Posts tagged with "Parks":

Placeholder Alt Text

Relief fund launched for NYC parks after dire status report

Only two days after an alliance of New York City park- and open-space-oriented nonprofits released a report sounding the alarm over the coronavirus-related budget cuts and private donation dips, the NYC Green Relief & Recovery Fund has launched to help fill in the gaps. Parks in New York City soak up stormwater, provide much-needed green space in a city of mainly hard surfaces, and serve as both places for a community to gather as well as event spaces. Their benefits are well known and much-touted, but the deficit created in the city’s finances by the coronavirus pandemic has slashed the Department of Parks & Recreation’s budget to 1970s levels; a decade that left the city’s parks disastrously under-maintained and full of trash. In a call today, Dan Garodnick of the Riverside Park Conservancy noted that the collection of 25 nonprofit groups partnered with the city are expecting a $40 million private donation shortfall. The decrease in paid staff will lead to an inability to oversee volunteers, and at a time when the crowds are out in record numbers, any maintenance deferral will lead to more and more damage done to these outdoor spaces. Normally, nonprofit groups provide over 100,000 volunteers to help care for parks and gardens within the city, as well as contributing $150 million annually. The alliance estimated that these budget cuts could shrink maintenance in fiscal year 2021 by up to 150,000 hours, and parks and gardens could see 541,000 fewer trees, shrubs, and perennials planted. Accordingly, the new recovery fund (to be administered by the nonprofit City Parks Foundation) is intended to help make up the projected shortfall while encouraging policymakers to take action. $2.3 million has already been contributed at the time of the fund’s launch, and seven major donors have already signed on: The Lily Auchincloss Foundation; the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; The J.M. Kaplan Fund; The JPB Foundation; the Leon Levy Foundation; the Libra Fund, and The New York Community Trust. Private citizens are invited to donate as well as funds, institutions, and companies, et al. A process has also already been laid out for disbursing donations: “Funding will be available to nonprofit and volunteer stewardship groups through a competitive application process. Grants of up to $100,000 will be available to larger nonprofits and multiple nonprofits applying together can access up to $150,000. Volunteer-led groups can apply for small grants of up to $1,500.” Interested groups can apply for relief on the same page.
Placeholder Alt Text

A hidden victim of the coronavirus pandemic? NYC’s parks

In an unsurprising turn of events, new research released today from a coalition of New York City parks nonprofits has revealed that the coronavirus pandemic is having a severe impact on the city’s green spaces. An alliance of 25 nonprofits are officially partnered with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to help support the city’s outdoor spaces, and play an important role in the city’s park ecosystem, supplying over 100,000 volunteers and raising $150 million annually in private funding for about 50 percent of outdoor space. Public investment, however, is still critical to ensure the survival of city parks, with the money going towards continued maintenance and upkeep—many of today’s most popular parks were, decades ago, run down and full of trash, including Prospect, Riverside, and Flushing Meadow parks. That’s why the Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Bronx River Alliance, City Parks Foundation, Freshkills Park Alliance, The Friends of Governors Island, Friends of the High Line, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Hudson River Park Friends, Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Madison Square Park Conservancy, Natural Areas Conservancy, New Yorkers for Parks, New York Restoration Project, North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, Prospect Park Alliance, Randall’s Island Park Alliance, Riverside Park Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, and the Washington Square Park Conservancy, were all surveyed to determine the state of the city’s parks. Despite the warming weather and New Yorkers’ increasing demand for public space at a time when most residents have been forced to stay home, things don’t look great for the future of the parks system. In a two-pronged assault, the Parks Department is just one city agency facing budget cuts in fiscal year 2021 to help grapple with the $6 billion shortfall, and nonprofit groups are anticipating a shortfall in private donations. According to the groups surveyed in the Parks and Open Space Partners – NYC COVID-19 Impact Report, it’s expected that on average, parks were anticipating a revenue loss of 32 percent, with one park in particular expecting to lose up to 68 percent. In practical terms, that means city parks will likely see a funding reduction of over $37 million from those groups. The other key takeaways were just as dour:
  • The report expected a loss of up to 40,000 park maintenance hours and 110,00 lost horticultural hours
  • As a result, 542,000 shrubs, trees, and other planned flora will go unplanted. Over 150 acres of lawn will go untrimmed, and 3,400 trees will go unpruned, raising the possibility of falling branches and other related hazards
  • The elimination of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program for budget reasons will also present a maintenance and education gap, as 247 young adults go without summer jobs
  • 3,826 public events have already been canceled because of social distancing measures, cutting off over 1.6 million New Yorkers from initiatives normally used to keep them in touch with their community
It’s still not certain when social distancing orders will be lifted in New York or the rest of the country, but the increased number of parkgoers and deferred maintenance may eventually prove unsustainable for not only green spaces in the city but across the country. Even though it’s been less than two months, signs of stress are already showing; see the case of Green-Wood Cemetery near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where inconsiderate visitors nearly forced the 182-year-old public space to close, before volunteers stepped in to help corral unruly guests.
Placeholder Alt Text

