Pop-up parks: Surrey Central goes gingham

A ribbon of red-and-white checked gingham encloses a space beside the Surrey Central Skytrain Station. Yes, that's a piano in the background.

They’re popping up all over the place! Cities across North America, and perhaps further afield, are creating temporary spaces for citizens to sit.

In Surrey, B.C.’s second-largest city, there have been temporary parks installed at the central bus/train hub since 2012. This year the installation is called Gingham Style. It was designed by Liz Nguyen and Mike Wartman, and won a competition created by the City of Surrey.

Tree in the table of the pop-up park

Pre-existing trees are incorporated into the table areas. You can see the bus loop in the background and someone at the piano

Cleverly incorporating a delightful red-and-white checked pattern over stools and two long tables, Gingham Style adds a bit of whimsy and homey 1950s-era chic to a busy corner of asphalt, concrete and bustling crowds of people. We can imagine Rosie the Riveter stopping by for a few minutes before heading home.

In parts of the United States pop-up parks are created to provide activities for at-risk youth. Minneapolis set up tents, food and games that moved from area to area.

Gingham Style is directly under the Skytrain at Surrey Central. This is one of the Expo Line’s busier stations, with over 12,000 boardings and 19,000 alightings on a typical Fall day. That’s 2011 numbers. It’s directly beside is a busy bus loop, where line-ups can easily stretch a block or two during rush hour. You go ahead and count those heads. Further down the path (past the begging musicians and artists) is SFU Surrey and Central City, which older people like me still occasionally call Surrey Place. In the other direction is the North Surrey Recreation Centre, the central library and the new City Hall. It’s a busy place!

Another popular item this summer has been colourfully painted pianos plunked down in public areas. The original designs don’t show it, but Gingham Style has one as well, painted a cheerful yellow. There always seems to be someone sitting at it picking out a tune.


another picture of Gingham Style pop-up park

I couldn’t resist. People are people, and this poor tree is discovering it’s doubling as a garbage receptacle. Oh look! A police car in the background.


Some links, for more information:


Born and raised in Surrey, Don has returned to the land of his youth after about a quarter of a century elsewhere. But do you ever really leave? Don works for a media company in Vancouver as a production hack, schlepping together print and online products. Reach him through his half-done site http://www.southofthefraser.com which is all about, wait for it… Surrey.