Apr 22nd 2021

Architecture Student Wins Parklet Design Competition

College of Architecture student Michael Zima (B.ARCH. 3rd Year) has been selected as the first-prize winner of the 2021 Parklet Design Competition. The competition, hosted by both the American Institute of Architecture Students and building information modeling software provider Vectorworks, tasks architecture students across the United States with designing an addition to a sidewalk that creates a new attraction for pedestrians using the street.

Zima’s design imagines an outdoor reading space in front of Myopic Books—a stalwart bookstore in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood along Milwaukee Avenue. The parklet was designed with the intent of being fully public, not requiring individuals to patronize the business to use.

“I believe architecture needs to be accessible for all and to serve all. So I wanted to walk a fine line where the design was tied to a business while still not requiring a purchase, so it could reach users of all different types without requiring a price tag,” says Zima. “And being a public space, being a relatively small footprint, there’s not a ton of different activities that could happen on such a small plot. But reading is stationary; you don’t need much space to do it, so it can happen in a very public space comfortably.”

The design is a small wooden plaza, roughly the size of a parking space, and consists of tiered seating in the shape of stacked books, as well as a curved bench that resembles the profile of an open book. Patrons are encouraged to leave finished books in the embedded shelves for others to read.

“I was thinking about how I could make a very direct one-to-one correlation between the design itself and the program,” says Zima. “That became the opportunity to offer the open book as seating. But I understood that wouldn’t be comfortable seating for everybody, so I added the stacked books along the side to offer a secondary alternative to lounging to make sure everyone is accommodated and everyone is comfortable.”

As first-prize winner, Zima received $500. More information about the challenge can be found on the AIAS website.