Volksparking: Giving the City Back to Its Inhabitants

New urban project from Volkswagen is currently on display in Ostend, Belgium

Volkswagen is turning existing car parks into places where local residents can meet and have fun, while still being accessible to cars. The intention has given rise to the first Volksparking, a pilot project in which a mobile basketball hoop automatically searches for empty parking spaces allowing local residents to use the parking as a play area. "It’s a combination of creativity, technology and social engagement", says Jean-Marc Ponteville, Volkswagen Belgium. "For those who wish, you are invited to suggest a suitable location for a new Volksparking."

Our cities are buzzing, and this means they are gradually becoming overcrowded leading to an acute lack of space. This is the problem that Volkswagen wants to address. Starting with parking lots, because they had, until recently, just one function, namely a place to park cars. With Volksparking all this could change. Soon urban car parks could look completely different and not be mono use, but have multiple functions. The concept? Hybrid parking spaces that can be used both by the car and by local residents. “Everything started from our core philosophy: innovation for the future,” says Jean-Marc Ponteville, Volkswagen Belgium. “The city will begin to look very different in the next few years. To keep them viable, we will have to work with our space in a creative way and look for future-oriented solutions. In this way, we can maximize and make the best use of our cities. Volksparking is a great start. It’s our first project, but one that gives a second life to our existing parking lots.”

“Together with the MIT Institute of Technology in Massachusetts, (http://web.mit.edu/), Volkswagen was looking for new ways to better use existing parking spaces. One of our first thoughts was to use the empty space,” Ponteville explains. "Because, no matter how coveted they are, if there is no car, they are virtually useless. It’s why we developed an automatic basketball ring that moves around the parking lot, looking for a free place. Thanks to an automated detection system, it can detect a free space and install the basketball hoop, turning an empty car parking space into a playing field.”

The prototype of such a parking is currently on display in Ostend, Belgium. There the Oesterbank Car Park has been equipped with an automated basketball ring. The installation is the work of the Dutch company, Unbranded. They were responsible for the development of the idea. “This concept is unique in the world,” says Daan Van Oene, from Unbranded. “Technically, an automated basketball ring is no easy task, and this means we are still finding ways to optimize the detection system. Indeed, our team remains on stand-by, if needed, to tune the system. Security too was an important aspect of the new car park. The basketball hoop has been fitted with custom-made nets to protect the other cars on the lot,” says a spokesperson from Unbranded. “While, we believe in the goodwill of the local neighborhood, we will be keep a watchful eye on the installation. It’s a positive project, and it would be a shame if it stopped.”

Volksparking doesn’t stop in Ostend. “Basically, we see ourselves as an initiator of a start-up. The idea is open source … indeed anyone who wants to can convert one of their car parks into a fun space. Our aim is to encourage policy makers and car park owners to run with this idea and get involved. Better still, the concept can be easily extrapolated to other cities or even countries, so even though the original idea is basketball related, the possibilities are much larger than just sport. Together with MIT, we’ve been looking at other creative applications … for example the concept could include picnic tables, pop-up skate parks, temporary markets or a secluded climbing wall. Volksparking is the first big test for us. We’ll follow it up with an evaluation and look to see what is possible. Cities, municipalities and other owners of car parks wishing to participate in this project, should please contact our communication partner DDB, via volksparking.be.”


This summer, Volksparking will be open every day from 8 am to 10 pm.


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