Day 1: History of a Park by Jasper

After many in depth games aimed towards getting to know more about our group members, we split off into smaller groups for lunch, with an assignment to “map out” a specific public space. Our group was assigned Director Park, a public area on 9th and Yamhil which has a wide assortment of restaurants, shops, sitting areas, and anything else a space may need. This park seems to target a downtown worker, with a slightly above average salary, based on the steeper prices of food, with a need for a relaxing place to sit and meet with co-workers during their lunch break. Although the people watching here is pretty spectacular, three young boys running around pretending to be cats, I was more interested in how an appealing, comfortable, and open space could be slotted in between the towering sky scrapers, and still have all its needs met.
I’m not exactly sure if the urban planners had this in mind while designing, but the park is placed perfectly so that the sun has a clear slot to travel through, never getting obstructed by the many tall buildings. This allows for the space to be well lit, and to offer a happier, warmer place for the large crowds that swarm the park each day. Looking at the space, it got me very interested in how many of the businesses around the park are somehow attached to the space, or if it was merely a coincidence that so many shops and restaurants are placed there. Interested in all of these logistics, I quickly did some research on how this park came to be.
Placed under reserve in 1848 for public use, the land remained merely a parking lot for most of its life. In the late 80’s and 90’s there was a strong push to combine this land with what is now known as the North and South Park Blocks, but those plans were scrapped due to the lack of city council support. In 2006 plans were drawn up for the space, and with nearly  $9.5 million in funding, the park was completed in 2009. The park design was led by Laurie Olin who is also responsible for the redevelopment of Pershing Square in LA and Bryant Park in NYC. Comparing these other works to Director Park, it is clear that Olin has a focus on a making a space feel very open, as well as a strong harmonious balance between nature and structure. Although there are a few structural flaws currently with Director Park, it got me very interested in how a park comes to be a park, and also how a space in such a busy area can feel open and relaxed.

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