The Landscape Guide

15.2 Parks for Edge City?

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Now, the City of Tomorrow may not contain public parks. Joel Garreau has identified a new type of city: Edge City (Garreau, 1991). Its face is set against Corbusier's City of Tomorrow. Edge City is that loose agglomeration of express roads, semi-isolated buildings, free car parking and sprawling urbanization that one finds the world over. Outside financial centres, they are the most economically active regions of the postmodern world. Garreau looks at Edge City with the dispassionate gaze of a journalist. To him, Edge City is "what the consumer wants': safety, comfort, and convenience. Accessibility for the rich, inaccessibility for the poor. The high walls of Edge City are time and distance. Within these walls, there is no public open space, which bothers the professionals:

Designers who wish to make Edge City more humane frequently advocate that public parks and public places be added to match the piazzas of the cities of old. That sounds great. But as George Sternleib points out... "They don't want the strangers. If it is a choice between parks and strangers, the people there would sooner do without the parks'. (Garreau, 1991)

Safety comes first, so they don't want parks. But safety was the whole reason for making parks! With its defining characteristic removed, no wonder the modern park is about to die. Louis XIV started the process; Capability Brown carried it further. Municipal authorities, in many countries, have completed the process. No boundary means no park. Therefore all the imparked space in Edge City will be privately owned: as golf course, garden or theme park.

Kevin Lynch, a great urban planner, once observed that "our city parks occupy only one small niche of the universe of open-space forms'. His plea for greater diversity was well made, but Lynch surely erred when he included parks within the "universe of open space forms'. Parks should not be open spaces. They should not be places where people are allowed to do anything. The very essence of a park is safety. Bounded space must not be confused with boundless space, though both are necessary. History is a good starting point for reconsidering park functions.