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Posts Tagged ‘parks’

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.
 
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A central lawn, pergola with benches, and other seating areas provide plenty of opportunities for relaxation.
 
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Fountain near the north end of the park
 
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Seating wall along the west side of the space
 
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Café with outdoor seating at the south end
 
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The park is flanked by several attractive art deco buildings.
 
Photos by Alice Webb

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I finally got to visit the play area on the Common in Cambridge, Massachusetts – A superbly-designed space with hills, custom wooden structures, sand and water play areas, logs, plants, and other fun and unusual components. It includes many elements that help define a successful playground – one modeled on natural features that fosters imaginative, open-ended play. Although there weren’t many children there when I visited (likely due to cold weather and other plans on Easter Sunday), I could tell that the playground is well-used and loved, with sand tracked all over the place!

 

Cambridge Common Playground 1
A challenging wooden climber

 

Cambridge Common Playground 2
Sand play station

 

Cambridge Common Playground 3
Swings, plants, rocks, and a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round

 

Cambridge Common Playground 4
Climbing net on a hillside

 

Cambridge Common Playground 5
A custom wooden structure, slide, and tunnel

 

Cambridge Common Playground 6
Water play station (too cold in March for the water to be turned on yet)

 

Cambridge Common Playground 7
One of several attractive custom wooden benches

 

Cambridge Common Playground 8
Custom wooden picnic table and seats

 

Cambridge Common Playground 9
Sculptural entry gate

 

Cambridge Common Playground 10
Logs provide a balance challenge

 

Cambridge Common Playground 11
Wooden “ship”

 

Cambridge Common Playground 12
Double slide embedded in a mound
 
Photos by Alice Webb

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On a recent March weekend while visiting New York City, I had the opportunity to walk the newest section of the High Line that opened last September. This half-mile long segment wraps around a large storage yard for commuter trains, between West 30th and West 34th Streets, with a nice view of the Hudson River along part of its length. The final 1/3 mile of this new phase is currently open as an interim walkway, to be completed once the neighboring Hudson Yards mixed-use development is built on a platform over the train yard.

One can now walk the entire 1.5-mile length of this former freight train trestle. It’s become a very popular place for both locals and visitors, with a steady stream of walkers even on the cool and windy day when I was there. The High Line ranks as one of my favorite urban parks, with a creative design that incorporates many references to its historic railway usage. I also enjoy the numerous interesting views of the city from 30 feet above the streets.

Be sure to check out my other two blog posts on this terrific linear park: Up on the High Line and The High Line, Section 2.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 1
The Grasslands Grove features a variety of “peel-up” furnishings, including benches, a picnic table, a see-saw rocker, and a chime feature for children. This signature style of site amenity can be seen along many parts of the High Line.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 2
Stacked seating borders the section that parallels West 30th Street, near a new building that is under construction to the north. The landscape near the High Line in this area will be changing over the next few years as tall buildings transform the low-lying rail yards site.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 3
The high line’s original rail tracks are exposed and now function as walkways in three places along the route, referencing the park’s former use. Aggregate bonded with an adhesive was installed between the ties, creating a very firm and level surface, accessible to wheelchairs.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 4
A row of benches flanks the 11th Avenue “Bridge” (to the left of the photo), a section of walkway that arches somewhat above the surrounding surfaces. The rail yards can be seen to the right.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 5
The Pershing Square Beams: A children’s play area featuring an exposed portion of the High Line’s original framework, and also including entertaining elements such as periscopes and a “gopher hole”. In the warmer months, perennial plantings sprout up in the spaces between some of the beams.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 6
The interim walkway includes the original tracks with self-seeded plants (as the High Line had appeared for many years after the trains stopped running in 1980). It becomes a lush green linear meadow during the warmer seasons. The walkway portion is surfaced with bonded aggregate, flush with the intersecting rail lines. The High Line curves to the right to run parallel with the Hudson River in the distance.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 7
Large stacked timbers serve as seating at this section of the interim walkway, somewhat reminiscent of oversized railroad ties.

 

High Line at the Rail Yards 8
The interim walkway slopes down to its terminus at West 34th Street.
 
Photos by Alice Webb

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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

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The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is a 15-acre linear urban space in downtown Boston, sited on land where Interstate 93 was previously located (now in a tunnel below). The greenway has been criticized for not being designed cohesively; however, the space should instead be considered as a series of disparate urban parks, each with its own merits.

