Revitalizing public spaces

Urban community living is shaped by revitalizing public spaces. The vision of landscape architects is central to this process.

What makes a city worth living in and enhances its communal aspect are its public spaces. With renewed interest in shaping them to fit into the smart city and green city movements, it is landscape architects like James Corben who are at the epicenter of change.

Credited with New York City’s beloved High Line park, Mr. Corben is currently engaged in projects in Seattle, Hong Kong, and Chicago. By putting community in the centre of his approach, Corben and similar professional turn landscaping into more than just managing the green areas of a city. While the focus when remodeling or designing a park is on quiet places for people watching, there are several adages that contribute to a successful final result.

Authenticity is key in shaping a city’s identity. Be it geographical specific, local culture or history, identifying a starting point on which to build not only pays tribute to the place, but also helps achieve another coveted adage – originality. There is always the temptation to copy what works in other cities in terms of landscaping or architecture, but that leads to a sad lack of diversity and stark monotony. A detail oriented approach will also pay off. Beyond sketching the general lines of intertwining greenery and recreational areas, attention must be paid to how the choice of planting, of building material, and even the light sources complement each other.

Finally, and perhaps most difficult for the administrations sanctioning these projects, is the willingness to take a risk and to move beyond the bland, easy to do public spaces (the ever present and oft equal squares and plazas) towards places that resonate with the community.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Photo: National Geographic by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel