Feature Article - November 2005
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Destination: Landscape

Nurturing visitor interest through creative park design

By Kelli Anderson

Got focus?

Whatever your landscape attraction, a focal point is a key element in good design. Water features and sculptures are certainly a great focal point that help to anchor a space. Delineating the space with trees, shrubbery and creating "rooms" for activity to take place will help make your landscaped spaces feel purposeful and welcoming.

Simple pleasures

Be sure to allow for some freedom within that intended purpose, however.

Over-designing can backfire as was the case described by Gellner about a well-meaning designer who observed chess play in a park as a popular pastime and decided to incorporate fixed stone chess tables and benches into the park space.

Much to the designer's surprise, chess playing suddenly ceased.

"Too much arm-twisting," Gellner concludes of the story. "People make it their own—they don't want to be told where to sit and eat."

Instead, like a child preferring to play with an empty box rather than the overly designed gee-whiz toy inside it, parks need to find designs that invite and entice and suggest.

More flexible designs feature cozy lawn areas, comfort zones (think concessions, restrooms and grass-scapes), surprising focal points in every "room," and beckoning paths and bridges to allow visitors to enjoy and play in these spaces on their own terms.

As a recent boom in the creations of rooftop gardens in urban areas suggest, people are craving landscaped spaces to relax, socialize and play. They are seeking the simple pleasures to combat the stresses of daily life.