Archives For Urban Planning

 

“Liberating Parks…
And Bringing them Back to the People”

A review of
Public Parks: The Key to Livable Communities.

By Alexander Garvin.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Public Parks: The Key to Livable Communities.
By Alexander Garvin.

Hardback: Norton, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

PUBLIC PARKS - Alexander GarvinAs one who has been experimenting for several years now with urban naturalism, I have a deep appreciation for greenspaces in which the abundant life of creation is not quite as enslaved to the best laid plans of humanity.  Thus, I was excited to hear about the release of Alexander Garvin’s book Public Parks: The Key To Livable Communities.  Starting with the definition of a park as “public open spaces that are available to all citizens free of charge,” Garvin proceeds to narrate the relatively brief history of parks (according to this definition), and to lay out a basic philosophy of parks that takes into consideration such factors as site selection, stewardship and finance.

Garvin’s account of parks is centered around the lives and work of two key figures: Fredrick Law Olmsted and Robert Moses.  Olmsted, not only was the co-designer of New York’s Central Park, but the firm he founded would eventually design and create roughly six thousand of the earliest North American parks, an undertaking that spanned the continent from coast to coast.  Although Robert Moses is most recognized as an urban planner who fought to modernize New York City and who inaugurated several key expressways across that city, he perhaps is equally significant for his quarter-century of work as New York City Parks Commissioner (1934-1960).  Olmsted and Moses were undoubtedly chosen not only for their noble stature in the history of North American parks development, but also because they both approached the task of park development as part of a larger strategy of urban planning, an approach to which Garvin is apparently sympathetic and also one that was perhaps the greatest detriment to his account of parks (as we will explore later in this review).  Before I dive too deeply into a critique of this work, allow me to emphasize that Public Parks is an elegant book, well-designed with many large, color photographs that breathe life into Garvin’s streamlined narration of the history, meaning and operation of parks.  Additionally, the book serves as a good introduction to the history of parks and to the basic ideas related to the development and maintenance of parks. Continue Reading…