The Landscape Guide

15.1 Parks and Boundless Space

Contents list

To impark an area of land is to enclose it with a barrier, which may be permeable or semi-permeable (Figure 15.1). When homo sapiens first erected a fence to protect an area of land, the world's first park was made. Outside was danger; inside was safety: for children, crops and domesticated animals. Later, when communities erected more extensive barriers to protect groups of families, the first settlements came into existence. Kings then began to think about private parks for their families. When grand cities came to be planned, spatial ideas were often developed in the rulers' parks and passed through to the streets and spaces of the cities in which their dictat ran. This practice no longer operates because, in modern states, rulers are shy of conspicuous consumption. Park planning, however, remains a crucial aspect of city planning.

First in seventeenth century France and later in eighteenth century England, the rulers' parks burst from their imparkments. Louis XIV projected the avenues of Versailles ever outwards, and opened the park to his subjects. His "park' became an unbounded space. Capability Brown's imagination, leaping the fence, saw that all nature was a garden. Many of England's royal and aristocratic parks were opened to the public. In the nineteenth century, special new spaces, known as "public parks', were provided for the poor. To begin with, these parks were bounded: locked at night and strictly controlled, as oases in the city of dreadful night (Figure 15.2). Later, they were linked together by parkways. This idea came from Frederick Law Olmsted. He interlaced cities with parks. But the "parkland' was no longer imparked. Greenspace leaked out and almost destroyed the ancient idea of a compact protected city (Figure 15.3). New cities are not like old cities.

Medium park original

Fig 15.1 Imparkments create park If the space has no boundary, it should not be called a park. And if it has a boundary, the boundary should have a defined purpose.

Medium greenspace original

Fig 15.2-3 The nineteenth century public park was an oasis in ‘the city of dreadful night’ (top diagram) but greenspace became so extensive that it almost destroyed the City (bottom diagram).