I have decided to read Jane Jacobs to better understand how the city functions. “Cities are thoroughly physical places. In seeking understanding of their behavior, we get useful information by observing what occurs tangibly and physically, instead of sailing off on metaphysical fancies,” (Jacobs 96).
Neighborhood parks are a reflection of the community around it. A park can further depress the vacuity or enhance the vibrant city life. In conventional city planning, if open space is allocated and the park is built, then the people will come. The park is intrinsically successful. The “More Open Space” virtue trumps any further look into the mixed uses of the neighborhood and the demand goods of the people. Jacobs argues against this idea articulating that park behavior is complex and dynamic. Changes over time, (changes in the surrounding uses of the neighborhood) can swing the park into popularity and unpopularity. She throws out the idea that park space priority is to be the “lungs of the city.” The greater ocean and weather currents do more to affect the air-pollution quality than parkland does to absorb carbon dioxide. She warns against parks whose only function is to please the eyes. A park’s goal, as Jacob writes, is to bring people into it and engage with the landscape, built and natural, steadily throughout the daylight hours. Parks can be successful in a public-yard fashion using four elements: intricacy, centering, sun and enclosure. A park must be intricate to allow many uses and for a person to get lost in it, though it does not have to be large. “If the whole thing can be absorbed in a glance, like a good poster… the park affords little stimulation to all the differing uses and moods,” (Jacobs 104). Like good neighborhood structure, a park must have convergence to center; a meeting place, a climax. Interaction between users of the park happens here. Light is important to the health of the park. Shade from summer’s piercing rays is also needed. But a park that wallows in the shadow of a tall building will certainly not invite users. Buildings are needed for a feeling of enclosure. Users need to feel inside the park to find respite from the city. Clear shape of park and not-park is important. Many generalized parks are built without thought to these four elements, and thus are unable to justify themselves. Go on, let go in a functional neighborhood park!