One of the better-conceived spaces along this route is Chinatown Park, located at the southern end of the greenway. It was designed by Carol R. Johnson Associates, a Boston-based landscape architecture firm. The park is approximately three-quarter acre in size, and includes a curvilinear path with red sculptural features, a waterfall fountain and stream, plants native to Asia, and a plaza for festivals and other activities. China’s culture, history, and natural scenery are all represented by the park’s elements.

 

Chinatown Park 1
This bold, modern gate at the north entrance of the park is a counterpoint to the ornate, traditional Chinese gate to the south (shown in later photo). Red is a very popular color in China, representing good fortune and joy.

 

Chinatown Park 2
North park entrance – The sculpture in background is entitled “Zheng He’s Mizzen Sail”. The park’s pavement pattern symbolizes the scales of a dragon.

 

Chinatown Park 3
The waterfall fountain is composed of reclaimed seawall stones, acquired from a part of the Boston Harbor where many Chinese immigrants arrived.

 

Chinatown Park 4
Recirculating stream, flowing from the waterfall fountain

 

Chinatown Park 5
The park includes Peonies and many other plants of Asian origin.

 

Chinatown Park 6
“Bamboo curtains” at southern end of serpentine walkway

 

Chinatown Park 7
Plaza at southern end of park

 

Chinatown Park 8
The traditional Chinese gate can be seen at the south end of the plaza.

 
Photos by Alice Webb

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Adjacent to the New World Center building (home of the New World Symphony) in south Miami Beach is an interesting park that was designed by the Dutch landscape architecture firm, West 8, and built though a private-public partnership. This 2.5-acre green space’s primary function is to serve as a venue for the public to watch symphony concerts, movies, and video art projected on a large blank wall of the building, all free of charge. Those events, however, take place in just one section of the park; the rest of the space mainly consists of crisscrossing walkways, long seat walls, and groves of palm trees.
 

I visited during a pleasant spring day on a Friday afternoon, and the park was somewhat deserted – I wonder if it gets more use on the weekends and during lunch time. I found the space to be unique and attractive in its design, but lacking in features and daytime activities that would tend to attract more people.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 1
The park entrances are accentuated by these sculptural structures with Bougainvillea growing in the centers.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 2
Lawn and projection wall

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 3
The park includes lots of shady areas for relaxation.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 4
Seat walls throughout the park include attached stones – an attractive accent, but also functional, since they would tend to keep homeless people from sleeping on the walls and deter skateboarding along the edges. I don’t know if these were the intentions of the designers and client, but it makes sense to me.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 5
Angular walkways cut through groves of palms and traverse the undulating topography, giving the park a sculptural quality.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 6
The New World Center is seen through the trees – the lack of low vegetation allows for sight lines across most of the park.

 

Photos by Alice Webb

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I’ve encountered a variety of interesting art pieces in landscape settings ranging from urban to natural. Some are in parks and nature preserves, others are along city streets and alleys, and a few are in small town centers. Some integrate visually and thematically with their surroundings, and others stand alone. Below are a few favorites.

 

1 - Art on the High Line 1
Cut-outs in a small panel (viewed through a scope) on New York City’s High Line transform this view of buildings into abstract shapes.

 

2 - Art on the High Line 2
More art on the High Line: A modernistic wire structure with houses and seed/fruit trays for birds and insects seems to represent the intersection of city and nature, as does much of the High Line. A similar structure faces the opposite direction on the other side of the walkway.

 

3 - Garden in the Woods
These transparent facial profiles at Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, appear to symbolize the connection between people and nature.

 

4 - MSU art museum
Juxtaposition of “natural” and built forms – Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing

 

5 - Felice Varini - New Haven
Painted optical illusion in New Haven, Connecticut, by Felice Varini – this shape is only visible when one stands at a specific point. As one progresses further down the alley, it no longer appears as four circles within a square.

 

6 - Cambridge granite sculpture
Sculpture composed of various types of stone in Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

7 - Sculpture in Eastport ME
Granite sculpture in Eastport, Maine – a town whose principal industry is commercial fishing

 

8 - CityGarden bas-relief
Bas-relief piece in CityGarden – a sculpture park in St. Louis, Missouri

 

9 - Sculpture in Montreal
A deep discussion taking place in Montreal, Quebec

 

10 - Belfast ME bench
Colorful bench in Belfast, Maine

 

11 - SLCH healing garden
Whimsical piece in the Olson Family Garden at St. Louis Children’s Hospital

 

See also Public Art in Outdoor Spaces (Part 1)

Photos by Alice Webb

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