Sep 13, 2008

London Parks

My time in England is running low and I was happy when a friend took me around to see a few public parks in London. Seeing parks and public spaces is another high point of interest for me since, having grown up in NYC, I can understand how important a green space can be in a sea of concrete. Some public parks can feel sterile and when they do, they are usually empty.
So it was refreshing to see some spaces that have the feel of a park but with a modern twist to them. We all need to adapt to the times and these are interpretations of how the city park has stepped into the 21st century.

This is the Thames Barrier Park, which is about 22 acres, and is set right on the river. The park consists of open public areas and also areas for contemplation. One could ponder many questions while walking along this shrub and herbaceous garden. I would imagine the hedges to be just like the water of the river when it ripples, creating a sense of calm. I could be completely wrong though, and should just enjoy it for what it is. The plantings are simple too so there wouldn't be the need for a lot of fussy maintanence. So you could expect to see plants that can handle the different seasons.
Once you are in the garden "valley" your walking pace turns into an enjoyable stroll. Even without looking directly at the plants, you are aware of the textures as you walk by them.

Simple bands of color and texture. There was an abstract quality to the garden, and while I don't think it works all the time, it worked here.

It was a surprise to see meadows throughout the park. Natural plantings inviting biodiversity into an urban environment. Paths were mown through the meadow so people wouldn't just trample through the high grass and plants. Something I have noticed is that if you want to do a meadow and think it looks messy, simply mow one width of the mower around it and you have a nice contrast as you see above. People were using all areas of the park, playing and relaxing. There were lots of young families too, which made me think of the way the children would grow up with memories of playing in the park, which would then seem so dated once they had there own children.There was something about the cafe and how the large windows still let you feel as if you were outside. What was even better is that if you look at the writing on the windows of the cafe, you'll see the latin names of all of the plants in the park, acting as a form of ornamentation. Nice touch indeed. The next park was created over a large tube station. The inside was so shiny and modern and then you were transported by escalator to a lush green oasis. This is Canary Wharf which was created by Wirtz. You are then surrounded by tall office buildings but see Taxodium distichum towering over you too.

Stone pools are in raised beds so the water and reflections are closer to eye level.
Water has often been used to drown out background noise, perfect for a city. Burms help keep the turf areas interesting, with walls slightly curved inwards. This is to surpport the back of the many people who come to seek some quiet time while passing through, while still acting as a planting bed. This wall acts as two functions, but discreetly. Sometimes whats intended is not obvouis and these details are fun to find.
One thing I didn't notice was what the park arborists do with dying trees. Instead of cutting it directly down they cut off all of the branches and notch the ends up with a chainsaw. This is so the rest of tree can act as a wildlife habitat, helping insects and animals. If you look closely too you'll also see the bat box that was carved out by them too..

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