The Urban Park
MSS 03 - 28 - 2010

No matter where a city resides, it shares a common property with all other cities of the world. A city is for people, and most importantly, pedestrians. The world's largest cities all started as dense communities because they had to be walkable. When methods of transportation began to improve, urban areas began to spread out. Today we can see this familiar pattern across America, where urban areas extend into suburban areas that only vehicles can effectively traverse. Although Europe has the same growth and transportation patterns, its cities hold on to a deeper history where automobiles were never present. Where there is open space in the European inner-city, there is space for pedestrians. In Vienna, Austria, I made it a point to see the regions of our map that were highlighted in green. While this color often suggests park space, it also includes paved plazas and tree-lined boulevards. Green is the pedestrian's color. The largest green block on the inner-city Vienna map is covered by pathways, surrounded by streets, and intersected by a canal. Called Stadtpark, this pedestrian space is especially significant because of its close proximity to the old town. On World Tour, we have not seen such a large public park closer to a city's main commercial center. This open space is not just left over, but planned as part of a rich pedestrian network. Stadtpark is successful because of the way it meshes with the urban fabric around it. Not more than a ten minute walk from St. Stephan's Cathedral and the center of Vienna's commercial district, the park lies just outside the city's inner ring boulevard. This tree-lined street is equipped with tram and bus lanes as well as bike lanes. Additionally, at the park's northern and southern corners are stations for two different lines of the 'Underground'. Finding a way to get to Stadtpark is never a challenge - there are even several underground parking areas just across the street. Among the many buildings surrounding the park are offices, university buildings, museums, restaurants, and theaters. In this bustling corner of Vienna, Stadtpark is definitely the greatest attraction outside of the pedestrian streets. After only a short time, it was easy to tell that the park's success lies in the diversity of activities it offers. While most people were walking or sitting along the web of pathways, many others were running or playing catch on a grassy knoll. Many people were drawn to the duck pond at the park's center. Sausage and ice cream stands were set up both inside and outside of the park, encouraging people to stop for a snack during their visit. Along the canal, an accordion player performed as people walked over the suspension bridge to the other side. There, children were playing soccer and basketball on several courts, while others skated at the skatepark. For the youngsters, there was a small-scale playground packed with mothers and toddlers. Because there were so many activities, the crowd at the park was incredibly diverse. Vienna's Stadtpark creates a place where residents and tourists alike can escape from busy city life. Whether they are strolling by, gathering with old friends, or picnicking, the park is one of the city's best places to be on a sunny day. People seem to use its spaces by their own design, designating which spaces are most suitable for the activities they love best. The high quality found in Stadtpark is not so much the fine details of design. Rather, that quality is in the usable, picturesque open space beside a busy commercial district. In this sense, the city and the park depend on each other to be the rich, vibrant places they are today.

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