Category Archives: Landscape Architecture
Our efforts yielded two big lessons. The first is that every improvement is a trade-off. Protecting bus lanes with concrete barriers, for example, would keep cars out, but it would also keep limited-stop buses from passing local ones. Our street incorporates a possible set of compromises. The second is that even simple tweaks imply a far-reaching organizational overhaul.
Many of these proposals are radical only in New York. Other cities — even big chaotic ones, like Barcelona and Paris — update their streets without losing their identities or going broke. When it comes to quality of life in the public realm, New York’s attitude should be competitive, not fatalistic.
It’s easy to forget that the street is the ultimate public open space, a space with the capacity to better serve many other functions if we can only agree to deprioritize the personal automobile. The proposals I enjoyed the most, and that I think have the biggest capacity for change in the shortest amount of time, are the continued reduction in automobile capacity by converting streets to plazas, and the dedication of micro-mobility spaces on every street.
We know that cities can be hectic, stressful places. We also know that green space can have a calming effect on people. But Olszewska is seeking to take our knowledge a step further — to enable designers and planners to maximize the serenity of urban green refuges.
The most contemplative landscapes are not necessarily the ones that people would claim to enjoy the most. More stimulating landscapes — brightly colored flowers, numerous eye-catching elements — may be more immediately attractive. “If you imagine the French baroque gardens, they are very geometrical, very organized,” said Olszewska. But this kind of environment, however beautiful, may be less relaxing to spend time in.