Street Seats: a student-designed parklet in NYC

On the corner of New York City’s 13th Street and 5th Avenue, hundreds of people use the sidewalk adjacent to The New School University Center every day. For a university in Manhattan, “campus” is a loose term that defines the parts of the city traversed by its students. Union Square Park—a magnet of public life—is a proximate and popular space for students and faculty to relax outside, though there is a noticeable lack of activities taking place there. Aside from the park, public seating is otherwise nonexistent in these highly trafficked parts of Manhattan. To approach this challenge, the city’s Department of Transportation’s (DOT) created a parklet initiative: Street Seats.

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Union Square Park. Photo: chensiyuan

The New School’s relationship with the DOT began last year when the first iteration of Street Seats was built. Ten architecture students volunteered to redesign an on street parking space in merely two weeks. They built off of the standard design provided by the DOT, then constructed and installed the design themselves. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response to the parklet, The New School’s School of Constructed Environments created a course called “Design Build” open to students of any major.

The New School’s 2015 Parklet. Photo: NYC DOT

This semester, fourteen fellow students and I formed an interdisciplinary team to  design, construct, and install a parklet in little more than three months. Whereas last year’s Street Seats was twenty five feet long, this year’s was approved for forty feet. With more time and space allowed, our group had the ability to develop a more complex design.

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A rendering of the 2016 parklet. Photo: Camille Petricola and fellow students

The parklet will bring together the University community and the public for the spring and summer months. With a generous amount of planters and movable seating, this public seating area will be an evolving space over it’s seven month lifespan and will set a precedent for next year’s design.

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The parklet, created with multiple tubes of many heights, encourages a diversity of uses. Photo: Camille Petricola and fellow students

Featured photo: The New School Community enjoying the 2016 parklet. Photo: Camille Petricola

Camille Petricola has lived in multiple cities around these United States but considers herself a native Pittsburgher. She majors in Communication Design at Parsons School of Design in New York City, where she focuses on urbanism and public space. Her favorite color is cobalt blue.