by Ari Takata-Vasquez
Before Viscera even opened its doors we applied for a parklet.
This was important for two reasons; Firstly, we are a design studio and while we can tell every person who walks into the shop this, nothing says that quite like having an urban scale intervention. Secondly, it’s proof of concept. My undergraduate degree is in Architecture and my Master’s is in City planning with a concentration in Urban Design. I’m frequently asked why I started a boutique given my background. My answer usually is, “it’s not as unrelated as it may seem”. In dysfunctional cities like Oakland, I’ve noticed the local business owners really are the people forming the feel of the city and shaping people’s ‘everydayness’ (see French Philosopher Henri Lefebvre). I opened Viscera partly because I thought I would have more leverage in making change to the urban landscape as a business owner; and so far it’s proven to be true. We're also using digital fabrication and 3D printing components for our innovative parklet.
With my interest in the urban form it seemed only natural to apply for a parklet when the City of Oakland announced their notice of opportunity. Viscera is on Broadway, a main arterial in Oakland, and between two BART stations so it made sense to create a space for people to actually stop and linger. We also were afforded the opportunity to create a very innovative space. Often parklets are created by spaces with a food and beverage license and, formally or informally, are spaces for their patrons. We’re able to create a totally new parklet because Viscera is in the business of aesthetics and a completely ‘new type of sponsor for a parklet. With that in mind, we wanted to work with our neighbors, The Flight Deck, to create a space that would benefit them as well. Being that they are a theater group their only request was to have some sort of performance space. In response to that we created a two space parklet that has a small stage that doubles as seating when there isn’t a performance space along with amphitheater style seating. This is not only beneficial for us because we can show people our design studio’s capabilities but it creates a gathering space for neighboring business’ patrons. On our block there are a number of complimentary business such as Jimmy’s Deli, Laurel Street Books, Pizza man and (coming soon) OK Falls.
This week I met with VSCO. They’re actually only a couple doors down from the shop and have some awesome plans for the ground floor of their building. We’ve got their support as well as the Downtown Oakland Association. We’re partnering with them for our next community imitative around changing the perception of Oakland by leveraging social media. Keep your eyes peeled.
We’re so happy to have completed the first steps toward building the parklet and have quite a bit of work to do before we can start construction. It’s an exciting project for Viscera, especially as the new kids on the block. Hopefully this will only the first of many urban scale endeavors.