Urban parks, POS and landscape architecture

The Skateboard park on London's South Bank is a specialised POS, created by and for its users - in defiance of the authorities

The Skateboard park on London's South Bank is a specialised POS, created by and for its users - in defiance of the authorities. It involved no capital cost and nor is there any maintenance cost.

Too many park managers have a horticultural training. To few park managers are trained in landscape architecture, garden design, event management, community leadership, economics, public accountancy or social entrepreneurship. The consequence of the imbalance is that too much public open space is managed as ‘parkland’: ‘green deserts with lollipops’, shrubberies, flowerbeds and a few facilities for young mums, sporty youths and old age pensioners. We have too much generalized public open space and too little specialized public open space.

22 thoughts on “Urban parks, POS and landscape architecture

  1. Tom Turner Post author

    The Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council was talking about parks on the radio today. He says they are providing ‘more for less’ by handing over the maintenance to a private company.
    His explanation was that ‘councils are not good at gardening’. I can well believe this – but the parks management job is not ‘gardening’. Obviously, it is management. The Council Leader says he has proof the parks are in better condition: they now have three Green Flag Awards. Amazingly, there is an 81 page management plan for the Ravenscourt Park( http://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Images/MP_Ravenscourt060209_tcm21-114274_tcm21-114274.pdf )- and yet no park manager based in the park. There is no mention of demographic data (eg CACI) or expert opinion (eg consultants) being used in the management. The overall parks strategy suffers from the same weakness:

  2. Isla Denton-Thompson

    On the thread of management and maintenance: What about the possibilities of community gardens?…

    Here’s one in London:
    Meanwhile gardens http://www.mgca.f2s.com/index.html
    ‘Meanwhile Gardens Community Association aims to enhance the lives of residents in North Kensington and North Westminster by providing safe and inclusive open air leisure, play, and training and education opportunities in our four-acre community park’

    There was an article in the financial times in praise of Meanwhile gardens that’s worth a little look:

  3. Christine

    I wonder how vandalism is defined? “A dedicated skatepark, popular with teenagers, was removed due to vandalism in 2008.”(p18) In Melbourne graffitti in the laneways has been viewed as a positive reflecting a vibrant alternative art scene…[ http://everywheremag.com/articles/695 ].

    There is always the question of how far ‘rebellion’ (and the reasons for it) can be domesticated?

  4. ryan

    I agree with your point, but I do find that some of the best parks are ones with very little program, just open space and subtle grading to delineate space. Skating is just one of the many things that are more fun to do in a place that wasn’t designed for them, so maybe the challenge is to design purpose built things that don’t look purpose built.

  5. Christine

    Nice distinction. It also contributes something to the notion of the expectation of a safe place.

    The rise of gated communities has been seriously questioned as a desirable sub-urban design phenomenon.

    The history of this idea of ‘walls’ to protect is traced back to the UK in ‘Fortress America: gated communities in the United States’ by Blakely and Snyder and the lack of a police force until the eighteenth century.

    Robert Peel introduced the police service in the UK for the purposes of crime prevention at a time when the city of London was expanding rapidly.
    [ http://www.met.police.uk/history/peel.htm ]

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    Of course there are places where graffiti is unwelcome but there are great many dull walls, usually in public ownership, where is SHOULD be encouraged. We could have annual awards for graffiti artists. They do unpaid work in bringing art to public space. What more could a society ask of unemployed youths? Or are the two assumptions incorrect? – are the artists unemployed and are they young? Specialist graffiti paint is quite expensive, I learned recently.

  7. Marie-Aline

    I think not all forms of grafitti have to be brought in public spaces. Because there are different kinds of grafitti-art: the ones who just put down their names on the walls; the ones who try to draw something, but it is completely ugly; and the ones who are real artists.

    I think the first group hasn’t to be allowed to draw on the walls, because to me, just putting your name on the wall is not art. The other 2 groups are artists, because they try to draw beautiful things, but sorry for the ones who’s drawings are ugly, not everybody can do this. But they should receive the chance to explore their personal artistic world.

  8. Tom Turner Post author

    Aaagh! – I think the people who do ‘ugly’ art may well find it beautiful. In which case, who is to say whether or not their work should be allowed in a public place?

  9. Heather

    Skateboarding is not a crime. Most of the time skateboarders do not want too much maintenance they want to be left alone with no “outsiders”.

  10. Tom Turner Post author

    I was going to comment that I have not attempted anything remotely like this for 50 years, but then I remembered an unwise jump last summer!
    The video makes a great contrast between what ‘the authorities’ want to do and what ‘the kids’ they plan for want to do.

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