Open source parklet system helps cities to turn human & green

*Words by Jorn Wemmenhove | Humankind & Lennaert van der Hoeven | Business Design Agency

In a country known for cozy, dense, and ancient city centers, Rotterdam is an anomaly. Destroyed during World War II, and rebuilt according to the at that time modern planning paradigms, the city turned into a car paradise, with wide streets and lots of on street parking. But since 15 years Rotterdam is undergoing a rapid transition towards a human and green place to be. How? By adjusting its planning practices to be able to accommodate this change, making use of tactical urbanism. Their modular parklet system is now made open source. So all cities can have the buzz words and the urban change, for free!

Years ago some clever planners at the municipality invented the bicycle parklets, to reduce on-street parking and provide more space for cyclists. Over the years it gained a lot of experience with tactical urbanism and parklets in particular. But they usually turned out to be expensive, difficult to manage and therefore impossible to scale up. The city asked local agency for urban change Humankind and Business Design Agency to come up with a solution.

Truly smart, modular system

The design brief was relatively simple. It had to be flexible, lightweight and cheap. The team designed a modular, flat packed system with even a Swedish-sounding name, the PRKLT. Built on a platform of easily connectable 50 x 50 cm squares the system gives space to an unimaginable number of options to build on top. Planters, bicycle parking, benches, etc. And the on-street installation can be done in under 15 minutes. “Urbanism should be open to all citizens. 15 Minutes neighbourhoods in under 15 minutes, that is our goal”, says Humankind co-founder & design-lead Lior Steinberg.

“It makes our street look nicer. We added herbs which I use to cook meals that we share with other neighbours. It brings our street together!” :Local Annie

The PRKLT as transition accelerator

The design followed this philosophy and gives citizens the opportunity to be part of the change, instead of just undergoing it. Working together with the municipality the team developed a participatory approach to create the necessary local support and deal with opposition. “Creating the design is not the biggest challenge, the implementation is. It can only be done together with the neighbours”, says Steinberg. Local community hero Annie loves her parklet. “It makes our street look nicer. We added herbs which I use to cook meals that we share with other neighbours. It brings our street together!”

The PRKLT is not only a way to turn on-street parking into a pop-up park, from grey to green. It is a system that takes the hardware, software and orgware of the city into account. The output is not just a good looking green oasis, but a tool to accelerate the transition towards less car-depended, human and green neighbourhoods.

“The current climate crisis calls for collaboration and sharing knowledge. We can’t afford to keep it all to ourselves” :Mark Bode (Business Design Agency)

Open source to open up neighbourhoods

The PRKLT-system has been made open source so more cities and neighbourhoods can use it to change. “The current climate crisis calls for collaboration and sharing knowledge. We can’t afford to keep it all to ourselves”, says BDA’s Mark Bode. On bit.ly/parklt anyone interested can download the design, but also gets access to the participation tools created, and a guide to municipalities to apply tactical urbanism to update their planning practices. Rotterdam shows it is possible, we can create future-proof human cities, one street at a time.

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We are BDA! An entrepreneurial innovation agency that strives for a strong local economy, more green in the city and a better living environment.

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Business Design Agency

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We are BDA! An entrepreneurial innovation agency that strives for a strong local economy, more green in the city and a better living environment.

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