PUBLIC SPACE POSSIBILITIES AND POTENTIALITIES
Tejali Mangle Zahraa Dabbach
Washington Park (Abstract) 1230 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH 4520
Picture Credits: www.soapboxmedia.com & www.cincinnatiusa.com
Typology: Neighbourhood Park Brief Background: Washington Park is located on Over-the-Rhine (OTR), Cincinnati, surrounded by West 12th, Race, and Elm Streets. From 1858 to 1863, the place was a cemetery and was later acquired by the city. Cincinnati Park Board and Cincinnati Centre City Development Corporation (3CDC) finished renovation of the park in July 2012. The renovation included expansion of the park from 6 Acres to 8 Acres as well as the construction of parking garage beneath the park accomodationg 450 parking spots. Summary: Washington Park is an important civic and largest green space in the Over-theRhine. It was renovated with an idea of revitalizing the neighbourhood. The historic character of the place has been preserved by reusing the existing historic columns and restoring the artefacts. The park acts as a third place for the neighbourhood and encourages people from all over to city to gather during the events. The park is completely occupied on the weekends and public holidays. 3CDC is responsible in managing all the formal events held in the park. Keywords: The Third Place; Loose and Tight; Responsive, Democratic & Meaningful; Plurality. 2|Page
Washington Park - Then and Now Washington Park is Cincinnati’s second oldest park, located in the heart of Over-the-Rhine. It is the largest civic space and is evolved over the last 150 years. Since then, it has been catering to the needs and aspirations of the community as the need of public spaces emerged in the society. Washington Park has a ‘spooky’ past as people found it to be unwelcoming. It was acquired by the city of Cincinnati in 1855 and the construction of the park started in the 1860s. It was a host to major attractions in the early years. The park consisted of bandstand, fountains, a pond, a wading pool and a swimming pool. These attractions did not sustain for long. The attractions faded off and the visitors were gone. During this time, the population of Over-the Rhine dropped dramatically and the neighbourhood was considered within the Cincinnati’s slum. Later in 2007, Washington Park Elementary School was demolished into a parking lot along the 14th Street. The school no longer needed the land and handed it over to the Cincinnati Park Board. This led to the major transformations of the park. A public-private partnership was then formed between the City of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Park Board and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). This was an opportunity to render the park in a whole new entity for the betterment of the neighbourhood. Soon with the new master plan the construction began in the year 2011.
Picture Credits: www.3cdc.org 3|Page
3CDC envisioned not only to preserve the unique characteristics of the park but also to add new amenities in order to contribute towards the revitalization of the neighbourhood. The primary feature of the plan was to expand the park from six to eight acres, adding green space to an underserved community by extending the park to 14th Street. This expansion also allowed such additional features as a plaza to better link the park with Music Hall, a civic green and performance stage, a 450-space underground parking garage, and extensive landscaping. The total cost of the project was $48 million dollars. The restoration included a 450-space underground parking garage, a performance stage, civic lawn, event plaza, interactive water feature with lights and sound, children’s playground, dog park, restored historic bandstand, seasonal planting beds, and a half-acre of meandering pathways through beautiful, mature landscaping. The idea was to attract more residents to the community. The expansion and renovation of the park was completed in the summer of 2012. The new park is a balance of old and new. Existing trees and the pastoral character of the southern half of the park have been preserved, and existing historic columns and walls were salvaged and reused. New columns will match the historic ones and have new Rookwood tile insets. The iconic bandstand in the heart of the park has been restored and the space around it transformed with stone pavers and a canopy of lights. A fenced “dog park” was created and historic artefacts restored. A unique playground features a boardwalk and stage, a sandbox, a canal boat in a water channel and climbing walls based on Cincinnati’s historic architecture.
About the Developersâ€Ś The Park is owned and operated by Cincinnati Park Board. It is managed by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) which manages events, programming, maintenance and security for Washington Park and the Washington Park Garage. Cincinnati Park Board: -
It maintains all city parks in Cincinnati including the Cincinnati zoo.
Established in 1911 with the purchase of 168 acres (0.68 km 2), today the board services more than 5,000 acres (20 km 2) of city park space.
The board receives its funding from the city, state and federal grants, as well as private endowments.
Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC): -
3CDC is a non-profit real estate company, bringing neglected buildings and spaces in our centre city back into use.
They built commercial spaces and filled them with restaurants, stores, service businesses and offices, encouraging our tenants to hire from the neighbourhood whenever possible.
They have been formed by Cincinnatiâ€™s major corporations who fund and advise them in all aspects of building, managing and growing a vibrant mixed-income neighbourhood in downtown Cincinnati.
