Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Urban Parks & Green Spaces: Case studies

By Drew Baldwin

Urban parks and green spaces serve as pivotal parts of any city, providing a touch of nature in an otherwise completely urban landscape as well as spaces and places to relax and unwind or play sports and work up a sweat. I will just take some time this week to point out some of the current parks serving as my precedent study for my thesis.

One of the most known/notable of these spaces is Central Park in New York City, which was the first major urban green space to open in America. It consists of 1.3 square miles of park located in central Manhattan and is the most visited urban park in the United States. The park was designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Olmstead, the father pf urban planning. Shortly after construction of the park was completed, it began to fall into a decline. There were a few reasons for this: people’s interest in the park due to the New York political party proved to be declining, shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the automobile became more prevalent in urban environments, leading to pollution problems and parks were wanted not just for walking or picnics, but for recreational activities and sports. IN 1934 after the election of a new mayor, Central park, as well as many other parks throughout New York City were renovated and cleaned up, prompting more public visitation and use, thus combating the initial decline in popularity of the park. A second decline of the park came about in the 1970s after years of poor management and maintenance upkeep throughout the 60s. Renovation in the 80’s revived the park from its drab, dust bowl-esque appearance to a vibrant park people would actually visit (pictured below).

For a second case study, I have decided to choose the High Line project, also in New York City, as I feel it demonstrates two ideas that I am trying to achieve with my thesis, the creation of a green space in the heart of a downtown/ urban area as well as the revitalization of a once run-down piece of land (or in this case a rail line). The High Line, was a freight rail line in Manhattan’s west side, known as the “West Side Line,” running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues (pictured right). The idea for the High Line Project was initially started by the organization ‘Friends of the High Line’ a group who sought to maintain the historic railway in Manhattan. The first construction began in 2006 with the first section opening in 2009. Just recently, on September 21st of this year did the third section of the park open to the general public. The High Line is a 1.45 mile long park elevated above the streets of West Manhattan, open to anyone wanting to visit. The park attracts upwards of 5 million visitors annually as well has helped to spur an increase in real estate development in the neighborhoods lying along the line. With this development in real estate in the neighborhoods, there has been an increase in property values for the apartments overlooking the park which has also ushered in new businesses to open in seemingly more populated neighborhoods. The crime rate in the High Line park has been very low, almost zero because as put by an interviewee Joshua David “Empty parks are dangerous…Busy parks are much less so. You’re virtually never alone on the High Line.” By creating a park that everyone wants to be in all the time, could that lead to lower crime rates? A very important question to keep in mind for Detroit and the parks I am looking to design. 
Nansen Park, Oslo Norway. After the international airport was moved in 1998, it left behind a barren wasteland atop a peninsula of torn up ground and little to no vegetation. After the airport’s move, there was about 1000 acres of land to be developed. It was decided that certain plots of this land were to be sold off for housing and offices, to private developers. There was also decisions to establish recreational areas, buffer zones along areas for nature preservation, pedestrian walkways in an effort to unify Nansen Park as a whole. Architects Helin and Siitonen won the completion in 1998 for the master plan of the park, defined by the ring of road defining the area with its seven legs reaching towards the water in all directions (pictured left). A competition was held for the landscape design in 2004 Bjørbekk & Lindheim won the bid. The overall concept was to keep with the linearity of the airport while paying homage to the original landscape of the area. The center of the park is about 200,000 sq. meters and functions as the main attraction and meeting area for those who live near/around the park. 

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