Public parks are a vital part of Austin’s character. Although open-air, these beloved green spaces are not necessarily safe from the vast uncertainty of coronavirus transmission. In order to keep these pockets of respite from stay-at-home orders available to the community, the Austin Foundation for Architecture developed “Parkspace” (or P A R K S P A C E, in their rendering) — a straightforward but playful outdoor solution for encouraging newly commonplace social-distancing guidelines.
Using eco-friendly turf paint, the site-specific installation series delineates spaces where people can come together to enjoy outdoor activities while maintaining a safe distance. A painted grid of 8-by-8-ft squares, separated by 6-ft circulation paths, seamlessly follows site topography in a gradient of colors that represent native wildflowers. At the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park, squares transition from yellow to orange to red, mimicking the Indian paintbrush. Plans for Pease Park include a blue gradient reminiscent of Texas’ state flower, the bluebonnet. The Foundation is hoping to expand the project to many parks across Austin and other green spaces around the world.
Parkspace was installed at these locations, as well as at Zilker Park and Republic Square, before the Fourth of July weekend in anticipation of large gatherings. Unfortunately, by the time the Fourth rolled around, a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases that followed on the heels of the governor’s reopening of the state motivated city leaders to close the parks once again and cancel fireworks displays. As of this writing, Texas was one of the nation’s leading coronavirus hotspots, with four out of five Texans living in an infection “red zone,” according to the Texas Tribune. Parkspace, it seems, will remain a relevant and important addition to our public outdoor spaces for some time to come.
Sophie Aliece Hollis is TA’s editorial intern.