The Zones: We focused on 6 major zones of the park to do our analysis. This led to a focused report from all the important parts of the park.
Picture Credits: www.tripadvisor.com, www.pinterest.com, www.washingtonpark.org
The Final Study: This new study about Washington Park is about analysing the observations carried out in the assignment 01. We mapped behavioural analysis of people and the space and tried to come up with some empirical conclusions. Following are the contents of the report: 1. Empirical Observation Maps 2. Folk Ethnographies 3. Use and Activity evaluation 4. Evaluation Tool Narrative/ Diagram 5. Evaluation Tool Application and Summary 6. Evaluation of: - Ownership (legal and visible) - Access (legal and visible) - Intersubjectivity 7. Critical-appraisal through Kevin Lynchâ€™s measures: - Fit - Sense - Vitality - Access - Control - Efficiency - Justice
1. Empirical Observations We would like to start with some subjective measures with respect to the quality of space. The qualitative measures were more about the character and personality of the space. We categorised our empirical maps on a high, medium and low scale. These three scales made the maps simple to read giving out enough information. Following are the few observations we mapped:
The above images shows the comfortability, peacefulness and pleasurability of individual spaces in Washington Park. The three stages of comfort can be elaborated as: High – Shaded, good seating and accessibility Medium – moderate seating, partially shaded, accessible with limitations Low – major concerns about accessibility, noisy The three stages of peacefulness can be elaborated as: High – Green, shaded, relaxing Medium – partially relaxing, crowded Low – major concerns about accessibility, noisy The three stages of pleasurability can be elaborated as: High – something new to do, hangout, family spots Medium – limitation on access Low – too much crowd We figured our major factor towards what we felt about the space was much more inclined towards ‘Accessibility’. The less any space was inaccessible, the lesser we felt comfortable, at peace or pleasurable in that space.
Age groups also act as an important factor
dominant age group easily affects the presence of other users of the space. In our 6 major zones, we figured the dominant users by age are children and adults. It is likely to believe at first place that the space is equally
observations flipped the perception.
The time periods are classified in 3 categories, i.e., 20-30 minutes, 45-60 minutes and more than 60 minutes. The amount of time people spend in the public space has a lot to tell about its comfort and pleasurability of the space. The greens become a refuge for the homeless and hence, the time period is high there. Otherwise, children spend more time in the kidâ€™s park and families tend to spend a few hours on the lawn. The lowest time period is observed in the dogâ€™s park, that is, not more than 20-30 minutes.
This maps clearly indicates the spaces where we find individuals or people in groups. Be it a family or group of friends. Plotting the observations here reflect the major segregation lies at the north and south. The north resides more of individuals sitting on the bench for smoking or idle. The south resides
Here the interaction is mapped in terms of passing a comment and responding
Sometimes the kids or the props in the park are initiators of these interactions. It is observed to be high where people like to go play with the dogs in the dogâ€™s park and end up interacting with each other. The benches so close in the water park and the fountain initiates conversations. Childrenâ€™s park has the props as the initiators and also mothers interact with each other.
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Even though smoking being strictly prohibited in the park, most of the people are seen to be smoking or breaking any other rules. We plotted maps these activities on the maps and
mentioning about the prohibited/ illegal activities. The larger the circle, higher the concentration of activities in those spaces.
Washington Park is fairly segregated as tight and loose. The tightness is defined with the limitations the space carries
activities. Be it because of the water fountain or the props in children play area. Tightness also lies on the deck where the deck is partially tightly designed
majority of the loose spaces here host various activities and fit different events in one space.
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2. Folk Ethnographies
Stranger helped a kid who slipped off while playing in the water fountain.
Sometimes the mothers in the children park become controllers for that space.
One man sitting on a bench for 2 hours straight, doing nothing!
A man is singing aloud on the civic lawn with his drink.
A lady sitting alone on the steps of the bandstand kept watching people around silently and murmuring something.
Mothers take nap while their kids play in the children park. (image 01)
A father with his little son helped the other kids on the merry-go-round. (image 02)
A group of teenagers took over all the props in the Children’s play area making a couple of mothers hesitant to leave their children towards that side of the park and made sure to accompany them wherever they went. (image 03)
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3. Use and Activity Evaluation We wish to elaborate the types of activities carried out in the entire park. Following are the maps which explain types of activities zone-wise.
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Though these spaces have number of activities going on at once, they do have a dominant set of users by age and by race. The following maps show the dominant users.