Public park archipelago will be set within Copenhagen’s postindustrial harbor

Composed of over 400 islands, the small Scandinavian country of Denmark is an archipelago whose culture is dependent upon the North Sea waters that it sits upon. A new project is currently underway to add even more islands in the formerly industrial harbor of Copenhagen, the country's largest city with nearly 800,000 residents. Copenhagen Islands, a cluster of floating landforms conceptualized and funded by Statens Kunstfond (the Danish Arts Foundation) and Havnekulturpuljen and designed by Copenhagen-based architects Studio Fokstrot in collaboration with Marshall Blecher, will together form a new type of public park with space for public events in a novel setting. Aptly described by the designers as a “parkipelago,” the buoyed islands will serve as platforms for a wide variety of activities, including perimeter swimming, fishing, mussel farming, gardening, and even relaxing at a “floating sail-in cafe,” all accessible via the personal boats and kayaks commonly operated by locals and tourists alike. Unlike a typical urban park, the islands will be able to take on a variety of arrangements to suit the needs of its users. “During summer,” the designers wrote in an official description, “the islands can be distributed to unused parts of the harbor, serving as an adventurous escape for the increasing amount of kayaks, sailors and general users of the harbor coast line. During winter and for special events or festivals, the islands can be brought together as a super-continent, creating a cluster more easily accessed from the harbor side.” Each platform will be made of steel and recycled floatation elements clad in locally-sourced timber approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.  A prototype of the concept, CPH-Ø1, was first placed in the harbor in 2018 as a single, 200-square-foot platform with a linden tree at its center. Still in operation, the artificial island has hosted several public events, small-scale exhibitions, and picnics, and will reportedly be joined by three other islands by the end of this year. The team behind Copenhagen Islands hopes their success will inspire other cities to activate their post-industrial spaces, claiming that the islands “can be adapted to any harbor, with the specific characteristics of the given city, and its need for harbor life.”
Placeholder Alt Text

OPEN Architecture transforms an abandoned Shanghai industrial site into a contemporary art park

Along with a vast number of cultural institutions around the globe, Tank Shanghai, a sprawling urban art environment situated along the Huangpu River in China’s most populous city, has been closed to the public and upped its virtual presence in the midst of the country’s coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Just a little over a year old, this singular adaptive reuse-centered art space centered around—and located within—a quintet of massive decommissioned fuel waste tanks is back open now, and apparently ready to show off. A newly released series of photos details the transformative project, which was designed by multi-disciplinary design studio OPEN Architecture and spearheaded by karaoke-loving contemporary art collector Qiao Zhibing. Completed over the course of six years (with some significant delay), Tank Shanghai wholly transformed a formerly industrial plot adjacent to Shanghai’s old Longhua Airport while retaining five hulking tank structures that were left standing at the once-blighted 12-acre riverside site in the museum-stuffed West Bund area. Per OPEN, Tank Shanghai is one of the “world’s rare examples of the adaptive reuse of aviation fuel tanks.” Described as a “sanctuary for both people and nature” that aims to “dissolve conventional ideas of site limitations and demarcations,” Tank Shanghai’s open space-meets-contemporary-art-center approach has already proven to be popular with the public. Showing now is Chicago-based installation artist Theaster Gates’ Bad Neon, which transforms one of the tank-bound gallery spaces into a roller skating rink. For most, the art is indeed a main draw but Tank Shanghai’s park setting also attracts joggers, picnickers, and the like. “By introducing new audiences to the traditionally closed-off space of the art center, Tank Shanghai has brought unprecedented energy to the formerly industrial neighborhood and to the southwest banks of the city at large,” explained OPEN. The five tanks are connected by a lushly landscaped “Super Surface” which serves as a natural pedestrian corridor between the different major sections of the park, including an “Urban Forest, a grassy open meadow for large gatherings, and a “stepped waterscape.” By linking the site with busy Longten Avenue, the Super Surface also opens up public access to the revitalized riverfront. As for the tanks themselves, each has been retrofitted to serve a unique purpose and accommodate different programming. The first is home to a two-story nightclub featuring live music and bar; the second is a restaurant complete with an outdoor roof deck; the third is a cavernous, raw space left mostly unchanged in order to mount large installations; the fourth has been converted into a more traditional gallery space spread across three levels, each connected by a spiraling ramp, and the fifth has been converted to include two large, sheltered stages that each face sloping lawns for visitors to congregate for al fresco concerts, performances, and such. “It is an art center without boundaries, and as it continues to assimilate into the life of the city more largely,” wrote New York-founded OPEN. “Tank Shanghai will continue to facilitate and inspire the creation of more inclusive and collective cultural spaces.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Cities open up streets to pedestrians as parks overcrowd

