Conway hosted a design charrette* in our new space on Thursday, September 6, organized by the Western Mass chapter of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects (WMBSLA). Nearly forty attendees (including WMBSLA members, local landscape architects and designers, and students from Conway School, Smith College, and the UMass Amherst Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning program) gathered to think creatively about how to turn parking spaces into temporary parklets (small-scale parks).

Photo: Kate Cholakis ’11

Dillon Sussman, a 2008 graduate of the Conway School and Senior Associate at Dodson & Flinker, said, “The PARK(ing) Day Charrette at the Conway School was a really fun way to get introduced to the new campus and the students. I was reminded how much energy and creativity Conway students bring to the table.”

Photo: Kate Cholakis ’11

On Friday, September 21 – National PARK(ing) Day – parking spots in downtown Amherst and Florence were transformed into parklets, complete with plants, activities, and hang-out zones.  (You can read more about the national event at the American Society of Landscape Architect’s PARK(ing) Day page.)

In Florence, the parklet included a “Florence planning pavilion,” where residents could share input about what they want downtown Florence to be like in the future; a games table; a pedal-powered light; an electric pedal-assist bicycle from ValleyBike Share to try out; a seating stadium constructed from milk crates; and lots of plants.

Photo: Reid Bertone-Johnson

Reid Bertone-Johnson, Lecturer in Landscape Studies at Smith College, said “Participating in the WMBSLA PARK(ing) Day event was a fantastic opportunity for me and for my students. I especially appreciated the reminder of just how rich our region is with creative, thoughtful, and cooperative design professionals.”

A passerby tries out the pedal-powered light in the downtown Florence parklet. Photo: Reid Bertone-Johnson

WMBSLA, the event organizers, note that they had a great deal of help pulling the event together: TK.designlab (run by Conway alums Andrew Kilduff ’17 and Tim Tensen ’17) and Dodson & Flinker coordinated with the Town of Amherst and the City of Northampton for permission to take over parking spaces, and the City of Northampton and the Town of Amherst granted said permission; the Conway School, Smith College, and UMass Amherst brought students and faculty to the charrette and installation; area professionals from TK.designlab, Dodson & Flinker, Berkshire Design Group, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), Place Alliance, SWCA Environmental Consultants, and Milone & McBroom also participated in the charrette and installation; and Hadley Garden Center, New England Wetland Plants, Share Coffee, and Landscape Forms donated or loaned items.

We agree with Dillon, who remarked, “I hope we can make this an annual event.”

Drawing from Internet Archive Book Images [no restrictions] via Wikimedia Commons

* Charrette means “cart” or “chariot” in French. In 19th century Paris, architecture students at the École des Beaux-Arts famously worked furiously until a deadline, when their work would be collected in a charrette to be reviewed. Over time, charrette came to mean a period of intense design activity.