Another Failed Landscape – When Ideology Trumps User Needs

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PLACES & SPACES Another Failed Landscape – When Ideology Trumps User Needs

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    Zach Watson

    Thanks Tracie for crapping on many of us with your first line.

    Zach Watson

    The issue is not one of, should all parks be recreational parks or should all parks be naturalist, heck I don’t think the issue with this article is even that we should have a balance.  Personally, I think this particular article is about the fact that this person does not have they type of park that they want in ‘their backyard’.  


    We live in a society right now where everyone thinks that they can and should have the world that they live in customized to their desires.  Yet in this case, a park is not a smartphone touch screen that can be changed and rearranged for a particular user.  We try to predict what the end use will be for a majority of the share holders will desire but even with the best research and analysis process not all users will use the space in the same way.

    Jason T. Radice

    You bring up a good point…parks evoke different responses in people as to what they are. Perhaps because of the evolution of the word itself. The ‘merican version from


    an area of land, usually in a largely natural state, for the enjoyment of the public, having facilities for rest and recreation, often owned, set apart, and managed by a city, state, or nation.


    And the ‘Queen’s English’ definition:

    a tract of land reserved for wild animals; game preserve.


    Many parks, especially urban, have almost nothing to do with nature whatsoever outside of the overly pruned architectural trees placed exactly 55′ OC. But they have facilities. Built for enjoyment. They are accomodating, sometimes minimally. I think the word ‘preserve’ is underused.


    Brett T. Long

     You had some good thoughts. It is a shame that you led with a ridiculous insult and closed with another.

    Pat S. Rosend

    There was an LA firm on the team along with several evnironmental firms.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    One would hope that there was some criteria established for the design of the park prior to its being designed. If nothing else, the park department should have some type of comprehensive plan. Short of that, general criteria for “community park”, neighborhood park”, etc, … Did they hire a design firm to both establish the criteria and execute the design?


    Heather mentioned the garden they did for a water department that had just two main goals – water-wise plants and beauty. Simple and to the point and easy to measure the success or failure of the design.


    What are the criteria that this park was designed to meet? Without knowing that, we are not measuring the efficacy of the actual design. The failure here may actually be in the establishment of design criteria rather than the design itself. The designers may have provided the best that they could have within that criteria.  … or maybe not.


    Who established the design criteria? Was it a local activist group with a single agenda that lobbied for the park? Was it one of those community charettes which tends to be heavily manipulated (knowingly or not) by those conducting it? Was it park of a comprehensive plan by the park department?


    I don’t have a problem agreeing that the park sucks based on what I read. I do have a problem with attacking the designers when I don’t know what they were given for design criteria. It may meet or exceed what they were charged to do … or not.


    There are few projects in this world where the designers have carte blanche to establish the criteria and execute the design.

    Leslie B Wagle

    I couldn’t get the “gallery” of photos to work on the website given earlier, but if you go to the “team” tag, they did have a landscape architectural firm involved (Pat already noted that), and a scrolling group of comments indicates there were benchmarks for its development and it wasn’t a hasty process. I’m curious that the renderings show it should mature with both trees and people, yet the article critic thought neither were showing up so far. But it does look like the main thrust was environmental education. It probably never would have looked like a lush place but still, if it’s perceived as an inhospitable place, it’s not going to do much for education either. Not only would we need to understand the background better, but if perhaps whether the authorities intended for other facilities to serve recreational needs in a bigger ‘web’ of places they manage. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a limited maintenance budget came into the picture.

    Alan Ray, RLA

    that’s what makes Tracie feel soooo superior to us public ed morons…..

    I thought that with her extreme leftist idealogy that she would love and embrace government controlled education.

    People that come in here with other than their real names makes me suspect they are not  even licensed LAs’…..


    Trace One

    actually I just like to practice my insult chops..

    It is knowledge of civics classes that seems to me most lacking in society today – Sandra Day O’Connor is spending her retirement on trying to ameliorate that lack, you have probably read.

