Back to Blog

To a More Ambitious Place Think Piece Series: Does practice make perfect in place? #2

Posted on 24 September 2014

Written by:

Guest Author

By Marion Preez and Liane Bauer, UrbanPioneers

Bring a chair, table and cake

Imagine yourself in Switzerland. The land famous for progressive, sometimes radical architecture, with its keen attention to detail, precision, craft skill and an excellent system of education and technical training. You are in the North of Zurich, walking through a park, beautifully designed by a well-known, talented practice: a clear spatial structure, hundreds of new trees planted in a tight grid, with pavillions to rest in and playgrounds to discover. You marvel at the expensive finishes, wonderfully designed benches and furniture, soft-sounding water features and meticulously maintained lawn. A masterpiece in architectural circles. But soon you notice that the park feels new, even now, years after it’s first opening. And you become aware of the absence of the boisterous life the park should be filled with and you decide to move on.

This time you find yourself strolling through a former airfield turned parkland in Berlin. It seems that the airfield hasn’t changed since the airplanes stopped taking off. The proposed development of the park is on hold since the locals have vetoed its implementation. Berliners like understatement, they feel the airfield is already perfect. Some at least. And for a moment so do you. The park is wide, open, flat and young, sporty Berliners are whizzing past you on their roller blades and bikes. In the distance you see some kites against the cloudless sky, and a group of runners just past you. You feel out of breath just watching them and crave a bench to sit down observing the young and fit, this transformation from inner-city airfield to biggest park in town, a new oasis in the centre of two of the Berlin’s densest districts. You also crave a tree to provide shelter from the blistering heat and harsh winds and you crave…some diversity. The park seems to cater for the loudest audience, the predominately young, fit and male. You wonder where all the immigrants, women and elderly are and you feel it’s time for your last stop.

Berlin ©Stefanie Ruff

You are looking for something smaller, more intimate and before you know it you cross the Baltic Sea and find yourself on a small green space in a residential neighbourhood in Copenhagen. You suddenly tread carefully to not step on dog poo. You think to yourself, enough is enough, and decide to mark each individual poo with flags …79, 80, 81. You decide to hang around to see what happens next. And so the bin men come and clear the space, some artists appear with table, chairs and a free breakfast. You talk and before you know it turns to night and a movie is on, the next morning benches, raised beds and even a hut gets built! There is a party, more free breakfasts, the artists say goodbye – a new cafe settles into an empty shop across the road, vegetables keep growing and people meet.

Copenhagen: Art Installation Benches Hut ©Marion Preez

It’s time to leave and come home to Scotland. You stroll to your local park with its wide lawn and fenced-in playground, scruffy appearance: no architectural masterpiece, no people whizzing past and no free breakfast – only a cold metal bench to think of your travels.

Scotland © Marion Preez

You wonder who you would invite to make your park a better place:

A well-known designer to give you a masterpiece, to stimulate the mind and encourage better finishes? Berliners, who so love to occupy and activate newly available spaces turning them into beach bars, allotments or adventure playgrounds? Or do you bring chairs, table and a cake, invite your neighbours and designers and start a discussion harvesting everybody’s expertise?

Marion Preez and Liane Bauer founded Landscape Architecture Practice UrbanPioneers and both have been working as landscape architects for a total of 16 years, with vast experience in public realm design, housing developments, public art projects, regeneration, parks, public squares, and playgrounds.

Does practice make perfect in place? The Glasgow Debate takes place on Wednesday 1 October from 6-7.30pm.