This Dresséd Plot

I am greatly fond of parklets and other schemes that focus on streets as connections for humans rather than vehicles. So Michael Rakowitz’s (p)LOT: Proposition 1 installations spoke to me as soon as I heard about them. However, it also triggered a cascade of other, sometimes conflicting, perspectives.

The current reality of most domestic vehicles being parked in one place for most of the time rather than transporting someone seems very wasteful every time I think about it. So, I agree with Rakowitz’s idea to question the “common procedure of using municipal parking spaces as storage surfaces for vehicles”, and having grown up on Tom Sharpe, Gerard Hoffnung, and the revelation of absurdity, I love the artistry of turning car covers into tents, making the absence of a car echo a parking offence.

A woman zipping the door of a tent that looks like a car with a protective cover over it
©Michael Rakowitz

And “the rental of these parcels of land for alternative purposes” feels deeply joyous: an opportunity to provide a small area with plants and outdoor seating, or an art installation, or a myriad other things; but with the opportunity for input and change, both by those who seek to provide and those who are also connected to the street, that the medium permanence of planning applications to make a parking space into not-a-parking-space lacks.

Having struggled for a turning space outside my house during a recent consultation, so that vehicles don’t have to reverse the length of the street, and failed because the idea that parking for cars takes precedence over other needs is so strong, there is a part of me that would love to be able to rent the space outside my house and then not put anything in it.

However, while I grew up in a house with a garage, since heading to university many years ago I have spent almost all my time living somewhere with less than one space per property if it had parking at all. Although I do not own a car so have not suffered the direct issues of this, I am greatly familiar with people who need a car because they can’t do the school run and getting to work without one. So, I don’t disagree with everyone who complains that there aren’t enough parking spaces.

A chunk of this could be solved by better public transport but that raises the dynamic of cost vs. usage: the median cycle of 9—5 office work is the best covered; each expansion beyond that to cover less average travel patterns costs more while, self-evidently, assisting fewer people; if the government don’t have enough money to fund that without cutting something else of equal value or raising taxes above what people are comfortable with and private enterprise can’t offer it at a price that is profitable and people will pay, then…?

There are other possible approaches than improved public transport but all of them elephant-stack their way to one or more radical changes in social structure… such as everyone living in tents that look like cars.


2 thoughts on “This Dresséd Plot

  1. The Level 5 autonomy of autos is coming. When it arrives, there will be no need to own a vehicle, nor park one anywhere nearby. Individual transport will be called up within minutes — without uber or lyft or their equivalent. Rental car agencies will all die or morph into on-demand ride-sharing services.
    At least within 10 years, car ownership will be like gun ownership in the UK. Highly regulated and controlled with individuals needing explicit license to own and drive.


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