Pop-Up Park: Grassroots Grow Deep in Doylestown

by Edie Weinstein

Most people who live in the Doylestown area or who are among the thousands of tourists who visit the county seat of Bucks County, Pennsylvania annually, are accustomed to the cobblestone parking lot on the corner of State and Main Streets being a thoroughfare for walking or leaving their cars in order to enter Starbucks. On the weekend of September 16-18, 2016, the space became a lovely haven, filled with lush foliage and flowers, as well as round tables with chairs surrounding them, brown paper covering them and crayons scattered upon them, so children of all ages could indulge their creativity.

This veritable fairyland in which white twinkle lights embellished trees in the twilight, was the work of art and heart of Landscape Architect Baldev Lamba. With a background in Architecture and as the Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Lamba is an award-winning landscape architect and a designer of the First Ladies Park(ing) Day Water Garden on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. He is credited with recent projects that include the PHS Pop Up Garden, which transformed a vacant city block in Philadelphia into an urban oasis.

According to this dynamic and enthusiastic designer, “The origins of the POP-UP culture were the  PARK(ING) Day movement, which started as a modest repurposing of a single parking space in San Francisco and has caught the imagination of people around the globe.  Combined with the ideas of Tactical Urbanism which is described in Tactical Urbanism 2: Short-Term Action, Long Term Change, as tactics used to improve the urban environment. It has created a new genre of pop-up, or temporary, public spaces.”

He adds, “These landscapes have provided a more humane alternative to the asphalt parking culture and the vacant lots as viable and thriving spaces for people. This grassroots movement has, in many cases, resulted in the creation of permanent public spaces. “

Creating Community, One Reclamation at A Time

As people gathered together on the first evening to talk, laugh, enjoy food and beverages and listen to the multi-genre music of local favorites, Cherry Lane Duo Unplugged, there was a strong feeling of community being built, as certainly as the space was constructed.

Lamba explains the purpose of such a garden of earthly delights, “The goal is to call attention to the need for more public spaces, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.”

He sees the goals, “include testing out ideas, as temporary installation, to overcome the initial resistance about losing precious parking, vandalism, that will hurt local businesses! It generates evidence that there are clear economic, social and environmental benefits associated with creating people friendly green spaces in areas of activities and action.”

This is the second year the idea has been played out on the streets of Doylestown, he adds, “building on the great success of the first last year that was located in front of the iconic County Theater.”

It Takes a Village

This event would not have been possible without the support and expertise of numerous volunteers as well as local businesses who donated plants, tables, food and art supplies.

The Doylestown PARK(ing) Day Design Team:

Baldev Lamba, Landscape Architect, Designer and Coordinator
Jennifer Jarret, Historical Architect, Jarret Preservation & Design
Kali Smalley, Temple Alum and Landscape Designer
Holly Colello, Temple Alum
Carter van Dyke of Carter van Dyke Associates and Bucks Beautiful
Jeff and Threse Schumacher, Schumacher Associates
Chris May, May Horticultural Services, Inc. & Doylestown Borough Shade Tree Commission
Jim Resek and Judith Stratton, Doylestown Borough Shade Tree Commission
Kristin Winters, Student at Temple
Faculty and Students from the Department of Landscape Architecture & Horticulture at Temple University.

Bucks Beautiful; Schumacher Landscaping and Construction; Sealworks Inc.; Carter Van Dyke Associates; PA-DE Chapter, American Society of Landscape Architects; Discover Doylestown; Doylestown Borough; Ralph Fey Architects; Anna P’s catering; Central Bucks Gymnastics & Dance; Happ Contractors; Hobensack and Keller; McCaffery’s Simply Fresh; Clearview Nurseries; Bromm’s Lullaby Farm; Feeney’s Nursery; Gale Nurseries

He sees the multitude of benefits to having it there as the calendar pages turn and not just a one weekend a year event, with seasonal plants changing to embellish the space. “Keeping it there was most common reaction from the people that speaks to the need for a year ‘round community space for events and gatherings – a town square at the heart of Doylestown.”

Pure Imagination Combined with Sweat Equity Creates Magical Outcomes

Lamba waxes poetic and practical, “It shows that what seems impossible can be possible and that vision and imagination can become real with fortitude and hard work! It brings a sense of optimism and inspires the entire community. It has helped to sparked a new conversation about how this temporary transformation can become permanent. So who knows?”

PARK(ing) Day Pop-up Park – Doylestown from Joel Metzger on Vimeo.

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