Supplement Feature - April 2010
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Seven Guidelines to Creative Park Design

By Daniel P. Smith


While aerial shots and other images can be helpful, nothing replaces a trip to the proposed park siteā€”to be able to touch the soil, look at the sightlines and slopes, and assess existing drainage patterns.

Such site analysis allows the landscape architect to better understand the site characteristics (surrounding land uses and access points, for example), capability to support the proposed uses (Is the soil "structural enough" to be built upon?), and the views and relationships of adjacent land uses. The on-site analysis also offers a glimpse of the eye-level opportunities users will experience.

"As park designers and landscape architects, this type of analysis is central to our training and our work," Inman said.

In developing ProHealthCare Park in New Berlin, Wis., Burch's team had to adapt its original plans upon viewing the site firsthand. Originally planned to host more active recreational areas, the existing rolling topography, wetlands and endangered resource habitat offered the opportunity for more passive recreation activities, such as trails and boardwalks. That decision, Burch said, could not have been made from an aerial photograph or computer-generated image.

Inman believes designers should first go to the proposed site with zero presumptions, looking to leave with ideas in which the finished product can complement the existing land rather than overpower it. Subsequent trips, Inman suggested, present the chance to sketch ideas and assess a plan's viability.