We have just enjoyed our best summer for years in the UK and, as ever, we were not prepared for the continuous sunshine – half expecting the weather to break after a couple of days. As a result, with people filling every inch of grass in our city parks, it has never been more obvious the value that green, open spaces play in our lives especially in an urban environment and this momentum is being felt all over the world.
In Toronto for example, there is a vast transformation underway in landscape architecture. The area/ground surrounding buildings is often the last thing to be considered in the development that has been generally vastly underfunded. However, new areas and buildings are being designed specifically with the landscape in mind as a major factor and taking a holistic long-term approach for generations to come.
Examples of this can be found in the waterfront district (in Toronto) with specially designed areas for cycling, walking and creating more of a community feel, despite the building of high rises to satisfy the growing population.
Part of the success of these newly created areas – and the greatest achievement – is the stewardship for maintenance and the resulting partnership between the private and public sectors. Toronto certainly understands this partnership is vital to it’s success and there is a real recognition that public space is important and that good design ultimately leads to good business. This too can be seen with the success of the High Line* in New York that combines public and private funding so well and has become a wonderful new park not only for the existing community but also for visitors from all over the world.
There has been much excitement about the proposed new 'garden bridge' across the Thames in London conceived by Thomas Heatherwick who designed the Olympic cauldron ( an idea I might add I had seven years ago!). The project is estimated at £60 million and could be open to the public as early as 2016. This would be not only be a wonderful addition to our open spaces in London but would also be a fantastic opportunity to recognize the value of civic environmental responsibility. Identifying new ways of looking at how these spaces can deliver enhanced social and economic benefits to the community is vital for future generations.
* THE HIGH LINE BACKGROUND
"The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. Founded in 1999 by community residents, Friends of the High Line fought for the High Line’s preservation and transformation at a time when the historic structure was under the threat of demolition. It is now the nonprofit conservancy working with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to make sure the High Line is maintained as an extraordinary public space for all visitors to enjoy. In addition to overseeing maintenance, operations, and public programming for the park, Friends of the High Line works to raise the essential private funds to support more than 90 percent of the park’s annual operating budget, and to advocate for the preservation and transformation of the High Line at the Rail Yards, the third and final section of the historic structure, which runs between West 30th and West 34th Streets."