Hudson River Park, Chelsea Section

New York’s Hudson River Park has been built in phases, extending for several miles along the west edge of Manhattan. In mid-March I visited the Chelsea section, from Pier 62 to 29th Street.


Entrance area of the Chelsea Cove section of the park – this section includes extensive lawn areas, a concrete skate park, carousel, and walkways.


Picnic area near the entrance to Chelsea Cove


View of Pier 62, including a carousel with a green roof


Seating area on Pier 62 with “floating” lights


A walkway near the skate park (fenced area to the right)


The 11-mile long Hudson River Greenway runs adjacent to the park


Pier 64 features lawns, walkways, and seating


Linear section of the park north of Pier 64


Sculpture at 29th Street

Photos by Alice Webb

Pier 6 Playground at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Early in the spring, I visited a creatively-designed playground at the Pier 6 section of Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. The day of my visit was unseasonably warm, so the playground was swarming with people. This play area is divided in several zones: an active area for school-age children with slides and climbers; a sand area for younger children with small climbing sculptures, play houses, and other elements; an area featuring numerous swing-sets situated between small hills; a water play area; and a natural vegetated area. I was pleased to see that much of the playground includes lots of plants – great for play, shade, and beauty!


A play structure and stepped seating are included in the school-age children’s zone, which is called Slide Mountain.


This is the longest of several slides located in Slide Mountain.


Play sculptures and wooden seating areas in Sandbox Village


Interactive play piece in Sandbox Village


Kids enjoy wooden play houses and other fun features


One of several swing-sets in Swing Valley


Swing Valley includes grassy hills along the walkways.


Unique water devices in The Water Lab (closed for the winter)


Another view of The Water Lab (closed for winter)


This natural area, which includes several paths and seating areas, is rather isolated from the other play zones. Very few people were visiting it when I was there. Fencing off the vegetated areas from access makes it less inviting to children also.

Photos by Alice Webb

The High Line, Section 2


In mid-March I visited the second phase of New York City’s High Line Park, which opened last year. This ½-mile section is as delightful as the first part, with some of the same themes carried throughout, but also containing some unique and exciting features. My favorite area is the Fly-Over, where the walkway rises to eight feet above the high line surface. From this level, one travels through the canopies of trees planted below, and one can peer down to the view the various plantings on the “forest floor”. The Fly-Over also includes several viewing spurs, including one that overlooks 26th Street.

The photos below will give you a tour of this elevated linear park from the 30th Street terminus to 20th Street, where the first phase of the High Line connects with the second section. Enjoy your walk!


Radial seating flanks the curved, northern end of the High Line, Section 2


The Wild Flower Field along the northern section before spring cut-back


The elevated Fly-Over takes people through the tree canopies


One of several viewing spurs along the Fly-Over


View of the “forest floor” from the Fly-Over


Another “forest floor” view with railroad tracks – a reminder of the High Line’s history


People relax on the 26th Avenue viewing spur. The metal frame is a reference to the billboards that used to be mounted along the High Line – Now it frames the city scene or the people on the spur, depending on one’s vantage point.


A shifting section of walkway, “peel-up” bench, and restored Art Deco railing – recurring elements along the High Line


Stairs lead down to 23rd Street, with the elevated Lawn in the background. From the northern section of the Lawn, one can look down either direction of 23rd Street and see both the Hudson and East Rivers. Metal strips in the pavement refer to the High Line’s former use as a rail line.


Cor-Ten steel planters near the 23rd Street stairs


The Lawn – a rare treat in this dense city environment. When this photo was taken, the Lawn was still closed off for the winter.


Seating steps at the south end of the Lawn, constructed of reclaimed teak


The Chelsea Thicket near the south end of Section 2 – A Winter Hazel is in bloom in the foreground.

Photos by Alice Webb

Public Art in Outdoor Spaces

I love to see art pieces in public spaces – they often liven up a place and generate conversation. Below are a few interesting installations found in the U.S. and Europe, both permanent and temporary, in quite a range of styles and materials.


Streetscape sculptures in downtown Portland, Oregon


Stainless steel piece incorporating running water in the Rose Test Garden of Portland, Oregon


Bronze elephants in the North Park Blocks of Portland, Oregon


Salvador Dali elephant along the Thames River in London


Series of stone sculptures in a park in Caunes-Minervois, France


Core-ten steel lobster in Woolwich, Maine


Wind-activated piece in the deCordova Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts


Giant typewriter eraser in the Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Washington


Jellyfish in Elm Park, Worcester, Massachusetts


Hand-woven banners cover a footbridge in Elm Park, Worcester, Massachusetts


Barrel Monster is erected for a festival in Raleigh, North Carolina

Photos in Massachusetts and Oregon by Alice Webb
Photos in Washington, Maine, North Carolina, and European countries by Nancy Novell

Boston’s Fan Pier Public Green

One of the newest parks in south Boston’s Seaport district is Fan Pier Public Green. It’s a privately-owned space, open to public use, which overlooks Boston Harbor. The park consists of a large open lawn area which is bounded by walkways on three sides. A wedge-shaped boardwalk runs along the northwest edge of the green, perpendicular to the waterfront – an enjoyable place to sit in the shade of trees and view the harbor on a warm summer day. Also, a boardwalk adjacent to the water connects the park to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art.