For those living in heavily impacted urban areas, life during the novel coronavirus pandemic has been spent largely confined indoors, housebound and isolated, disconnected from the typical physical places where city-dwellers tend to congregate en masse when not working. Bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, and on have all been closed. Outdoor public space, on the other hand, is considered “safe” but with one key caveat: the concept of social distancing has to also be closely observed on city sidewalks, parks, beaches, and the like to help curb the spread of the virus. Otherwise, heading outside for some fresh and exercise as the weather improves—a much-needed balm for corona cabin fever—is rendered moot if it’s spent in close proximity to hundreds of others. To help prevent overcrowding in popular parks, trails, and recreational areas (a major issue in places like Los Angeles and New York), some cities are embracing new approaches that enable residents to enjoy the outdoors but at more of a safe distance from the madding, potentially infected crowds. Philadelphia has prohibited vehicular access along a four-mile stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, a generally busy riverside road within West Fairmount Park that, under normal circumstances, is closed to vehicles only during limited hours on weekends. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said in a press release that pedestrianizing the street full-time is “in the interest of facilitating social distancing among trail users.” Kenney’s office went on to note that the city “strongly encourages residents to stay indoors as much as possible” but “recognizes that physical activity is important to well being.” In San Francisco, pedestrian advocacy groups are pressing the city to close off certain streets to vehicular traffic, already dramatically reduced in numerous on-lockdown cities, so that pedestrians can exercise and get around while at a remove from their fellow fresh air-seekers. The idea has garnered support from local officials although no plans have been formalized. As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, safe streets advocate Patrick Traughber has even crowd-sourced a number of streets—Divisadero Street, Valencia Street, John. F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, and Haight Street among them—that would particularly benefit from 24/7 traffic closures during the pandemic. “You absolutely have to walk in the street to pass people,” said Traughber. “Since the streets have car traffic, it’s a dangerous situation. It feels like we could convert some of the road capacity to walk while the car traffic is down.” Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced a four-day street closure test-run in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. The shuttered streets, totaling 1.6 miles of over 6,000 miles of roadway in the city, include Park Avenue between East 28th and East 34th streets in Midtown Manhattan; Bushwick Avenue from Johnson Avenue to Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 34th Avenue from 73rd Street to 80th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens; and Grand Concourse between East Burnside and 184th Streets in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx. Staten Island has been excluded from the pilot. “Everyone wants to make sure there are spaces for folks to get their exercise, to get fresh air, there must be enforcement,” said de Blasio. “It has to be places the NYPD and other agencies can enforce effectively.” While limiting vehicular traffic on New York City streets—even if just limited stretches of them—is the long-held dream of safe street advocates, de Blasio’s plan has been greeted with a mixed reception. Some have criticized the limited nature of the scheme and the fact that it will only be enforced nine hours a day from 10:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. Because the number of street sections being closed off to traffic is minuscule compared to the total amount of roadway in the city that could potentially be made off-limits to cars during the duration of the pandemic while not interfering with the movement of emergency vehicles, there are concerns that the sheer number of people congregating in the sparse car-free streets could devolve into an out-of-control health hazard. Simply put, some think de Blasio, who also has temporarily banned contact sports like basketball at city parks and threatened to shut down playgrounds, should have thought much, much bigger. Outside of streets closing off to traffic, other outdoor venues are making themselves more available to cooped-up residents who want to be outside but are wary of the overcrowding seen in parks large and small. Brooklyn’s sprawling, stunning Green-Wood Cemetery, for example, plans to extend its public hours starting in April in order to accommodate an influx of visitors. The historic 500-acre cemetery, located not too far from Prospect Park, hopes that its strict existing rules prohibiting activities like dog-walking, bicycling, and jogging will make it a more attractive destination to social distance-observing New Yorkers simply looking to enjoy long, quiet solo walks. “Green-Wood was designed to be a different kind of experience,” Lisa Alpert, Green Wood’s vice president of development and programming, told the New York Times. “It’s a more contemplative, less recreational one, intended to connect people with nature, and we are especially happy now to serve as a green space for people to get away.” As Sara Bronin, an attorney, architect, and advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote in a recent op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now is the time for urban green spaces—specifically spacious urban green spaces that aren’t as easily prone to overcrowding—to shine. After all, many of America’s great historic city parks and rural cemeteries like Green-Wood were expressly created in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries as places for city dwellers to escape cramped residential neighborhoods and the rampant infectious diseases such as tuberculosis that spread through them. “The scale of these carefully-designed grand parks, and the ambitions of their designers, far surpass the vision behind the small-minded ‘pocket parks’ local leaders seem to favor today,” opined Bronin. “Other communities should restore the grand historic parks that are getting us through the current crisis and will serve as vibrant places of social cohesion long after COVID-19 is conquered,” continued Bronin, singling out Philadelphia and Hartford, Connecticut, as two cities dedicated to preserving its historic park infrastructure. “Special attention should be paid to equity and ensuring that investments are spread fairly across neighborhoods. Let’s do what we can to renew our commitment to those places that are giving so much right now to our bodies, hearts, and spirits.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Two-faced office building approved by Glendale City Council

