Urban Parks

2599 Words11 Pages
Like most Americans, I expect to find in every city, every town, even in every village in the country, an outdoor recreation area or what is usually called a park; and I am seldom disappointed. No matter how new and unfinished a town may be, or however old and poor, I know that it will contain, wedged in among the crowded blocks of buildings, a rectangular space with grass and trees and meandering paths and perhaps a bandstand or a flagpole.

--John B. Jackson, “The Past and Future Park” in Denatured Visions

Urban parks are defined in their comparative and contrastive relationships to the urban environments surrounding them. Although frequently conceptualized as natural landscapes, the physical and social uses of parks give proof to their inherently cultural “nature.” For the purpose of this paper, I will use the term “culture” to refer to human implemented social objects and actions; nature, then, as a written word and a concept circulated in culture, becomes a cultural construction. The idea of “nature” or “natural,” I will attempt to argue, refers to a certain set of cultural concepts as constructed through a discourse that is centered away from humans and characterized by irrationality, purity, and vitality. Differently stated, nature functions as a cultural construct of anti-culture, providing an escape from the confines of culture in the sense of civilization, but does not entirely evade the conceptual framework inherent to the social, discursive formation of human ideas.

This intermingling relationship between nature and culture is well illustrated in the example of urban parks. Parks are constructed as natural environments but literally and figuratively constructed by human cultural proc...

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