July 9, 2020 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
How will the pandemic change the design of public parks and gardens? Many of these much-loved spaces around the world are closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and officials continue to grapple with how to reopen safely.
Viennese-based Studio Precht offers a solution in its proposal for a labyrinthine green space designed to enable social distancing. Inspired by French baroque gardens and Japanese Zen-gardens, Parc de la Distance is a concept for a walkable outdoor space where people can be safely immersed in nature and also experience personal solitude.
Shaped something like a fingerprint, the designers conceived the maze-like park for a vacant plot in Vienna but its scheme can be implemented in any city around the globe.
It will take visitors about 20 minutes to meander through a labyrinth of three foot (90 cm) wide parallel hedges of varying heights that guide them throughout an undulating landscape. Each path would include a gate at the entrance and exit to indicate whether the path is occupied or free to stroll.
Although people would be visually separated from each other most of the time, they would be alone together in the company of others as they hear footsteps on the reddish granite gravel of neighboring paths. Spaced about 8 feet (240cm) from each other, the paths spiral inward towards the core of the park where visitors can meditate to the soothing sound of water from a series of fountains.
“The project started with a couple of questions regarding this pandemic, name architect, Chris Precht told ArchDaily.”What would a park look like and how would it function if it takes the rules of social distancing as a design guideline. And what can we learn from a space like this that still has value after the pandemic. For now, the park is designed to create a safe physical distance between its visitors. After the pandemic, the park is used to escape the noise and bustle of the city and be alone for some time. I lived in many cities, but I think I have never been alone in public. I think that’s a rare quality.”
Claustrophobic folks need not worry–the hedges lining the paths will be of different heights to enable views outside the confines of the enclosed pathways. “Sometimes visitors are fully immersed by nature, other times they emerge over the hedge and can see across the garden,” said Precht.
Let’s all take a virtual stroll through the Parc de la Distance to contemplate how other innovative solutions like this one can safely and beautifully bring us back into public spaces.
Images via Studio Precht.