Fabric of communities

December 13, 2018


The history of parks in the Western world has been through different steps. After the first industrial revolution, from the mid-1800’s, large parks on the edge of cities were created. Called “pleasure grounds” (Cranz 2008), they aimed to simulate nature or the countryside but weren’t supposed to be as wildly stimulating as nature, which was considered scary. The parks were active, the supports of sportive activities and appreciated for their contemplative landscapes. However because they were at the edge of cities they were not accessible to the working class. This lead at the end of the 19th century to the small park movement, which takes landscaping principles of the previous model and translates them into smaller parks. At the same time, cities are trying to develop safe places for children to play off the streets. Later, city planners are trying to use the park as a way to reform the city socially. From the 30’s to the 60’s an emphasis is put on recreational facilities. The point is no longer to have a lot of greenery but to provide a support for physical activity. In addition, parks are being recognised as governmental service needing no justification for spending the state’s money. This leads to a multiplication and expansion of parks into the suburbs which results in a decrease in artistic visions, making parks less attractive. During the mid 60’s society develops a new attitude to recreation. The later is not limited to parks but can be experienced everywhere in the city, leading to more appropriation of the public space and the development of an open space system. A participatory sensibility is cultivated and more diverse programming is offered. (Cranz 2008)

Nowadays parks are used in an effort to live in a more sustainable way. Nature is used as a core element in the fabric of communities and an importance is given to social capital, which is depending on safety, community, civic identity and economic value. (Cranz 2008) In “Boundary line infrastructure” Ronald Rael is encouraging us to not see green spaces as a limit but as a “green corridor”. (2012) Green spaces are allowing us to increase our quality of life as well as increase property value and enable political and social gathering by providing a platform. Hyde park is a Royal Park located in the centre of London. Owned but the Queen and managed by the government, the park became public in 1630, with its “fashionable promenades” the park was appreciated for its recreational and ornamental use. (Land use consultants 2006) Hyde park is one of the early examples of the ‘english’ or naturalistic style of landscape design. It is not only composed of various natural species but also has a lot of historical features, buildings, artefacts, and monuments. The human hand is thus observable in the design of the park which is a mixture of “open grassland, traditional parkland and water settings”. (Land use consultants 2006) Thanks to its accessibility, openness and its various programming the park was quickly considered the ‘people’s park’. It was shaped over the years not only by planners and designers but also by the people as a response to their needs and desires. I believe that the city depends on social interactions that are not defined and controlled by architects and urban planners. Therefor the development of the public realm cannot really be controlled because it is depending on so many different actors.

Marie Le Rouzic

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