On January 21, the City Council of Glendale, California, unanimously approved the construction of a daringly-designed office building from the Los Angeles-based architecture firm P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S and Santa Monica-based Sharif, Lynch: Architecture. When complete, the Janoian Building will be the new home of All For Health, Health For Alla local community health center began in 1999 by Dr. Noobar Janoian, and will include rentable office space, ground-floor retail, and a small amenity space in the terrace. As approved, Glendale residents can expect to see a 5-story, 70-foot-tall complex rise on the site. The five-story building’s shifting character on the corner of Broadway and Isabel Street is designed to visually connect the urban promenade of the stylistically-diverse Glendale Civic Center. “Responding to the brief of providing a commercial office building in a very formal context,” the architects explained, “the project aims to construct an authentic dichotomic image: one that can be confused for a strange civic building, too mute to be publicly engaged, but yet too eccentrically unusual to be privately used.” The building's irregularly-striated brise-soleil system and exterior voids along Isabel Street contrast the smooth, unbroken glass facade to break up the structure's otherwise imposing presence. A series of exterior soffits and cantilevers unify the building’s envelope while adding continuous open balconies accessible via the medical office spaces. The health center will be set back along Isabel Street to make room for a small pocket park, for which Armenian artist Zadik Zadikian was commissioned to create a public mural as a backdrop that reflects the community’s diverse citizenship. Construction on the Janoian Building will begin this summer and is expected to be completed by late next year.
Placeholder Alt Text

London developer could turn Victorian gasholder into an alligator farm

As South East London's Old Kent Road area undergoes a massive redevelopment, several ideas have been tossed around regarding what to do with its centerpiece, a towering gasholder remaining from the Victorian era. Followers of the project have snapped to attention in light of the latest announcement: Developer Avanton is recruiting architects to sink their teeth into designing London’s first alligator farm. Maccreanor Lavington, Patel Taylor, and Farrells are the firms working with Avanton to explore the feasibility of the project, according to a report byBuilding Design. Avanton’s project information describes the park is the “green heart” of the larger Ruby Triangle, Avanton’s extensive mixed-use development of the Old Kent Road area in South East London. The result will be five new buildings with a total of 1,152 residential units, as well as commercial space and a community sports and recreation center. The gasholder stands at the center of the park zone, and while it has been defunct for more than ten years, Avanton plans to keep the 160-foot metal skeleton as a tribute to the heyday of the Old Kent Road gasworks industry in the mid-19th century. The frame would be outfitted with glass and essentially converted into a circular conservatory with a 65-foot-deep water feature. This type of enclosure would allow the park, along with its accompanying educational facility and visitor’s center, to remain open to visitors year-round. While the alligator farm is just one of at least three distinct park concepts for the area, it has understandably caught the attention of many who wonder what a public space of this nature might look like. In a statement to Londonist, Katheryn Wise of World Animal Protection expressed concern:
“Not only is the busy and noisy environment of a property on the Old Kent Road no place for a wild animal, the transportation and handling of these alligators is likely to cause them unnecessary stress, fear and anxiety. Wild animal exploitation to boost the profits of a property developer is the wrong message to be sending and we are urging the company to rethink their decision.”
Alligators require warm, humid climates not just to survive, but also to reproduce and feel at ease within their habitat. In a press statement, Avanton claimed that it treats all environmental and ethical implications seriously, and the project will not move forward without consulting the appropriate experts. All of the park concepts are currently under discussion with Southwark Borough Council, and commentary will soon open up to a public forum.
Placeholder Alt Text

