Exploring the world's built environments and seeking sustainable solutions.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Transforming Old Parts of the City into Green Space

It is sad that in many of today's urban cities, it is difficult to find green space. Especially in American society, the world seems to revolve around money and any undeveloped land is a lost opportunity. We build and build, rarely stopping to reflect on the concrete jungle we have planted. One thing that I have noticed in Europe that is lacking in many major American cities is the myriad of green spaces dotted around the landscape. Some think that green space is a waste of space, but that is far from the truth. It is important to have open spaces available for recreation and relaxation. Studies have shown that parks near homes and offices help improve one's quality of life; and they often boost the property value of surrounding areas as well. In Amsterdam, we visited a relatively new green space called Westerpark.


The park is actually built on the location of an old gas factory that first opened in 1883. When it became obsolete in the 1960s, it was abandoned and ignored for the most part. In 1989,the old brick buildings were granted the status of industrial monuments and work was done to help preserve it. Eventually, the city cleaned up the area of any lingering hazardous material and planned a park around the area - today it is known as Westerpark.

The park is a popular spot among locals and you can often find people lounging around in the vast grass field, or sipping coffee at a nearby cafe. Trees were planted and public transit was extended to give people better access to the area. Not only does the park have a strong cultural and historical identity, it now supports a wide variety of wildlife and has become a favorite spot for picnics and sports among the locals. So next time you see a piece of old industrial land, don't be so quick to dismiss it as unusable land or wish for another boring shopping mall. A little bit of nature in the neighborhood can go a long way!

By: Ryan Shum

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