A walk in the park lately has been, well—no walk in the park. Finding ways to keep a six-foot distance from others out in public has been quite a challenge, as many outdoor spaces aren’t configured with physical distancing in mind.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we interact, landscape architects have been rethinking design for both physical distancing and public engagement.
“I think the importance of public spaces that allow for social distancing will be more popular than ever, once things settle down,” said California landscape architect Keith Wilson.
Attending virtual meetings has been the protocol for Wilson when it comes to public projects that require community input. Working remotely has been challenging for Wilson and his staff while they tackle a new platform for creative design.
“The pandemic has heightened the need for well-designed outdoor spaces, and I expect we will actually see more work because of it,” he said.
Here are some ideas landscape architects have come up with that address changes needed to promote physical distancing:
- Parc de la Distance—Landscape architects in Austria have created an outdoor park plan that incorporates a maze-like pattern lined with shrubs that wrap around in a circle. The hedges along the path have different heights. “Sometimes, visitors are fully immersed by nature, [and] other times they emerge over the hedge and can see across the garden. But at all times, they keep a safe physical distance to each other,” designer Chris Precht told Travel and Leisure.
- The Farmer’s Market—For many years, farmer’s markets have been a big hit, drawing big crowds that create a bit of some elbow-to-elbow confusion. With some organization, including designated order and pick-up areas using a specified traffic pattern, people can still enjoy produce from their local growers. Check out an example of a farmer’s market design posted in Dezeen.
- The City Vibe—Many California city streets were already going through a makeover to deal with conflict points between cars, pedestrians, bikes, and scooters. With overcrowded streets, meeting the physical-distancing challenge could have an impact on cities. Calling it a “road diet,” many local governments have already removed parking and driving lanes to expand sidewalks. Wi-Fi hubs and charging stations are being proposed in public parks so people can use the outdoors as an office space or study area. Many California cities are also closing streets and sidewalks to allow for outdoor restaurant seating.
With more people spending time outdoors, our community infrastructure and private properties could soon go through some significant changes to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are looking for a professional to handle a project, check out the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Landscape Architects Technical Committee’s “Consumer’s Guide to Hiring a Landscape Architect.” You can verify a professional’s license by visiting search.dca.ca.gov.