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4. Evaluation Tool Narrative/ Diagram We worked on 5 principles to evaluate Washington Park. These 5 measures are: Adaptability, Engageability, Plurality, Access, and Surveillance. We asked ourselves 5 questions through which we proceeded our evaluation. For more precision, we divided the Park in those previously mentioned 6 zones and then evaluated it as a whole with their average points.
Adaptability - How much is the place flexible to allow multiple activities? This has a lot to do with the looseness and tightness of space which we found to be critical to evaluate.
Engageability - How much do people interact with each other in those spaces? This measure of evaluation depends on the interactivity of people in those spaces.
Plurality - Does it allow people from different ages, races and gender into the spaces and not only different activities?
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Access - Is it comfortable/ easy to access the space? Be it a legal accessibility or visible. The park has minimum limitations on the legal accessibility of people wanting to go to different spaces.
Surveillance – What happens there or who controls that space? This we thought to be a very important point to be measured in Washington Park because of the many activities taking place in the park and it ensures safety.
For this evaluation, we studied George Varna’s and Steve Tiesdell’s “Accessing the Publicness of Public Space: The Star Model of Publicness”. In this chapter they talk about measures to evaluate the public space with measures like ownership, control, civility, animation, etc. However, we picked the measures relevant to Washington Park and used the star model for our evaluation. An example of this model as given by Varna and Tiesdell is given below.
5. Evaluation Tool Application and Summary As mentioned earlier, we applied our evaluative tool to all the 6 zones (namely; Water Park, The deck, Dog Park, Kids Park, Civic lawn, and the Greens). The following map shows the application of evaluative tool to all the zones. 17 | P a g e
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Overall, looking at all the zones together, shows how the measures change from one space to another. Therefore, in order to understand the park as a whole, we worked further on combining these 6 evaluative tools into a common one by taking average points of all.
The above diagram clearly concludes how Washington Park is overall balanced with respect to all these five measures. Having 3.3 as an average rating, describes the park to be good on a moderate scale.
6. Evaluation of Ownership, Access and Intersubjectivity We linked the ownership and access together in terms of legal and visible measures. Here, again we rated the different zones of the park in order to achieve accuracy and give justice to the evaluation. The diagram below describes in depth about the ownership and access status of the park.
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Further, evaluating Intersubjectivity, we recognized a few parameters to rate Intersubjectivity in all the 6 zones of the park. The highest rated area for Intersubjectivity is the kids play area followed by the Dog Park. The children are the main initiators of these interactions in the kidâ€™s park whereas the dogs are the initiators of interaction in the dog park. However, the matrix completely rises high during important events. The following diagram explains Intersubjectivity in the park.
7. Critical-appraisal through Kevin Lynchâ€™s measures
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1. Vitality: Generally, the healthy, safe environment of the park contribute significantly to introduce a vital civic public space to neighbourhood residents and other users as well. This advantage gives both individuals and groups an opportunity to release their work stress, offering places for relaxation, talking, and entertainment. 2. Sense: sensory and mental capabilities of Washington Park’s users to perceive park elements would dramatically be affected by surrounding physical environment. Some visual and physical barriers could play a big role in constraining sensory ability like fences, differences in levels, and unclear zones' entrances. 3. Fit: The size of some spaces is not sufficiently fit and the same case with zone’s equipment. For example, during events and weekends, Dog Park and the Deck (drinking area) are completely crowded which makes the quality of the spaces decline and does not fulfil the minimum requirements. On the other hand, a balanced situation in the kid’s area has been achieved between users and unmovable equipment occupancy. The integral structure offers an active engagement among the space users. 4. Access: The ability to reach resources, people, instructions, and activities within the park at whole is somewhat clear. The difficulties could be faced to access some fenced or semi-fenced spaces. But, the park would have a shortage to non-neighboring residents access. There are no adjacent public transportation stops or free parking lots. 5. Control: Relatively, the park has a good control and access to those who manage and maintain park spaces. But privatized conducts and absence of visible monitors make some spaces owned and managed by users themselves in both productive and non-productive way. For instance, mothers at kid’s zone are doing a good job in watching their kids and other family kids patiently. In contrast, individuals or groups in green areas have imposed their control prevented, indirectly, people to enter their territories.
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6. Efficiency: The degree of maintaining and expansion park facilities that is managed by 3CDC and many supporting companies has guaranteed a high level of efficiency. Also, the park offers varied free activities along weekdays like yoga classes, movie night, and art workshop that in turn increase park efficiency. 7. Justice: Justice majorly explains about how efficiently the park is working for its users. The control and power in the park and balance amongst users, activities, etc. is also a vital part of the measuring justice.
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SOURCES: (for generalised information and pictures)
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