    I would add to that lack of knowledge or espect for  ecology..

    I am not a liscensed LA, by the way, just a practicing one..I do not pretend any different..Just have an MLA, have yet to take the test, ever..Always interested in teaching, altho that goal is seeming increasingly remote, over the years..If you are interested, Alan..

    I don’t feel superior to anyone, really..I do have opinions about our society, tho, of which Sandra Day O’Connor agrees with me, for one..

    sorry, public school people..I went to quite a few myself – kicked out for tossing insults, against the public school ‘social promotion’ creed..

    kidding, again..


    Understood, but if we’re talking about tens of millions of public dollars for the development of open space, be it infrastructural or recreational, there MUST be some opportunity for integration of public use-ie recreation, trails, places with shade, seating, etc. Par tof the value of this is at the very least so people will CARE about the place, and even understand it’s function. Yes, a breakdown in is communication, vis a vis..


    Admittedly, I don’t know the park in question, but I would think that in 20 acres we could find some room for some more active program and ‘people space’ especially if this park is as close to an existing neighborhood as presumed.


    I totally understand the concept of natural open space, living in the mountains of Colorado, totally different concept in my mind.

    Pat S. Rosend

    The park plan has outdoor event space and small gathering spaces around the perimeter. It has a playgorund area and a trail network.

    David J. Chirico

    If you have an hour, these lectures offer a great perspective on that topic:


    Tosh K

    I’m finding out here in New England, it’s the deer that are “selecting” what plants to let grow (too many deer for the natives to have an outside shot at surviving), we do control the population of deer (first by eliminating predators, and second by protecting them), so are we managing the plant diversity (negatively)? The speed of change is rather frightening.

    Trace One

    specify please Mr. Tosh..What do the deer like? Catbrier? Just curious..

    Les Ballard

    Oh the joys of 20 acres, me and a bitch to play with lol!  Everyone is frightened.  If necessary, you should have ID and sign in to enter the park.  You should be allowed to do what you like, mainly on CCTV loop just in case you hurt someone or something but, generally, you do as you wish.  What will attract old people is good lighting and smooth paths for night time vigils in the summer cool – they are often up when 9 – 5 types aren’t.  They can look at the bird shelters and stuff put about at the edge of islands of trees, feathered with bushes to prevent wind damage and, by day, paths will be found to lead through them but on an unmade track or cinder basis.  In each will be a seat, maybe with a shelter over, to rest or whatever and a small grassed clearing.  Some will have a water feature with more ad hoc seating, eg a rock.  Younger people will come for the play areas and the graffiti wall.  It will be covered with panels so that real art can be kept and the rest regularly painted over.  Young people convicted of painting where they shouldn’t will paint it white monthly and also clean the benches, etc.  No-one will worry about flashers in the bushes, as you can avoid them and, anyway, they would be caught on CCTV.  Of course that will attract a few.  There will be a triangle of play areas, for accompanied children, older kids and youth with basketball and tennis courts and a shelter for hanging out – a non flammable one again repainted regularly.  There will be a horseshoe lake with little fish for children to learn angling and not to fall in and, on an “island”, a cafe (automat when closed) with vehicular access for deliveries, bikes, skateboards and electric mobility scooters.  All other vehicles will be relegated to the car park.  Trees will protect from the wind, not provide lurking territory.  They and bushes will provide fruit and nuts while a leaflet will allow games of tree spotting both on an indiginous arboretum and multiple scriptures basis.  Children will be walked through as classes, in many subjects and meet in the tree circle for singing practice or art, using low hitching post style seats.  Bins will be emptied regularly by a single employee who will have the power to fine for not removing fouling and binning it, though the paths through the trees will be designated a dog walk route.  Athletes will train there, paths having distance markers and a couple of sand pits allowing jumping.  Nearby there will be a fountain with clean water to drink.  It really doesn’t have to be dirty or in a bottle.  All these things we can have as we used to have them a century ago if only we are not frightened of law suits and violence, anti-social behaviour and our own shadows.    

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