MVRDV to redevelop Seoul waterfront as sprawling urban park

Rotterdam-based MVRDV is no stranger to the Seoul area. Its 2018 addition to the Paradise City development, dubbed The Imprint, provided an abstract boost for the colossal entertainment complex near South Korea’s largest airport. This month it was announced the firm won a competition for the major redesign of the Tencheon valley and waterfront in Seoul with "The Weaves," set to begin construction in 2021. The Weaves site is located on a large stretch of waterfront land between Seoul’s former Olympic stadium in the Jamsil District and the central business district of Gangnam. In an area dominated by elevated roadways and parking lots, MVRDV plans to turn our attention to the natural landscape, focusing on three major aspects in its design: natural ecosystems, pedestrian access, and space for public programming. “Seoul is taking amazing steps to transform grey and obsolete infrastructure into lively green and social spaces," said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas in a press release. "The Weaves is a design that introduces natural landscape combined with exceptional, varied access. It also responds to the local identity. Jamsil is known for its history of silk production and the design recalls the tangled silk threads of its past in a unique and playful way. It becomes an intertwining poem where movement becomes landscape poetry.” Major plans include returning the Tancheon river to a more naturalistic state, changing it from a straight canal to a whimsical, meandering stream with retention pools, islands, and aquatic plants to “blur the boundary between land and water.” Additionally, a series of winding paths will allow pedestrian access throughout the site from various points. These graded, intersecting paths will form plazas with cafes and amphitheaters to accommodate vast public programs. Construction of The Weaves is expected to take approximately three years, with projected completion in 2024.
Placeholder Alt Text

James Corner Field Operations-designed addition to the Presidio moves forward

The Presidio in San Francisco, a 1,480-acre park and former US Army military fort on the northwest tip of the city, is about to receive a relatively small but notable addition. A “groundmaking” ceremony was held on November 7 for The Tunnel Tops, a 14-acre addition to the Presidio designed by international landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations (JCFO). The new addition will rest on top of the Presidio Parkway tunnels to reconnect Crissy Field and the rest of the park following their separation for nearly 80 years and will include a three-acre play area, connecting pathways, extensive gardens with native vegetation, and elevated overlooks with unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The design makes use of the steep slopes required to clear the tunnels with the inclusion of seating steps molded from the lawn (named “The Presidio Steps” by the firm), viewing terraces, and an open plaza with a large unprogrammed platform. Given its solid foundation, a campfire site along the edge of the addition named the "campfire circle" is designed to support the growth of native trees, allowing the site to become thickly forested over time. “The iconic setting is perfect for transforming highway infrastructure into a vibrant new public space,” said James Corner. JCFO began designing The Tunnel Tops in 2014 following a community conversation that ensured the project would “offer residents and visitors alike an inclusive and safe space in which to connect with the great outdoors,” according to the park’s official website. More than 10,000 people participated in workshops and tours of the site to offer insights into how the remade areas could become a significant addition to the historic park. James Corner Field Operations has been behind some of the most imaginative landscape projects across America in the 21st century, including Santa Monica’s Tongva Park and New York City’s High Line. The Tunnel Tops is anticipated to open to the public in 2021.
Placeholder Alt Text

Tulsa's Gathering Place aims for reconciliation

What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and Hunter’s Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Gathering Place park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the product of a dream of 77-year-old billionaire philanthropist George Kaiser and of several decades-long experiments by the landscape architecture team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). What Kaiser originally intended to be a series of riverfront “gathering spots” to activate the city has become a singular, whimsical, and lush 66.5-acre landscape that has attracted over 2.8 million people since opening last year. AN spoke with Scott Streeb, Matt Urbanski, and Michael Voelkel at MVVA about designing the park and sourcing materials both locally and globally for “the most complex topography [they] have ever done.” Taking cues from fanciful and innovative European playgrounds, their goal was to turn several desolate plots of land into an inclusive, truly one-of-a-kind environment. By many accounts, they succeeded; this summer, TIME listed the park as one of the greatest places in the world.

Beyond its ambitious design agenda, Gathering Place has also aimed to unify the historically segregated city. Tulsa was formally settled in 1836 and by the 20th century had earned the nickname “the Oil Capital of the World.” Money from the energy business flowed into the city, bringing with it a serious construction boom during the Art Deco era. Despite growing prosperity, race relations were tense. In 1921, white crowds rioted for 16 hours in the affluent neighborhood of Greenwood, then known as Black Wall Street, killing local residents and destroying black-owned businesses and buildings. It was one of the worst attacks on African Americans in U.S. history, and Tulsa still hasn’t fully recovered.

Gathering Place is being marketed as a space where the region’s diverse communities can come together. A decade ago, in talks between MVVA and the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), key decisions were made to engage Tulsans in their vision for the future 100-acre landscape and to raise expectations of what 21st-century parks can do.

