Emerald Networks: Reviving the Legacy of City Parks
Visionaries behind some of America's greatest urban park systems imagined the squares, rings, and axes of green space for the people of cities like Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston, Raleigh, Hartford, and Minneapolis. However, they could hardly anticipate the ensuing demographic changes, financial challenges, and environmental concerns that would impact the role these spaces play in contemporary city life.
Cities and the societies that define them have evolved. Civic priorities and economic realities have changed too—such that maintaining large expanses of green space has become a burdensome expenditure for many municipalities. Today's city dwellers seek a diversity of easily-accessible greens for sport, social gatherings, civic functions, concerts, farmer's markets, and a whole range of other uses. The historic park network plans of the past emphasized acquisition of land to protect it from development in eras of urban growth. This resulted in beautiful pastoral escapes from the urban environment but it takes significant investment to keep them lush, beautiful, and safe. Park planners and city governments are trying to cultivate green spaces that make the most sense for new urban uses.
How can we pay homage to and leverage the best of the past while reorienting park systems to better meet our needs today and in years to come?
Emerald Networks: Reviving the Legacy of City Parks is an upcoming exhibition at Northeastern University curated by a team of Sasaki park planning experts. The exhibition presents the trajectory of historic park legacies from their conception to present, exploring what evolution toward the future might look like. The exhibit asks, given the rich history of legacy park plans developed by the likes of Daniel Burnham, William Christmas, Horace Cleveland, Pierre L'Enfant, and Frederick Law Olmsted, where do we take the park systems of the future? How can we pay homage to and leverage the best of the past while reorienting park systems to better meet our needs today and in years to come?
The exhibit opens on March 24 and will be on view through the end of April. Visitors will learn about the six cities mentioned above as prime examples of cities with legacy park system plans. In addition to the social and economic changes impacting modern-day park uses, many of the park system plans in cities across the country were never fully realized. For example, Emerald Necklace park systems are left unlinked, missing gems that would have allowed continuous circulation throughout a city. This exhibition provides examples of innovative new projects in each studied city that offer different, yet respectful approaches to park systems that suit new populations with new needs.
Sasaki principal Gina Ford, ASLA, promises the exhibit will be "a celebration of the amazing legacy of these incredible urban park systems, but also a critical discussion of how we can honor and preserve them within changing cultural contexts."
Sasaki extends a warm invitation to join us at this opening celebration and talk, which is free and open to the public. In addition to the historical overviews of legacy frameworks and new projects from a host of park planning design firms that creatively re-envision park systems, the exhibition features an interactive engagement with visitors about how Boston's park system, in particular, can move forward.
Details about the exhibition's opening event can be found below.
Exhibition Opening Night Details
Join us for a celebration and opening remarks
from Sasaki principal Gina Ford, ASLA, and associate Laura Marett, ASLA,
members of the curatorial team.
Cities with park systems designed by historic visionaries are endowed with a legacy of generous, well-connected open spaces. However, the financial pressures facing today's cities, along with new thinking...