‘Celebration or Compensation? The urban context of public parks’.
University of Birmingham. 1-2 September, 2018
The urban parks of the nineteenth century have been described by Hazel Conway as ‘isolated elements, lungs and oases of green, which contrasted with their urban surroundings’. At the time of their creation, parks certainly provided a spatial interruption to the sprawl of blackened terraces, chimneys and alleyways. However, public parks were never purely bucolic fantasies. Rather, they were complex environments that simultaneously celebrated and compensated for the towns and cities they occupied. Even though the creation of public parks was evidently motivated by some sense of a need to compensate for the condition of growing cities, this compensation was just as much ideological as it was practical or physical. This paper will explore the dynamic tension between celebration and compensation that characterised the urban public park in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.