Funding

Over 80 philanthropic and corporate donors, including GKFF, funded the entirety of the $465 million park. Though built with private dollars, Gathering Place is a public park: GKFF donated it to the River Parks Authority, the city and county agency in charge of public riverfront parks, in 2014, through Title 60, a public trust law. River Parks now owns both the land and the park and oversaw the five-year construction effort.

Land

Gathering Place takes up four disparate, flat parcels of land along Riverside Drive, the adjacent four-lane commuter highway, that were purchased in 2009 by GKFF for $50 million. At the northern end was once a 35-acre estate owned by oil entrepreneur B. B. Blair. The historic Blair Mansion, built in 1952, was torn down in 2014 after a failed attempt by its previous owner to relocate the building. Two large-scale apartment complexes south of the site, totaling 494 units on 14 acres, were also demolished and its residents displaced to make way for a construction staging area. GKFF offered to pay for those affected to receive mental health services. Phase 2 of the park’s design will be built out in this location, south of the skate park (shown below) and will include a $45 million children’s museum by local firm KKT Architects, as well as a $24 million pedestrian bridge by MVVA.

Playground Equipment

MVVA and German playground manufacturer Richter Spielgeräte designed the park’s custom swings, water-play and sensory equipment, elephant slide, and four fantastical wooden castles that stand 30 feet in height. Danish design company Monstrum shaped additional wooden playscapes to look like the great blue herons (pictured here) and paddlefish found along the Arkansas River. The 160 playground structures and their installation cost about $11.5 million.

Plantings

In 2011, two years before construction began, MVVA began tagging around 600 existing trees on-site, some up to 200 years old, in an effort to monitor their health, and preserve and restore them. The firm then brought in 5,789 new trees sourced from over a dozen nurseries, two in Oklahoma and others in Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, and New York. The cohort includes over 90 species of evergreen and deciduous trees. Nearly 120 species of shrubs and over 200 species of perennials were selected as well and had to be stored in a greenhouse for up to three years before planting.

Buildings

There are three buildings on-site by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. The ONEOK Boathouse features a roof canopy made of 130 fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels in the shape of flying sails. The rest of the three-story building, which includes a steel and concrete frame, has floor-to-ceiling glass panels that Vitro Architectural Glass created using raw material and sand from Mill Creek, Oklahoma. Williams Lodge, the 25,000-square-foot structure that serves as an entrance to the park, blends into its surrounding landscape with native sandstone from Haskell County. These massive boulders integrated into the design range from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Hardscaping

There are over 20 different surface materials used at Gathering Place, including eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas sandstone in various hues. In total, the walkways used 4,500 cubic yards of fill excavated from just across the Arkansas River. The stones that flank the entrance paths are also from an in-state quarry, similar to those found in the Four Season Garden, a series of rock towers, pictured below.

Terraforming

MVVA took 450,000 cubic yards of silt from the Arkansas River to create the 40 feet of grade change in the park necessary to bridge over Riverside Drive. Ohio-based engineering company Contech fabricated a set of precast concrete arches off-site in Broken Arrowhead, Oklahoma, that support the two 300-foot-long land bridges that help the park seamlessly connect to the waterfront.

Transit

Riverside Drive was shut down in July 2015 and reopened in September 2018 after construction ended. The City of Tulsa spent $40 million to widen and reconfigure the busy highway and for other infrastructure improvements, such as stormwater drainage and replacing sanitary sewers and water lines surrounding the site.

Because Gathering Place is located just five minutes south of downtown Tulsa and immediately west of the wealthier Maplewood Historic District, accessibility is an issue for nonsuburban communities. This summer, the park began providing free shuttle transportation to underserved neighborhoods in North Tulsa, scheduled to operate every other weekend.

Water

Because of the oppressive Tulsa heat, water plays a big role in the park, and its nearly-6-million-gallon central reservoir, Peggy’s Pond, serves as a source for irrigation. To create it, MVVA had to dig down to groundwater level, integrating 70 feet of grade change within the landscape. Wetland gardens at the northern end of the park work as a biofilter to clean the water that’s pumped out of the pond. Parking lot and highway runoff is also filtered through the gardens, and then through two large cisterns and below-grade, natural filtration basins. Wells throughout the site pull up clean water and redistribute it through the pond.

Maintenance

Half of the money raised went to capital investment and the other half created a $100 million endowment for the continued operations and maintenance of the landscape for the next 99 years. GGP Parks, LLC, is a subsidiary of the River Parks Authority that operates out of GKFF and coordinates the over 450 volunteers that help the park run every day. So far, both individuals and groups have completed 11,300 hours of volunteer work. There are also 200 full-time and part-time employees who specialize in horticulture, programming, community engagement, food service, and more. An underground maintenance warehouse spanning nearly 1 acre was built to house facilities management off-site.

