Going Places With Great Spaces

Going Places With Great Spaces

Adequate seating, shade, fabulous foliage and fountains are some of the elements
that add up to create a mini destination at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. How landscape architects, growers and horticulturists interpret that message was the main topic of discussion during the 2008 Magic of Landscapes event held in early May at Disney’s Epcot in Orlando, Fla.

Housed by Epcot and presented by Cherry Lake Tree Farm in conjunction with partner organizations — Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association, Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, American Horticultural Society (AHS), Florida Department of Transportation, Urban Land Institute Orlando and Rollins College — the goal of the program is to communicate and quantify the value of landscapes.

“This conference is about celebrating landscaping, best practices and good ideas,” says Katy Moss Warner of AHS, who also serves on the Magic of Landscapes board and America In Bloom board.

Timothy Sallin, director of business development and marketing for Cherry Lake Tree Farm in Groveland, Fla., and chairman of the event, agrees. He says some of the trends that took root from 2004 to 2006, such as great placemaking and sustainability, are blossoming today despite the volatile economic climate. “Even though the market has slowed a bit, these trends are accelerating,” he says. 

Personal Space

According to Philip Myrick, vice president for New York-based Project For Public Spaces, placemaking is the process of turning a neighborhood, city or town from a place you can’t wait to get through to one you never want to leave. Project For Public Spaces, a nonprofit urban planning and design organization, improves park plazas, civic squares, transportation markets and public buildings.

Myrick says people and their relationship to public spaces is an aspect his organization focuses on. “As landscape architects, these are some of your key opportunities to draw attention to your artform, to bring the benefit of what you know to the world and demonstrate the value of what it is you do,” he says.

Getting from point A to point Z in the placemaking process can be as simple as understanding people, but that’s not easy. “We probably understand the habitat of lowland gorillas and various species of plants better than we understand or study our own behavior,” he says.

Understanding people’s wants and needs is paramount for landscape architects and horticulturists, especially with the majority of public spaces lacking in form and function. “If you look around, and this is true in so many places where we live in this country, you don’t have any places to savor,” Myrick says.  

Destination Sensation

Much time and hard work goes into planning and planting great gardens and landscapes for parks and public spaces. Myrick says a big chunk of that time needs to be taken to figure out how to attract people to an outdoor space and how people are going to use it. “The amenity, the details and the choreography really add up to the experience and all the things you have to think about when you’re trying to create one,” he says.

Given the event’s subject matter, the Epcot venue served as an appropriate backdrop. Myrick says one can learn from Disney’s wizardry of creating world-class attractions. “We need to get that smart sense in thinking of your places as attractions not only in one dimension or another but as holistic attractions,” he says.

But what is considered good attraction? Myrick says a horticultural display itself is a use and attractive, but it really has to stand out. “It better be built up to the point where we’re calling it a magnificent garden, then it becomes a use,” he says.  

Give ‘Em Reasons To Stay

There are basic principles placemakers can use when executing a great design concept for public spaces and parks. But when it comes down to it, Myrick says it really is a numbers game. “You probably need 10 destinations or attractions inside that park for me to go there,” he says.

Simple, functional things, like places to sit, adequate shade provided by trees, fountains, gardens and trash cans, when coordinated properly, can help create little destinations. This thought process is part of what Myrick calls triangulation. The idea is clustering things together where one thing leads to another. He assures this method can be applied to any project.

“Street trees become an amenity,” he says. “Every street furnishing is part of the microclimate. If you start to think of it that way, you can create an experience on these subtle levels all the way up to the bonanza levels.”

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