Carparks turn into fun 'parks' for one day

From left: Dr Chong Keng Hua and his SUTD students Loo Jun Wen, 21; Ha Tshui Mum, 26; Abhishek Bajaj, 24; Ho Zhi Yuan, 20; and Casandra Ong Shieh Ling, 18. They will be transforming spaces in Bussorah Street, Liang Seah Street and Sam Leong Road.
From left: Dr Chong Keng Hua and his SUTD students Loo Jun Wen, 21; Ha Tshui Mum, 26; Abhishek Bajaj, 24; Ho Zhi Yuan, 20; and Casandra Ong Shieh Ling, 18. They will be transforming spaces in Bussorah Street, Liang Seah Street and Sam Leong Road.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

On Park(ing) Day, 78 carparks are transformed into social spaces for people to enjoy activities - or even a kopi

For just one day tomorrow, close to 80 parking spaces around Singapore will look, sound and smell very different. Instead of cars and motorcycles, one can expect to find anything from old-school kopitiams and kampung games to doodle walls and life-size Pokemons.

The transformation of the parking spots into temporary social spaces is part of Park(ing) Day, a global movement that calls for the rethinking of urban spaces. The annual event began in San Francisco in 2005 and was first brought to Singapore three years ago. The Urban Redevelopment Authority supports the Park(ing) Day event here.

This year, some 78 local parking spots will be turned into 52 "parks" by members of the public, students and government agencies.

The 123 students - from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Lasalle College of the Arts, School of the Arts, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and Republic Polytechnic - will set up and curate 19 of the parks.

While the project will last for only a day, planning began as early as last month for many of them. Fifteen SUTD students who had taken part in previous Park(ing) Day editions conducted workshops for other students to brainstorm ideas.

During the day-long sessions, the students explored their Park(ing) Day sites, spoke to community members from those areas and eventually came up with park concepts based on these interactions.

Dr Chong Keng Hua, 39, assistant professor of architecture and sustainable design at SUTD, said the workshop was one way to involve more young people.

THE WAY THEY WERE

We want Singapore to be more colourful. Now, our streets are sanitised and lack the kind of diversity we used to have in the past.

MS JEZAMINE CHUA, who participated in Park(ing) Day in 2013 and 2014 and ran the workshops this year.

"We wanted to show them that everyone can contribute to shaping the city. The young are our future leaders after all," said Dr Chong, who mentors the SUTD students.

Ms Jezamine Chua, 22, who participated in Park(ing) Day in 2013 and 2014 and ran the workshops this year, said: "We want Singapore to be more colourful. Now, our streets are sanitised and lack the kind of diversity we used to have in the past."

One space that will pay homage to the past will be Sam Leong Road, near where the now-defunct New World Amusement Park once stood. There, NYP students Nor Farhana Mohamed Ramzan, Shanice Ng and their friends will treat visitors to skits, coffee and free retro carnival games such as picking up marbles with chopsticks and popping balloons with darts.

"We were inspired after interviewing an uncle who told us he used to pay just 10 cents to enter New World," said Ms Farhana, 21.

Ms Ng, 19, said: "We sometimes just walk down a street and take it for granted. Hopefully, this will give people a new perspective."

Most of the pop-up parks will be in central areas such as Telok Ayer and Bukit Pasoh. Some will be in the heartland like Sembawang.

SUTD student Loo Jun Wen, 21, hopes the Pokemon-themed parks at Kampong Glam and Bugis will get more young people to explore the areas' heritage. He said: "Hopefully, it will remind them that beyond physical buildings, we should also preserve intangible aspects of the areas such as the human touch and the way of life."

•For more information on Park(ing) Day, visit ura.sg/parkingday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'Carparks turn into fun 'parks' for one day'. Print Edition | Subscribe