Architecture students design public parklet, funds underway

Portland State architecture students are developing Portland’s first public parklet.

Under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Architecture B.D. Wortham-Galvin, the tiny park will be built in the spring of 2015 if enough funds are raised. The South of Market (SoMa) Parklet Project has raised over $10,000 according to their official crowdfunding campaign page.

Situated on 4th Avenue right outside the food cart pod, the project will have a variety of seating using sustainable materials, landscaping and plants.

“We want to make the area around PSU feel more like a public space,” Wortham-Galvin said. “It should feel dynamic, a place where you can go to see and be seen, because that’s what makes lively urban spaces.”

According to Wortham-Galvin, the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions connected her to the SoMa EcoDistrict in the fall of 2013 when they were looking for someone to study the feasibility of building a parklet somewhere in the SoMa neighborhood.

“I’m interested in tactical urbanism, the belief that instead of doing major master planning you do smaller projects that can catalyze big impacts,” she said.

Wortham-Galvin said she turned the request into a class on tactical urbanism in the fall of 2013. The students conducted design and implementation research and presented their findings to the SoMa Eco-District board.

The students fine-tuned their proposal and submitted it to the city’s Street Seats program in the spring of 2014, when it was approved as Portland’s first public project of its kind, according to Wortham-Galvin.

Most parklets are created by restaurants that own the space privately. People who want to use the space are typically required to patronize the business. The SoMa parklet will be public and open to everyone, Wortham-Galvin said.

Her spring quarter architecture class, along with previous students who were part of the design process, will convene to build the parklet once the money is raised.

She said she also hopes that the project will teach her students an important lesson about civic engagement.

“Small projects can make a big difference in the city,” she said. “Students don’t have to wait until they’re professionally registered to be considered legitimate changemakers when it comes to making place in the city. They can do it right now.”

For more information, visit the SoMa Parklet fund at the official fundraiser page.