Walkway on northwest side of green, approaching the harbor


The green, as viewed from the sidewalk along Northern Avenue


Institute of Contemporary Art, with the green in foreground


Nice view of Boston Harbor from raised section of boardwalk


Shady seating area near the harbor

Photos by Alice Webb

Creative Features for Playgrounds

A children’s playground doesn’t have to be a boring flat area of safety surfacing with a couple of climbing structures plopped the middle. Interesting elements can be included that don’t add a lot to the cost of the project. Below are examples of a few fun features that enhance play environments by providing more of a variety of activities, fostering creative play, and adding visual appeal.


Two-dimensional brick/turf maze (Dunham Park, Cary, NC)


Slide situated on a mound (Colombo Park, Worcester, MA)


Slide on a hillside, surrounded with plants; and interesting series of archways along a walk (North Cary Park, Cary, NC)


Water trough and rocks in a sand play area (Forest Hills Park, Durham, NC)


Play houses add fun to this sand area, and a blue “river” flows from a water trough (Forest Hills Park, Durham, NC)


An original dragon sculpture used for climbing (Marla Dorrel Park, Cary, NC)


Playful planters (MacDonald Woods Park, Cary, NC)

Photos by Alice Webb

South Boston’s Parks and Plazas

There are several nicely-designed outdoor spaces in south Boston that are open to the public even though they are privately-owned. On a recent outing, I visited five of these spaces, located in the Seaport district of the city, and all within walking distance of one another. These include Eastport Park, South Boston Maritime Park, West Podium Park, The Fan Pier Public Green, and the entrance area of the Boston Children’s Museum (owned by a private, non-profit organization).

These spaces run the gamut from cozy gardens to active plazas and expansive lawns. A taste of each is included in the photos below. I will be writing more about some of these individual places in future posts.


Eastport Park – a sculpture garden with lush plantings and shady seating areas


An attractive bench is integrated with a building in South Boston Maritime Park. This park also includes a large lawn and a sculptural shade structure with tables and chairs.


West Podium Park is actually a roof garden, and includes several pleasant seating areas.


The Fan Pier Public Green includes this pedestrian walkway which leads to seating areas along the water. A large lawn space is adjacent to this.


Playful zig-zag pavement at the entrance to the Boston Children’s Museum

Photos by Alice Webb

Halprin Parks of Portland

Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) was a prominent American landscape architect who designed many modernist parks, plazas, fountains, and other projects, primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of his works feature poured-in-place concrete forms and running water that represent natural elements and processes. In Portland, Oregon, Halprin’s firm designed a series of three public spaces, which I visited in May of this year. The water in the fountains had been turned off at that time, but presumably would be back on during the summer months, since the fountains are meant to be accessible.

Sadly, some notable modernist landscapes have been poorly-maintained and at risk of demolition and re-design. Several of Halprin’s works have been threatened in this manner, but The Cultural Landscape Foundation has brought attention to these and other endangered landscapes through its Landslide education campaign. So far, Halprin’s Portland parks have not been considered at-risk.


Keller Fountain Park: The design of the Ira Keller Fountain (water turned off at time of photo) was inspired by the waterfalls of the Colombia River Gorge.


Keller Fountain Park: The fountain was designed to be accessible and therefore has 36” safety barriers along the edges.


Pettygrove Park includes this sculpture called “The Dreamer” by Manuel Izquierdo. In summer the pool surrounding the sculpture is filled with water.


Pettygrove Park features circular and curvilinear forms, and includes numerous grass mounds.


Lovejoy Fountain Park: Fountain and “stepping stones” (water turned off)


Lovejoy Fountain Park: The lower pool of the fountain is in foreground, with modernist-style buildings lining the east edge of the park.


Pleasant pedestrian walkways connect the Halprin parks in Portland.

Photos by Alice Webb

Tanner Springs Park – A Lesson in History and Sustainability



Tanner Springs Park, in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon, is a unique example of ecological sustainability within an urban area. It was built on a former industrial site, and a natural habitat was created to represent the historic ecosystem that existed in this part of the Willamette River valley prior to development of the city.

The site slopes down from west to east, and the western end is planted with trees to portray an Oak savannah prairie. A native grassland was planted downhill from the savannah, sloping down into a wetland, and ultimately to a pond at the east end of the park.

All rain water that falls within the park boundaries is cleansed and recycled on site. Water seeps into the soil, migrates to a subgrade cistern, and is then treated by an ultraviolet light system, also located under ground. The clean water then emerges as a “spring” in the grassland, and flows through a meandering runnel into the pond.

Some materials installed in the park also represent the industrial past of the city. Belgian blocks that pave some of the walkways were originally used as ballast on ships that navigated the Columbia River, and later used as surfacing for Portland’s streets. Also, an art installation at the east end of the park consists of a wavering wall of vertical rail tracks, interspersed with blue stained glass panels displaying images of insects – a merging of man-made and natural references. The rail tracks are relics of 19th century Portland.


A “spring” emerges from the ground in the prairie zone.


Water flows from the “spring” through a winding runnel.


Cobbled walkways transition to stone dust surfacing in the grassland zone.


A pond is situated at the east end of the park.


View to the west: pond in foreground, followed by wetland, native grassland, and Oak savannah prairie zones


Shelter, boardwalk, & rail track wall


Back (street) side of rail track wall

Photos by Alice Webb