Parks are our cities’ living rooms. They reflect our social and cultural identities. Great parks and open spaces are vital for sustaining healthy city life: they keep our cities cool, help people connect and ensure that nature is a part of daily urban life.
We gave Sacha Coles, one of Australia’s leading urban designers, the impossible task of naming the best five parks in the world. He selected five parks that symbolise the social and cultural life of their cities and have a diversity of uses that have stood the test of time in densifying environments.
1. Central Park, New York
2. Tiergarten, Berlin
Tiergarten has withheld dramatic change over 500 years, representing Berlin’s unique history, culture, politics and diversity. It sits above Berlin’s complex crisscross of subway and roads and acts as a gigantic roundabout for the city’s bike path system. The presence of civic buildings and cultural monuments reinforces the public character of the park. All at once, Tiergardten is a place for marathons, rallies, speeches, museums, libraries, the opera house; and is used every day by people from all walks of life – families, cyclists, visitors and even nudists.
3. Landschaftspark, Duisburg-Nord
4. Fuxing Park, Shanghai
Fuxing Park is located in the French Concession of Shanghai, one of the densest cities in the world. It is a grand park in the European tradition, with a lake, fountains, covered pavilions and flowerbeds. In the early morning, the park is full of dancers, mahjong players and people doing Tai Chi. You can find grandmothers singing Chinese opera, and Mao-suited men taking caged birds for a walk.
5. Centennial Park, Sydney
One of Sydney’s oldest and most loved parks, Centennial Park, was dedicated in the 1800’s as a people’s park forever, on land originally set aside by Governor Lachlan Macquarie for grazing and watering stock. The park includes ornamental gardens, wild native forests, ponds, grand avenues, statues, heritage buildings and sporting fields. It is used by walkers, joggers, roller-bladers, horse riders, picnickers, movie-goers and cyclists. Centennial Park provides the experience of nature at a unique scale within the increasing density of Sydney.