August 4, 2020
With the need for social distancing and outdoor spaces during COVID 19, a group of UC Berkeley graduate students have come together to construct a mobile parklet system that can be quickly placed in streets and sidewalks.
Known as Nimble Spaces, their first location will be set up in Rockridge later this month to support local businesses along College Ave.
"As we talked with restaurant owners, we learned how much they were suffering due to the closures. Many of them just want to be cooking food and serving the community. We didn't want to just stand by and watch our favorite restaurants disappear, so we started designing low cost flexible outdoor spaces," said Abby Yue Gao who is connecting restaurants and volunteers.
The interdisciplinary group, which consists of Abby Yue Gao (M. Arch '21), Yifeng Wang (M.Arch '21), Titus Ebbecke (M.Design '21), Lu Liu (M.B.A. & M.Eng '21), Roland Saekow (M.Design '21), originally came together in a hackathon on Micromobility + Social Equity initiated and sponsored by EDF Innovation Lab and organized by Berkeley Haas and InnoDays in April.
The team originally focused on using parklets to create charging hubs for electric wheelchair users and other micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters. As the pandemic situation progressed, the team pivoted to supporting restaurants and local businesses.
"During the close of indoor dining, we see parking spaces as valuable opportunities for the community to come together. These parking spaces can be transformed into outdoor meeting places, dining, pop up shops and more. The response by cities to expedite and create temporary parklet programs is showing us a future of how we might interact within cities," said project leader Roland Saekow.
Their current design takes up a street parking spot and can be broken down into three smaller modules. Each module is designed to fit into a standard 15' truck and assembles quickly together on site. To provide an economical solution, the design uses standard shipping pallets to form walls and other structures. EDF Innovation Lab is supporting the project with a grant.
“Our initial idea was to increase accessibility through micro-mobility parklets. With the advent of COVID 19, we pivoted to help local restaurants in the immediate but our core mission remains the same: help local communities stay engaged and connected with flexible spaces.” said product design lead Yifeng Wang.
The team is also supported by a group of volunteers consisting of incoming M.Arch students including Elaine Forbush, Valerie Beau, Lucy Wang, Sabin Ciocan and Fiona Käch. The project is looking for more people, businesses, organizations to get involved and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at http://epark.space or follow their Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/epark.space/.