary one set up by TLCD Architecture, Quadriga Landscape Architecture and Planning, and MKM Associates Architects - wasn’t really in a place in need of a parklet, but that wasn’t the point.

The design firms set it up to open a conversation with passers-by about the way cities are planned - around people or cars.

In Santa Rosa, the parklet producers argue, it might be the latter.

“The whole premise behind Park(ing) Day is that the majority of our open space is dedicated to the private vehicle and not to people,” said Christine Talbot, a landscape architect with Quadrica.

Beyond that, the parklet’s theme was shade. Specifically, Santa Rosa’s lack of it, Talbot said.

“We came up with a concept to engage the space and talk about what we thought was important, which was shade,” she said. “I think we’re talking about public space in general, and I think in Santa Rosa there are some lovely streets with amazing trees, and then there are other streets where there is no room for trees or the trees have been stunted. Our shade canopy is not as lush as it could be.”

As part of that conversation, the firms created a curved steel structure strung with nylon cords, providing about ?40 percent shade cover.

“So the angle of the structure, we thought, was the optimal angle to shade underneath, so that’s part of the tongue-in-cheek right?” Talbot said. “If this were a solid panel, it would provide a lot of shade. But we wanted to show the movement (of the sun) and also discuss the importance of shade by not quite providing it.”

Not many members of the public participated in the demonstration, Talbot said, most gazing curiously from the parklet’s edge. The firms hope to grow the event next year, with businesses partnering with local design firms to create more, and different, varieties of parklet pop-ups around the downtown corridor.

The demonstration builds on what has essentially been a summer of parklets for TLCD Architecture, which hosted about a dozen incoming freshmen this summer for a week as part of the Mike Hauser Academy, a countywide partnership introducing local students to local careers. During the weeklong program, the firm challenged the teens to come up with their own ideas to transform parking places around the square into pop-up parklets of their own, said Nick Diggins, an architect with the firm.

“We really wanted to connect design with our community, and we figured this was a good opportunity,” Diggins said. “This is an international event, so we figured let’s be part of something bigger than ourselves.

“We kind of started talking about, also, with the square being new, this is the perfect time to have a conversation about this grassroots effort ... to give a texture of people rather than cars in our downtown space.”

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or On Twitter ?@SeaWarren.

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