Optimizing Outdoors: 10 Pivotal Parks

Optimizing Outdoors: 10 Pivotal Parks

Optimizing Outdoors:
10 Pivotal Parks

Whether a discrete intervention or a sweeping, large-scale gesture, parks and open space are an integral part of the identity and infrastructure of great cities. Multiple factors go into making a great park, regardless of the scale. Pivotal landscapes are multifunctional, memorable, and impactful.   Here are ten SWA landscapes that have transformed their constituent cities.

1. Reclaiming the Edge

With views across the East River to Manhattan, Hunters Point South Waterfront Park transforms a moribund industrial site into a natural retreat, one that doubles as resilient flood control.  This award-winning park sets the stage for a major affordable housing development in metropolitan New York City, and offers active and passive recreation for residents and visitors alike.

2. Upcycling Infrastructure

Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston, Texas, is forged from abandoned floodway property beneath a tangle of freeway infrastructure.   Today it is the city’s signature open space, offering active and passive recreation.  Designed to flood, the park has withstood 100-year storms, improved surrounding property values and is a case study in resilience.

3. Preserving Nature

In Shenzhen, a Chinese city renowned for its design leadership, Guanming Trail offers a dramatic natural counterpoint to the city it serves.  Here, a nature preserve is anchored with three signature bridges that are light on the land and give an elevated experience to this 2-million-square-meter open space.

4. Priming the Perimeter

On Shenzhen’s coast, Shekou Promenade carves an 8-kilometer journey along the city’s waterfront, providing open space relief for residents and an expression of the city’s maturation.  The design interprets and celebrates the site’s natural drama, fusing the area’s history as a fishing village with its contemporary role as the country’s cultural bellwether.

5. Parking Redefined

In Dallas, Texas, the strategic transformation of a parking lot into Pacific Plaza, a new community park, results in a new identity and vitality for the city, heralding its renaissance as a more livable city.

6. Reaching the River

Belgrade’s new waterfront promenade reawakens civic mojo by enabling people access to the River Sava, which had been blocked by deeply entrenched railroad infrastructure.  Today this formerly industrial water’s edge attracts families, food trucks, and contributions by local artists, and serves as a catalyst for community-building and major redevelopment.

7. Claiming the Coast

The experience of San Francisco has been forever influenced by the establishment of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which provides a natural frame for the urban fabric, conserves the dramatic coastline as part of the public realm, and reinforces the health of regional environmental systems.

8. Forging the Future

In Dubai, SWA designed all the open spaces for EXPO 2020, a world exposition that will be transformed, post-event, into a new thriving district for the City of Dubai, fulfilling its 2030 Vision.

9. Placing the Line

Improvements to Santa Monica’s beach promenade go beyond the safety measures of separating pedestrians from cyclists and creating clearly marked crossings; they introduce place-making elements.   Artful supergraphics, some as long as 70 feet, depicting “metrics of nature” (six flora and fauna representative of the local natural world) are sandblasted into the new paving at major trail crossings to help people understand where they are along the trail and to offer recognizable places to meet.  Robust trail and cycling networks are an increasingly important part of the urban public realm.

10. Transforming the Tracks

Dallas’ Katy Trail revives 3.5 miles of railway right-of-way, creating a verdant recreational trail that threads through the city.  This new connective greenway — replete with rest stops — enables walkers, runners and cyclists to experience the city’s neighborhoods without encountering cars.  Property values along the greenway have grown by more than 25 percent.

Landscape Works

The advent of a pandemic and the continuing consequences of climate change have given rise to new appreciation for how outdoor spaces influence the health of people and cities. Landscape offers respite for human mental and physical health, and, if thoughtfully designed, can double as natural infrastructure to help manage storm water, improve air quality, and offer meaningful habitat corridors.  We believe that parks and open spaces are as integral to a city’s infrastructure as streets and electric grids, and are passionate about designing imaginative and innovative outdoor spaces that improve people’s lives and help sustain natural systems.