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Creating Cities/Building Cities

Architecture and Urban Competitiveness

Peter K. Kresl and Daniele Ietri

For the past 150 years, architecture has been a significant tool in the hands of city planners and leaders. In Creating Cities/Building Cities, Peter Karl Kresl and Daniele Ietri illustrate how these planners and leaders have utilized architecture to achieve a variety of aims, influencing the situation, perception and competitiveness of their cities.
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Chapter 5: Creating transformative parks

Architecture and Urban Competitiveness

Peter K. Kresl and Daniele Ietri

Extract

The Austrian Camillo Sitte celebrated Italian cities because of the fact that squares got in the way of straight streets leading the pedestrian endlessly and boringly through the city. In the US, while early Northern cities had streets that were determined more by topography and the contour of a port than anything else, by the time we get to Midtown Manhattan and post-fire Chicago the Savannah grid had become the standard. But there was still a desire to break up the monotony of the grid and to create some beauty and respite from endless straight streets. From the mid-19th century on, there was a desire to give access to green spaces to lower income, working class residents of the city and to immigrants. Frederick Olmsted, and other landscape planners, stressed the need for trees to “disinfect” the city air and for parks to improve the health of city residents. Louis Wirth, among others, argued that living in the densely populated urban setting would generate a sense of alienation; parks were seen by many as a way to ameliorate this malaise. In all cities parks were created; Central Park in New York, and the lakefront parks and Grant Park in Chicago created a place of recreation and pleasure accessible to all the city’s residents. In addition large cities had dozens of smaller parks. The well-known urban parks in Europe are largely the result of initiatives far earlier than the period considered in this book – from the 1870s on.

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