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NYC Landscape Architecture Travel Series #5: Paley Park

NYC Landscape Architecture Travel Series #5: Paley Park

For landscape architect Jeff Gonot, Paley Park is the epitome of urban design. After spending an afternoon there sketching and absorbing the many elements of the inspiring pocket park, he writes: Everything about the space is perfect.

Image via Wikimedia

A small pocket park nested in the heart of midtown Manhattan, Paley Park is a celebrated and lush urban oasis surrounded by high-rises. Created after its benefactor, William Paley, the beloved park was immortalized in William H. Whyte’s famous film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.

Completed in 1967 and designed by Zion and Breene Associates, Paley Park has been lauded as a successful example of a privately owned public space. A 20-foot tall waterfall creates a dramatic focal point that draws pedestrians in and provides a blanket of white noise to create a sense of privacy. Lush and dense ivy crawl up the walls and 17 honey locust trees create a gorgeous thin canopy with yellow and green dappled shade. 

Image via michaeltk

Moveable wire mesh chairs and marble tables give users freedom and control over the space. A tiny cafe sits in the corner selling food; the tiny park is a popular and often crowded luncheon spot. Despite its size–Paley Park is but one-tenth of an acre–the park leaves a lasting impression. 

Paley Park helps us to better understand human scale in relationship to the greater whole, the city. What a masterpiece!

All images © Jeff Gonot unless otherwise noted.

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