How would Doctor Who Rethink Parks?
Friday, 29 November 2013
Like millions across the world, last weekend I snuggled on the sofa with light refreshments & eager anticipation to see the 50th anniversary episode of Dr Who. After the impressive special effects and captivating interplay between the different incarnations of The Doctor was over, I wondered what The Doctor might prescribe to ensure our parks thrive across time and space? What if public parks offered more on the inside than appears from a distance? What if they were deftly able to adapt to time and place?
Today's public parks are under threat and if we are to find new sustainable ways to ensure our parks survive, perhaps they need to be more adaptable.
Many of our public parks still echo the same features and broad purposes intended by their Victorian creators, originally designed to push the wider social agenda and predominating belief system of the time.
In Victorian times, parks were considered spaces that would shape and improve the moral and physical health of the rapidly increasing urban working classes. Form reflected function: guiding people to keep to the paths, creating clear spatial divisions between areas for congregation, personal reflection, observation and participation.
Fast forward to 2013 and these very deliberate divisions that were such a fundamental feature of Victorian life hold up less well today. We're increasingly expectant and used to the traditional divisions across place and time being eroded. Many of us don't keep a strict division of office and leisure hours; increasingly urban planning advocates the facilities we need to work, play, live and love should be co-located rather than divided into distinct districts. The products we use offer increasing flexibility - the Smart Phone being the most ubiquitous example of technological multi-tasking (or of course the Sonic Screwdriver).
So, perhaps public parks need to adapt better to today's place and time to continue to thrive? Perhaps this means flexible, multifunctional spaces that serve functions over and beyond their vital role in helping us rest and relax. This might include parks that simultaneously:
- Offer opportunities for office work in an outside environment, for example through the provision of wi-fi
- Contribute to flood mitigation and protection
- Maximise health benefits for communities
- More flexibly enable spaces for all generations to play
We could do worse than follow the advice of renowned planner, George Chadwick. If we were to take our own Tardis back to 1966, his vision, though never fully realised, still rings true today:
"It follows…that the new equivalent (of the traditional Victorian park) will have many and varied uses to serve and express; the possibilities are therefore richer, more diverse. Of specialised buildings, cafes, inns, libraries, museums, art galleries, nursery schools, swimming pools, gymnasia, theatres, dance halls, cinemas, meeting places, open and covered, of all kinds, may be met with."
Do you have a great idea to Rethink Parks? Get in touch at [email protected]. You can particpate in the discussion using #RethinkingParks