Labor

Columbus, Kansas–based construction company Crossland took over the build-out efforts from Manhattan Construction in 2015 when initial preconstruction, utility, and dirt work was done. Since the park’s groundbreaking, any day sees upward of 150 to 500 people laboring across 27 work zones and 12 play areas. A total of $10.3 million was paid to both contractors, and 3.7 million man-hours were worked on-site.

Security

Over the last year, Gathering Place partnered with a local charity group, John 3:16, and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa to help employees and security teams better understand how to engage with the city’s homeless community. The park is open to all and does not operate fully in the late evening or early morning, but does welcome the homeless throughout the day.

Placeholder Alt Text

Oklahoma City completes first phase of its $132 million, 70-acre downtown park

As of this fall, Oklahoma City can boast the beginnings of an impressive 70-acre public park designed by Hargreaves Associates right in the city’s downtown core. Scissortail Park, the 36-acre first phase of which opened in late September, is a feat of publicly-funded, public space projects in a conservative city that has struggled to give itself an international name and offer its residents a more dynamic, urban environment. “It’s an aspirational park, in that it’s the kind of amenity that people in Oklahoma City used to imagine only existing in other places,” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt told Citylab The $132 million park includes a lake and boathouse, a five-acre lawn with a main stage and seating for 25,000 people, playgrounds, woodlands, gardens, promenades, dog parks, and event pavilions. In short, it's a major, long-awaited asset for the 1.25 million residents in the Oklahoma City metro region.  The landscaping design features circular plots, dubbed lens gardens, with plants varying from cactuses to grass. “We like to strike formal moves [that] are clearly discernible as manmade. These perfect circles appeared within the field of ‘nature.’ [But] this is not nature. This is a made place. [It’s] form-giving to make a place memorable,” Mary Margaret Jones, senior principal at Hargreaves, told Citylab. Visitors are also met with a glowing 45-foot-tall tower designed by Butzer Architects and Urbanism, evoking a campfire in reference to the city’s place in the history of westward expansion and colonization.  While the opening on September 27 marked the completion of the first section, construction on the second half is scheduled to begin in 2020. The completed park will be bisected by the I-40, with the already completed Scissortail Bridge connecting the upper and lower halves of the park. Extending from the downtown core to the shores of the Oklahoma River once completed, Scissortail Park will be a major achievement for the city’s “Core to Shore” agenda to urbanize the underutilized and disconnected downtown and riverfront area.  The project was funded by a unique tax scheme called Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) that was first enacted in 1993 to fund urban revitalization and improvement projects. MAPS, a temporary voter-approved one-cent sales tax, raised a total of  $777 million between 2010 and 2017, and the funds will be used to construct a convention center, streetcars, senior centers, and a host of urban space improvements, as well as completing Scissortail Park. In addition to being an achievement in itself, the park stands as a successful example of completing an ambitious public works project even in a conservative political climate. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Hunter’s Point South Park completes a Queens coastline years in the making

What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

The transformation of Hunter’s Point South in two phases from a contaminated strip of coast in Long Island City, Queens, to an ecologically sensitive 11-acre park was 11 years in the making. Stretching along the East River south of Gantry Plaza State Park and Steven Holl’s Hunter’s Point Community Library (see page 16), Hunter’s Point South Park sits on a conveniently sited piece of land that was neglected for decades before the park opened at the end of last year.

The park was designed by Thomas Balsley Associates (TBA; the firm became SWA/Balsley in 2016) and WEISS/MANFREDI to be a sustainable storm buffer and public green space for the new Hunter’s Point South development, a 5,000-unit housing complex on the southern shore of Long Island City.

The idea for Hunter’s Point South Park had been percolating long before plans for it officially started coming together in 2007. Thomas Balsley told AN that back in 1990, when Gantry Plaza State Park was being planned, he envisioned a whole-coast master plan that would stretch from Anable Basin in Long Island City (the site of Amazon’s failed HQ2 bid) all the way down to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (now home to a wastewater treatment plant known for its iconic “biodigester” eggs). To Balsley, Gantry Plaza State Park was supposed to be the start of a line of parks running down the Queens–Brooklyn shore. Design on Hunter’s Point South Park began in 2009, and Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi’s early sketches are remarkably close to what would be built nine years later.

