LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE BUILDS COMMUNITY

Landscape architects design places that encourage people to build community.

Keywords quality of life, encourages, social cohesion, resilient communities

Background and Definition
As defined by CLARB, landscape architects work to help build communities: their work significantly affects quality of life. By creating attractive, functional places, landscape architecture encourages people to engage in their surroundings, strengthening social cohesion, which in turn results in healthier, more dynamic, more resilient communities at the local, national and global levels.

First what does the term community itself mean? COMMUNITY: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location (Webster 2015). Communities, ecological, neighborhood, and needs diversity, and complexity to progress. As landscape architects we are able to add complexity and diversity to outdoor community environments. Outdoor space, urban plazas, parks, and civic centers all ground communities and provide a place for people to interact. (Calthorpe 1993). Yet today these common areas are becoming more and more fractured with the increase of shopping malls, gated communities, interstates and private clubs. (Calthorpe 1993). These trends towards homogeneous cities create geographical division between regions and social division between groups of people—all of which creates tension in our communities. Sociologist Edward Relph explains how the solution to these tensions should be resolved at the local level, allowing different groups to express their identities in neighborhoods that “are neither ghettos or zones of exclusion” (Relph 2015). Landscape architects have the opportunity to positively influence communities at this personal, local level. To provide communities with the proper infrastructure to grow into their own, landscape architects hold town meetings. In Neighborhood Space by Hester, he defines town meetings as a group of techniques that involve participatory decision making…decisions made in a truly democratic fashion (Hester 1975, 130). Landscape architects use a number of different forums and panels to repeatedly meet with community leaders and members to fulfill their needs as clients in the process of designing community building blocks. Landscapes that are thoughtfully designed and offer a variety of activities can draw all groups of people together. “Although it is easy to predict theoretical uses of neighborhood space, the actual specific use is much more difficult to predict” (Hester 1975, 128). In order to build communities, landscape architects have to provide the necessary materials and building blocks in order for social interaction to thrive naturally and without persuasion. Building community is a process that can be started by us as designers, but ultimately is a task that residents must take up themselves.

 

Issues/Dilemma
How can dangerous or underutilized environments be transformed by Landscape Architects into places that bring communities together?

How can Landscape Architects take into account the expectations set by the community before and after a project is implemented into their hometowns?

How can Landscape Architects bring a city together and create new inspiration for growth and city prosperity?

 

Precedents
Klyde Warren Park
Client: Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation
Year of Completion: 2012
Project Location: Dallas, Texas, United States
Site Area: 5 Acres
Landscape Architects: The Office of James Burnett

In the 1960s Mayor J. Erik Jonsson recessed the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, thus sparking the idea of building a park over the 8 lane freeway. The idea was put on hold until the early 2000s, when feasibility studies and design work began on the site. The park was designed to make green space “out of thin air” to connect the Uptown neighborhood with the central business district and the Dallas Arts District (“Our Story…”, 2015). These areas were previously bisected by the freeway. “The Park is envisioned as a catalyst for the ongoing transformation of downtown Dallas by bringing quality of life, foot traffic to the area, and increasing demand for surrounding properties…Public parks strengthen our communities and benefit our health, environment, quality of life, and economy. These are benefits that Dallas will enjoy for generations to come” (“Our Story…”, 2015). Klyde Warren Park includes botanical gardens, children’s park, interactive water features, a “reading room”, a restaurant, event lawn with a pavilion, recreation lawn, a dog park, and parking for food trucks. Since the park’s completion noise and air pollution has decreased in the area, there is increased pedestrian activity in nearby businesses and institutions, and has sparked new development with rising property values (“San Diego…”, 2015). This park has become the heart of the community that brings together previously separated areas of Dallas. Klyde Warren Park continues to have events throughout the year to provide a safe, free, and fun environment for the community to gather in. The Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation has connected with the surrounding community and the greater Dallas area by communicating through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine to over 25,000 followers.

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Bryant Park
Client: Bryant Park Corporation
Year of Completion: 1992
Project Location: Manhattan, New York, United States
Site Area: 9.6 acres
Landscape Architects: Hanna/Olin Ltd.

Bryant Park originally installed in the early 1900s was in a constant state of decline over the next 6 decades, hitting an all-time low in the 1960s and 1970s. During this time Bryant Park became a place for prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse and little else (Berens 1997). In the early 1980s sociologist and urban planner William Whyte was hired to analyze why Bryant Park had failed; his main observation pointed to the park’s need for increased visual and physical access for the public (Berens 1997). The Hannah/Olin firm was assigned to the project in 1986 and quickly improved Bryant Park’s access by adding ramps, and entrances, while hedges, walls and other visual barriers were removed (Goldberger 1992). Hanna/Olin also added public restrooms, food concessions and planning for entertainment. With these slight changes the park made a quick turnaround; “Where once the park was the home of derelicts, drug dealers and drug users, it is now awash with office workers, shoppers, strollers and readers from the New York Public Library next door” (Goldberger 1992). Because of thoughtful planning and design there is constant activity in the park: day and night and throughout the seasons. Moveable seating, ice skating, horseshoes, concerts, people watching, and food kiosks are just some of the amenities that attract visitors of all ages and demographics (Berens 1997). These constant interactions between people (directly or indirectly) is how a community is formed and a sense of identity for that community is established.

