Post Office Square, Boston

In Boston’s financial district, a lovely 1.7-acre park is nestled between the office buildings, giving workers and others a pleasant respite for enjoying lunch and relaxation. Post Office Square, also known as Norman B. Leventhal Park, features numerous trees and other plantings, an open lawn, a pergola along one boundary, fountains, and a café. This space is privately-owned and maintained, but open to the public. It was completed in 1992 on a site that was formerly occupied by an above-ground garage. Parking is now located below the property.
 
post-office-square-1
A central lawn, pergola with benches, and other seating areas provide plenty of opportunities for relaxation.
 
post-office-square-2
Fountain near the north end of the park
 
post-office-square-3
Seating wall along the west side of the space
 
post-office-square-4
Café with outdoor seating at the south end
 
post-office-square-5
The park is flanked by several attractive art deco buildings.
 
Photos by Alice Webb

Advertisements

Merging Nature with Architecture

LDS center 1

While in search of interesting examples of landscape architecture in Salt Lake City last spring, I came across a building and site with an unusual juxtaposition of formal and naturalistic design. The LDS Conference Center includes two sides that were designed to represent a mountainside, dominated by a series of terraces with coniferous trees. The other two sides of this massive edifice, however, are quite formal in design, with a prominent tower from which a water cascade falls to the street level below. The roof landscape also features this peculiar blending of nature and structure. It’s almost as if vegetation were taking over the building from the east and north sides. Many parts of this design are quite attractive, but I’m not so sure that the scheme works as a whole.

LDS center 2
LDS Conference Center (view from south) – The vast and stark hardscapes of the roof and entry plaza contrast with the naturalistic planting design of the roof’s large meadow and trees.

LDS center 3
LDS Conference Center (view from northeast), showing the planted terraces

LDS center 4   LDS center 5
Formally-designed elements of the building and landscape include a tower with a water cascade that falls down to the street level, and reflecting pools on the roof.

LDS center 6
Up on the roof: One in a series of formal water features with a naturalistic landscape beyond

LDS center 7
Tower view on the roof

LDS center 8
The roof includes an expansive meadow with a view of the distant mountains

LDS center 9
Northeast corner of the building with trees on terraces, suggesting a mountainside

Aerial images obtained from Google Earth; all other photos by Alice Webb

City Creek Center

During a recent visit to Salt Lake City, I had some time to check out an upscale outdoor mall in the heart of the city. I typically dislike shopping malls, especially the indoor variety, but even many of the newer open-air types are trying too hard to duplicate quaint old urban streets (and failing). City Creek Center’s site, designed by the landscape architecture firm, SWA Group, has a different focus: celebrating a stream that historically ran through the downtown area, most of which is now buried underground. Each of two sections of this mall (divided by a city street) includes a recirculating water feature that represents a creek and flows along the middle of the shopping center’s walkways. The streams also meander in some places and turn to follow perpendicular entrance corridors, terminating with waterfalls at the connecting streets. A variety of fountains (including an interactive ground-level set of jets) can also be found along the pedestrian areas, combining with the creek to provide a pleasant water-centric experience. This is one mall that I actually enjoyed visiting – not to shop, but to hang out with an iced coffee and take in the sights and sounds around me.
 
City Creek Center 1
The streams include numerous footbridges, most of which are made of decorative metal, as shown.
 
City Creek Center 2
Native trout inhabit several areas of the creeks.
 
City Creek Center 3
The recirculating creeks flow along the center of the walkways. Narrow slot drains on each side of the stream catch runoff from rainfall (one of which is visible in this photo). I have wondered how the mall handles snow removal, however.
 
City Creek Center 4
A wider section of creek
 
City Creek Center 5
A fountain accents one of the central intersections of the mall. Water on its opposite side falls in a sheet off the rim, contrasting with the stepped edge on this side.
 
City Creek Center 6
Another interesting fountain at City Creek Center
 
City Creek Center 7
The site design takes advantage of the area’s sloping topography, with a waterfall flowing into the mall from South Temple Street.
 
City Creek Center 8
A recirculating waterfall also flows from the mall to the adjoining street south of the site.
 
City Creek Center 9
Nature-themed fencing and chairs adorn the sidewalks on either side of the street that splits the mall. These areas were designed as part of the project.
 
Photos by Alice Webb

Water Features in the Landscape

Aside from inducing a sense of calm, moving water tends to have a psychologically cooling effect, and it softens or masks surrounding noise. In the built landscape, it can be incorporated in many ways. Examples below illustrate some of that variety: a few of these features are meant to be interactive while others are not; several of them emphasize the water, which is more subtle or secondary in other cases; and some were designed to mimic nature whereas others are geometric in pattern or form. In all cases, the inclusion of water clearly adds to the appeal of these outdoor spaces.