The linear park provides views of the Manhattan skyline and has an amphitheater-like arrangement that also blocks noise from the busy Queens streets to the east. Because of tight siting requirements, budget constraints, and the harsh microclimate that the park has to endure, SWA/Balsley filled the site with resilient native salt-marsh plants. Besides acting as a natural flood buffer, the plants don’t require active irrigation, meaning none was built into the site. The plants also filter and clean the river, a job that Balsley likened to “acting as the park’s liver.”

Lighting

Arup was also responsible for specifying the park’s lighting fixtures. Most of the fixtures used were New York City Department of Transportation/Parks Department–standard pedestrian- and street-lighting poles and Holophane helm fixtures. Linear lighting by Wagner was used to illuminate the benches and overlook handrails and as uplighting. Step lights by Bega were integrated into the wooden furnishings and concrete walls. The nonstandard lighting features were all intended to be as minimal and unobtrusive as possible, so as not to detract from the landscape and views.

Structures

WEISS/MANFREDI was responsible for designing structures for both phases of the park, with Galvin Brothers serving as the general contractors. In Phase 1, that meant the 13,000-square-foot bent-steel pavilion that houses Parks Department offices, restrooms, and a COFFEED cafe at LIC Landing, the park’s ferry dock. Fabrication of the structure and canopies was done by Powell Steel Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which permanently closed in 2013. Stainless steel cladding came from Westfield Sheet Metal Works in Kenilworth, New Jersey.

For Phase 2, the towering steel overlook structure (below) was fabricated by Newport Industrial Fabrication in Newport, Maine, while the freestanding precast panel walls were fabricated by Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac (BPDL) in Alma, Quebec.

Furniture

The custom wood–slat lounge chairs and banquette seats and custom precast concrete benches were designed in-house by SWA/Balsley and WEISS/MANFREDI, with galvanized steel framing and Kebony USA–provided Kebonized southern yellow pine. Steel benches with aluminum seat dividers were provided by Landscape Forms and manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with raw materials mined from within 500 miles of the facility to reduce environmental impact.

Transportation

The park is easily accessible despite its coastal locale. It can be reached via the 7 train’s Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue station; by the Q103 bus via the Vernon Boulevard/49 Avenue stop; by the Long Island Rail Road, which stops at 49-13 Vernon Boulevard; by numerous street-level bike paths; by car; and via the Hunter’s Point South ferry landing.

Vegetation

Plant species were selected for their hardiness and nativity and include juniper trees and a variety of shrubs and grasses for the park’s bioswales. Besides cutting down on maintenance costs, the flora used by SWA/Balsley can thrive on the edge of a briny river, and hosts native fauna.  Plants were sourced from nurseries in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Infrastructure

Arup, which was responsible for the structural, civil, and bridge engineering of both phases, oversaw the installation of 7,500 feet of sanitary and storm sewers and 3,700 feet of water main.

Infill and hardscaping

Prior to the park’s construction, the site had been used in the 19th and 20th centuries as a dumping ground for soil excavated from rail-line construction sites around the city, and many portions of the site had since grown wild. To build out and sculpt the shoreline, existing infill was repurposed and moved to the water’s edge. Around the shore, board-formed and precast concrete walls were used to create the harder edges, while Jet Mist and Stony Creek granites mined from Stony Creek, Connecticut, were used for the riprap (below) and to fill in steel gabions.

Art

Because this was a city project, the NYCEDC was tasked with appointing an artistic consultant. After a search, Suzanne Randolph Fine Arts was chosen, which in turn picked Nobuho Nagasawa to create a site-specific installation. Seven photoluminescent sculptures resembling different phases of the moon were installed in 2017 in the winding, peninsula-like amphitheater forming a piece titled Luminescence. Each “moon” in the series was cast from Hydrocal, a mixture of plaster and portland cement.

Funding and Labor

In 2009, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) selected the project’s developer, TF Cornerstone, and TBA, which brought on WEISS/MANFREDI as collaborators. The project was split into two phases from the beginning. Phase 1 broke ground in January 2011 and opened in August 2013, after the NYCEDC spent $66 million for the 5.5-acre park and an accompanying 3,400 feet of linear roadway. Phase 2, which began construction in November 2015, opened at the end of June 2018, at a cost of $99 million. This 5.5-acre section, which came with another 3,500 linear feet of new roadways, was funded through the NYCEDC as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan, as the park fulfilled the green space requirement of the adjoining housing development and is intended to mitigate flood damage there in the event of a storm surge.

The NYCEDC shepherded the project through two mayoral administrations and hired the LiRo Group to act as construction manager for the build-out, which then subcontracted the actual construction to the Great Neck, Long Island–based Galvin Brothers. The standard design-bid-build process was used for both sections. Park maintenance is handled by the NYC Parks Department.