Friday, December 3, 2010
As always I am thinking about gardening and forever evaluating gardens that I see and that includes the public spaces. As we left Brisbane nearly 20 years ago it continues to be a bit of a shock to see how it has changed and how the hard landscaping of parks and walk ways has reduced all the delightful soft edges.The low maintenance landscaping approach to parks where large areas of concrete are strategically laid out, repetitive plantings are in designated areas and teamed with the ubiquitious street art has been taken to the extreme. In fact there now seems to be very few untouched park spaces that haven't had this treatment. Every park seems to have a monumental playground of colourful tubular steel and plastic and these more often than not require a man made shade where a tree has been removed. Do the adults who design these playgrounds assume that children are incapeable of entertaining themselves in a more natural setting?
I recently was lamenting this fact with Maurice Wilson at the Garden History dinner and we identified Moora Park in Shorncliffe as a case in point. It now has a very elaborate and large playground down at the beach and while it is interesting and well used it has significantly blocked access and changed the site.
As a child I played in the sand and swam in the shark proofed enclosure. Hours were spent climbing the cotton trees, playing on the cliffs and walking along the groins and the pier. By always offering up a ready made play environment to children we may just be reducing the opportunities for them to use their imaginations and to be closer to nature.
Up until this "park scaping"you would go to Moora Park ,to be at the beach and it really didn't need anything else.Who thought that it was a good idea to improve on nature?
As for soft edges and soft landings there is nothing like grass to walk,run and play on and I really hope that more grassy areas are saved. The City Hall landscaping proves that you can take a functioning place where people used to sit and turn it into a hostile no mans land where people are effectively discouraged from being there.
In my opinion the city council should go a step further and rip up the Queens Street Mall and put back the road. This would reduce the places for people to linger and free up the flow of traffic too.
The Queens Street Mall and others in capital cities around Australia tend to follow the same formula of paving, small garden features,a few trees and the occassional kiosk. They are not welcoming places,rapidly become run down and degenerate and do not work well.
On the positive side I do like the Roma Street Parklands and the old Botanical Gardens and elements of sub tropical plantings could easily be echoed in the city square. We have an ideal climate in Queensland to introduce a lot of colourful ,hardy plants to the street scapes and with less emphasis on paved walkways could have a softer Brisbane.