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Roosevelt Plaza Park
Client: Camden, New Jersey
Year of Completion: 2014
Project Location: Camden, New Jersey, United States
Site Area: 1.7 acres
Landscape Architects: Sikora Wells Appel and Group Melvin Design

Camden, New Jersey is one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the state and has been notorious for high crime rates in the past decade according to online source neighborhoodscout.com (“Camden NJ…”, 2015). In an attempt to detach from this image and start a movement meant to strengthen Camden’s core community, the city began development of Roosevelt Plaza Park with the help of Sikora Wells Appel and Group Melvin Design (“Street to Park…”, 2015). In 2014 the city park, located in the heart of Camden’s downtown district, was unveiled. Making waves in the community headlines, this experimental “pop-up park” has been a huge success and has been a great step towards healing the community of Camden, New Jersey. Roosevelt Plaza Park provides the community with a public commons space available year round, during all hours of the day. Placed in the center of a busy urban environment, the park is widely accessible by residential areas as well as professional work places and shopping thoroughfares. The park is large enough to hold a multitude of events throughout the different holiday seasons and provide space for concerts, flea markets, food trucks, farmers markets, and community gatherings (“Urban Design…”, 2015). With the flexible intent of a “pop-up park”, this public plaza can be rearranged and reordered for any number of events that can bring Camden residents together. Residents have taken to the park by posting videos and pictures of their time spent there. There has also been a Facebook page attributed to the park as well as countless Twitter feeds and Foursquare tags with comments by the people of Camden expressing their love for their new park.

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References
Berens, Gayle. Urban Parks and Open Space Washington D.C.: The Urban Land Institute, 1997. 44-47.
Calthorpe, Peter. The Next American Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and the American Dream. Princeton Architectural Press, 1993.
“Camden NJ Crime Rates and Statistics – NeighborhoodScout.” 2015. Accessed February 8. http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/nj/camden/crime/.
Goldberger, Paul. “ARCHITECTURE VIEW; Bryant Park, An Out-of-Town Experience.” The New York Times, May 3, 1992, sec. Arts. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/03/arts/architecture-view-bryant-park-an-out-of-town-experience.html.
Hester, Randolph. Neighborhood Space. Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross Inc, 1975.
McHarg, Ian L. Design with Nature. Garden City, N.Y.: Published for the American Museum of Natural History [by] the Natural History Press, 1969.
“Our Story | About Us | Klyde Warren Park.” Klyde Warren Park. Accessed February 9, 2015. http://www.klydewarrenpark.org/About-the-Park/our-story.html.
Relph, Edward. A Pragmatic Sense of Place. Accessed 30 Jaunary 2015, from: http://www.yourcharlotteschools.com/schools/LBHS/documents/Summer%20work/A_Pragmatic_Sense_of_Place-1.pdf.
“San Diego Landscape Architecture, Houston Landscape Architects.” OJB. Accessed February 9, 2015. http://www.ojb.com/project-32/Klyde-Warren-Park-/1-gallery-description/.
“Street to Park: Camden Plaza ‘Pops’ with Color.” 2015. Courier-Post. Accessed January 30. http://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/local/south-jersey/2014/09/08/street-park camden-plaza-pops-color/15302379/.
“Urban Design at the Annual Meeting.” 2015. The Field. Accessed January 30. http://thefield.asla.org/2014/11/06/urban-design-at-the-annual-meeting/.
“San Diego Landscape Architecture, Houston Landscape Architects.” OJB. Accessed February 9, 2015. http://www.ojb.com/project-32/Klyde-Warren-Park-/1-gallery-description/.

Figures References
Figure 4.1 Mabel, Joe. English: Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas., February 2, 2013. Photo by Joe Mabel. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dallas_-_Klyde_Warren_Park_22.jpg.
Figure 4.2 Mabel, Joe. English: Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas., February 2, 2013. Photo by Joe Mabel. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dallas_-_Klyde_Warren_Park_16.jpg.
Figure 4.3 Mabel, Joe. English: Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas., February 2, 2013. Photo by Joe Mabel. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dallas_-_Klyde_Warren_Park_09.jpg.
Figure 4.4 Kevin1086. English: KlydeWarrenPark1, December 14, 2012. Own work. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KlydeWarrenPark1.jpg.
Figure 4.5 BENOIST, Jean-Christophe. 2012. Français : New-York – Bryant Park. Own work. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New-York_-_Bryant_Park.jpg.
Figure 4.6 Jim.henderson. 2008. English: Looking Northwest in en:Bryant Park at Lawn and Stage on a Sunny Afternoon. Own work. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bryant_Park_jeh.JPG.
Figure 4.7 Rygielski, Marek. 2011. English: Pétanque Players in Bryant Park, New York City. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nojork/5670051967/. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P%C3%A9tanque_Bryant_Park_NYC.jpg
Figure 4.8 Kingdom, Rob Young from United. 2013. Christmas @ Bryant Park. Christmas @ Bryant Park. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christmas_@_Bryant_Park_(11654593374).jpg.
Figure 4.9, 4.10, 4.12 “Street to Park: Camden Plaza ‘Pops’ with Color.” 2015. Courier-Post. Accessed January 30. http://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/local/south-jersey/2014/09/08/street-park-camden-plaza-pops-color/15302379/.
Figure 4.11 “IMG_1040.jpg (1600×1064).” 2015. Accessed February 8. http://bicyclecoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/IMG_1040.jpg

 

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