Amazingly, until today, Park(ing) Day was something I only experienced in images, not in person. I like the idea of appropriating spaces from cars for other, pedestrian uses. Yet it seems that most of the "installations" tend to be a patch of grass (real or astroturf), some plants, and a few chairs. Instead of a car being parked in the spot, people are parking their rear ends and relaxing, putting the "park" in park(ing) day, if you will. So I always hoped for more creative uses for these one-day-a-year opportunities, something worth a visit.
For the second year, and the first since the opening of Van Alen Books, the Van Alen Institute held the Park(ing) Day Book Exchange at 30 West 22nd Street in Manhattan. The premise is simple: "Bring an architecture or design book (or a few) you’d like to donate, and take a book for your reading pleasure." I brought a few books (one history, one landscape, one monograph) and walked away with one by Blair Kamin. Not bad.
But my swap isn't the point; the swap is. It's commendable that VAi is promoting an alternative to capitalist exchange in its park(ing) space, something which adds another layer to the undertaking. Looking at other photos from Park(ing) Day festivities today, recreation seems to be the goal, not exploring ways of extending the idea of the takeover in other ways. A book swap certainly isn't revolutionary, and it does help familiarize people with Van Alen Books -- where books cost money, but it temporarily suspends one norm (money for goods) in the realm of another norm (a car in a parking space) that's also taking a break.