My most recent assignment for Green Cities was to design and illustrate a plan for a new green space, taking up a large rectangular segment of land at the front of the campus. Currently it's a wildflower field -- it was recently mowed but usually it's overgrown with local plants.
After the images is my essay explaining the park, cut and edited for presenting as a blog post.
I really like the field as it exists, and wanted to leave a lot of room for natural growth. So, I started by putting bridges over the space, where people could go and stand out over the field, which would be unnavigably thickly grown.
I felt like that wasn’t interesting enough, though. The design I had felt like it could be a site of complex exploration and mystery, but the actual paths available didn’t actually sustain that feeling. So I added paths on the ground.
I also decided to attempt to plan where the water in the space would flow. Ideally I’d like to bring in a part of a nearby river’s flow and run it under the tower at the front of the space, where I’d also add a micro hydro power plant, then directing the water back out to the Connecticut River, probably by way of the Fort River, but I couldn’t quickly find sufficiently detailed water maps of the area so I gave up on that for the purposes of this design.
For accessibility, I made sure that there are no areas that don’t have at least one paved road leading to them, and each platform has at least one bridge leading to it that’s roughly set up to accommodate the ramp incline standard of 1 inch rise per 12 inches run, though if I were actually planning this for construction I’d spend a lot more time making sure I got that right. There would also be an elevator in the algae tower, as well as stairs.
Each of the platforms is large enough to accommodate a whole class at a time. The largest, highest platform, on top of the algae tower, contains an amphitheater and a garden.
The garden would be planted and maintained so that the canopy it creates is roughly level with the top of the amphitheater, as if the treetops were the surface of a lake.
The algae tower is a two-story tall algae-powered light. Other smaller lights throughout the park will also be algae powered. Inside the tower would be an aquaponics lab and classroom, and, if the river works, a hydro electric plant that also provides power to the college.
I hope that the partial ceiling of the bridges, tall grass and large plants on the edges of the paths, student art, and the watery green light of the lamps, makes people wandering the lower park feel like they’re in a bottle universe that’s even further separate from the world than the college is, and is definitely profoundly separate from the bridges above: Ideally I want them to feel like two different parks.
(In writing it’s occurring to me that I could strongly accentuate this effect by building frames around the entryways to the lower park that form thresholds to entry -- you couldn’t go around them because of the overgrown grass, so they might create a very mystical feeling, and give students the opportunity to tangibly leave their external sense of stress outside the park as they pass into it.)
The bridges, on the other hand, would be designed to give a very strong sense of presence in the Hampshire campus and its surroundings. If the lower park is meant to be like stepping out of the map, then the upper is meant to be like stepping up to look at it.
If possible, they’d be accoustically designed to direct sound well within themselves, but not out; people standing on the ground or on another disc shouldn’t be able to clearly hear two people speaking to each other at a normal volume on another disc. This would be good for classes held on the discs, and for privacy, and to preserve the sense of otherworldliness on the ground.