Urban Parks - Green Lungs of the City

Globally, a dramatic demographic shift towards urbanization is occurring, with over half of the world’s population now residing in urban areas. This rapid urbanization poses immense problems through environmental pollution, medical issues, heat island effects and climate change.

Over the past few decades, the urban park, in all its varied forms, has emerged as a critical tool in revitalising cities and a way to solve a variety of urban issues: regenerating economically deprived areas, bringing nature to the city, providing recreation, rejuvenating neighbourhoods, creating a place for physical interaction in our digital world and a key ingredient for city sustainability.

Until the mid-1600s urban parks were private, the exclusive domain of wealthy families and royalty. By the mid-1800s the urban park was starting to be seen as a way to serve the public and later as a remedy to social ills caused by the industrial revolution and overcrowding in lower-income neighbourhoods. Parks in the romantic period (1850 – 1890) were typically large parks at the edge of a city that offered the ideal of the pastoral landscape. These “Pleasure Grounds” allowed for both active and passive – or contemplative—recreation and became playgrounds of the rich, given they were too far away for the working class. Whilst the early landscape architects of our urban parks created an aesthetic for public and private open space that persists to this day, in the 21st Century, urban green space is tasked with doing far more than simply providing visual appeal.

Furthermore, there is a growing body of research showing a clear connection between human health and the urban park, for instance, householders living in greener urban environments are more likely to have lower levels of mental distress and higher levels of wellbeing. On a more personal level, they also offer a place for contemplation and recreation in increasingly congested cities, whilst often reflecting the cultural history and social values of their city of origin.

From the earliest urban parks like the English Garden in Munich to some of the most modern, innovative urban parks such as Sherbourne Common in Toronto, this series of large-scale tableaux photographs offers a historical context illustrating the evolving nature and the varying philosophies behind the urban park; social, political and economic. The narrative explores how these parks are increasingly being used to create sustainable landscapes in the heart of congested and anxiety-raising cities - offering not only urban regeneration but quite literally a breathing space for residents.

In a period of increased economic turbulence, many urban parks face a battle to remain intact, well-maintained and free of charge. Selling off parkland, transferring the management to corporate interests, inappropriate development, and commercialisation are all risking the future of these vital spaces. Suppose our urban parks are a city’s green lungs. In that case, they are also a good part of its soul: we must acknowledge their significance to the future viability of our increasingly urbanised world.

The project was initiated as a commission for National Geographic Magazine in 2015 and was subsequently extended by the author.

Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain (1923)POS SR 295 01$2,500.00
Mount Royal Park, Montreal, Canada (1876)POS SR 295 02$2,500.00
St. James’s Park, London, UK (1660)POS SR 295 03$2,500.00
Englischer Garten, Munich, Germany (1789)POS SR 295 04$2,500.00
Central Park, New York, USA (1858)POS SR 295 05$2,500.00
Villa Borghese Gardens, Rome, Italy (1903)POS SR 295 06$2,500.00
Parque Antonio Maceo, Havana, Cuba (1916)POS SR 295 07$2,500.00
Augarten, Vienna, Austria (1918)POS SR 295 08$2,500.00
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Park, Mumbai, India (1925)POS SR 295 09$2,500.00
Eaton Park, Norwich, UK (1928)POS SR 295 10$2,500.00
Silesia Park & Zoological Garden, Katowice, Poland (1957)POS SR 295 11$2,500.00
Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, Canada (1967)POS SR 295 12$2,500.00
The Corniche, Beirut, Lebanon (1980s)POS SR 295 13$2,500.00
Ttukseom Hangan Park, Seoul, S. Korea (1986)POS SR 295 14$2,500.00
Sherover Promenade, Jerusalem, Israel (1989)POS SR 295 15$2,500.00
Presidio, San Francisco, USA (1994)POS SR 295 16$2,500.00
MFO-Park, Zurich, Switzerland (2002)POS SR 295 17$2,500.00
Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul, S. Korea (2005)POS SR 295 18$2,500.00
The High Line, New York, USA (2009)POS SR 295 19$2,500.00
Rouen-sur-Mer, Rouen, Normandy, 2014 (2009)POS SR 295 20$2,500.00
Rike Park, Tbilisi, Georgia (2010)POS SR 295 21$2,500.00
Sherbourne Common, Toronto, Canada (2010)POS SR 295 22$2,500.00
Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, USA (2015)POS SR 295 23$2,500.00
Pointe-du-Moulin, Montreal, Canada (2016)POS SR 295 24$2,500.00

Xposure hosts solo exhibition spaces for acclaimed photographers along with group exhibitions for professional institutions. All exhibiting photographers will be present during the festival, enabling you the opportunity to meet and talk to them about their work.