Water feature 1
Playful jets in Place des Festivals, Montreal, Quebec

Water feature 2
Waterfall in the Split Basin, CityGarden, St. Louis, Missouri

Water feature 3
Rock wall resembling natural strata with water seeping out, Teardrop Park, New York City

Water feature 4
Fountain in the Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon

Water feature 5
Interactive fountain in Portland, Oregon, that alternates between jets and mist

Water feature 6
Sculpture with trickling water in the Rose Test Garden, Portland, Oregon

Water feature 7
Water feature in Portland, Oregon

Water feature 8
Waterfall and channel, Chinatown Park, Boston

Water feature 9
Mosaic fountain, Lincoln Road pedestrian mall, Miami Beach, Florida

Water feature 10
Planter with falling water in a courtyard, Miami Beach, Florida
 
All photos by Alice Webb, except the following:
Photo with bear sculptures/fountain in Portland, Oregon, by Nancy Novell

Columbus Circle – An Urban Oasis

Columbus Circle 1

The central islands of most traffic circles in the U.S. are just planted areas, at best, with no consideration for public use. To be fair, the majority are either too small or in areas with too little pedestrian activity to work well as park spaces. Columbus Circle in New York City, however, has neither of these limitations. It also has the benefit of traffic signals at its three crosswalks/entrances. This century-old site underwent a major transformation in 2005, when a barren traffic island with a tall monument to Christopher Columbus was reshaped and expanded into a much larger circular park. It’s truly an oasis in the city, where traffic noise is muffled by the sound of the fountains that border the pedestrian space, and groups of trees along the perimeter provide some visual separation from the surroundings.

Columbus Circle 2
View toward Columbus Circle’s central monument

Columbus Circle 3
Long, wide benches arc around the perimeter of the central plaza.

Columbus Circle 4
Terraced plant beds form the circle’s boundary.

Columbus Circle 5
One of three entrances into the circle

Photos by Alice Webb

Since I was only able to photograph the space from the ground and in daylight hours during a brief visit to the city, here are links to two sites with impressive photos from above, showing the entire circle during the day and also at night:

Columbus Circle in daylight
Columbus Circle at night

On the Ground – Creative Pavements in Montreal

While visiting Montreal recently, I came across a number of public spaces with attractively-patterned pavement, many combining various types of stone. My favorite was Place d’Armes, which was renovated in recent years, but other fine examples are shown below as well.

Montreal plazas 1
Place d’Armes, in Old Montreal, includes smooth granite pavers in various shades of gray, interspersed with stripes of pinkish cobles. The custom-designed tree gates coordinate well with the coble patterns.

Montreal plazas 2
The cobbles in the streets surrounding Place d’Armes are repeated in random stripes within the perimeter of the plaza.

Montreal plazas 3
The large, central, open area of the Place d’Armes includes gray granite pavers punctuated by these pink ones sporting fleurs-de-lis.

Montreal plazas 4
The renovated Square Dorchester includes pavers with a range of textures. The smoothest ones shine both during day and evening, giving the walkways a glittery appearance.

Montreal plazas 5
Intermittent crosses in the pavement at Square Dorchester, formed with rough-textured pavers, signify the historic use of this space as a burying ground.

Montreal plazas 6
Stripes of colored concrete pavers in various hues and sizes at Place Ville Marie

Montreal plazas 7
Metal drainage grates serve nicely as linear accents in this park next to Montreal’s convention center.

Montreal plazas 8
An attractive pattern of concrete pavers and tree grates

Montreal plazas 9
Strips of white pavers repeat the linear pattern of water jets in the Place des Festivals.

Photos by Alice Webb

Portland Japanese Garden

In Portland, Oregon, there is a lovely 5.5-acre Japanese garden situated in a hilly area west of the city center, within Washington Park. It is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. I visited this serene setting in May a couple of years ago, and would like to share some of my photos.

Portland Japanese Garden A

 

Portland Japanese Garden B

 

Portland Japanese Garden C

 

Portland Japanese Garden D

 

Portland Japanese Garden E

 

Portland Japanese Garden F

 

Portland Japanese Garden G

 

Portland Japanese Garden H

 

Portland Japanese Garden I

 

Portland Japanese Garden J

 

Portland Japanese Garden K

 

Portland Japanese Garden L

 

Photos by Alice Webb