Thursday, April 22, 2010

Urban Parks

Rittenhouse Square is one of the nicest small urban parks I've seen. It's a great space, in large part because around the square are a significant number of restaurants and other retail establishments, so the square is highly integrated with the urban fabric. There's nothing wrong with more isolated bucolic parks, but in cities they can often be just dead spaces. Some people are comforted by the fact that over there somewhere there's a patch of grass and a few trees, but such spaces are often less accessible and usable by people.

Generally I think in the US we lean too much against having commerce in and around parks, failing to recognize that making places accessible to humans requires things which support human activity like food and other kinds of retail.

Because the small square is surrounded by businesses, I don't think it's a park which actually needs more commercialization to be enjoyed by people, though it may need it for its finances, but still I love this response to the suggestion.

She ruled out advertising inside the square, said that 18th Street might be closed for special events in which Friends would share in vendors' revenues. There might be a seasonal 8-by-12-foot concession booth in the square and maybe more special events within the square, she said.

That letter was answered by an anonymous two-page letter calling Rosen's plan a "disaster," adding that it would be "opening the square to hoards of people and businesses," which sounds a touch, mmm, elitist.

"We have a fabulous square that only needs support from its surrounding residents," wrote the anonymous author.