Edmonton notoriously destroyed “the Tegler”, a storied neo-classical building in 1982 to make way for parking (the lot still sits vacant today). This momentous occasion exemplified the city’s reputation as Canada’s car capital –until Spring 2020 when the COVID-19 crisis cut automobile traffic by over 30%. Edmonton then zoomed ahead, set to become North America’s largest city to eliminate parking requirements for new developments. This plan is already sparking an urban planning revolution. People are taking back the lots from the cars. The Last Parking Lot is a cinematic send-off to the ubiquitous parking lot, a deep dive into the mindset that got us to this point, an exposition of the legacy it leaves on our landscape, and a projection of where we go from here.
Join urbanist, video artist, all-weather cyclist, and Edmontonian, Adam Bentley in this short documentary as he bikes around the City photographing its expansive parking lots left mostly empty in the physical isolation era. The lines, the space, the movement (or lack of), the patterns on our urban landscape. The photographs are primarily used for his Instagram account @thisyegplace, a platform for imagining how these bland, concrete, car-focused spaces can be transformed for our more low-carbon and equitable future. Like the documentary, the online platform is also a historical reference so future Edmontonians can remember what it looked like to have parking lots and intersections that appeared to stretch beyond the curvature of the Earth, and why radical transformation was so sorely needed. Starting with the past, then reaching into the future, Bentley will mix current filming with found footage from the Provincial Archives of historic demolitions and transformed parking lots.
When the oil price crash compounded on top of the COVID-19 crisis, leading to 25% unemployment, Edmonton, also known as Canada’s “furnace”, as famously described by Mordechai Richler is forced to confront a future without oil prosperity. Many people try to find solace in the past -not the actual past but one idealized in their imaginations. Using voiceover narration, images of real examples, and short remotely-recorded interview segments with local politician and bike-lover Andrew Knack, and talk radio host Ryan Jespersen, The Last Parking Lot shifts to capture the tough public struggle to think beyond the car that included acrimony, threats, and emotions that boiled over risking lives and reputations. Fortunately, science and facts ultimately won over fear and manipulation. But the desire for the isolating comfort in the safety of one's own vehicle may mean this revolution will come to a screeching halt if there is nowhere to park nearby.
Bentley, producer of past urban form documentary ICUP (EnRoute Film Festival, Official Selection) will apply his background as an urban planner and a filmmaker to communicate the science of how this transformation will drastically change how Edmonton will function on a more holistic scale. He will deeply examine how simply turning parking lots into high rises won't get us to a zero emissions society, but what types of broader lifestyle and system-wide changes will be needed and how freeing land from parking will help us reach those goals. These are lessons that can be applied to communities, urban and rural, big and small, worldwide.
The Last Parking Lot will also show a plethora of community-led activities that have popped up to lead, inform, and inspire our low carbon future, including citizen-initiated air and water quality reporting systems around remaining and former parking lots, large-scale openings of roads for pedestrians and cyclists, affordable houses popping up in backyards, and new small-scale infill developments that don’t take over the sky for private use.
The Last Parking Lot will be shot, edited, scored, and mixed over Spring and Summer, 2020, with an early-August expected completion as a cinematic 15 to 20 minute short documentary. Production would follow all physical distancing guidelines. Bentley will complete production with his own professional audiovisual equipment, and remotely work with his editor, sound mixer, and composer to complete post-production. The final film will aim to be in the style of other urban environmental documentaries such as Manufactured Landscapes and Anthropocene, and be intended to show audiences that cities are making successful moves to a car-free future and can continue to do so after the COVID-19 crisis. Now is our last change to pay a cinematic homage to our car-centred past and welcome a new, people-centred future.
Cars fit like Tetris pieces into the aging parking grid -but for how long?
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