Top 6 Cities for Open Spaces

Pulaski Square in Savannah, Georgia image: Chris M. Morris via Flickr
Pulaski Square in Savannah, Georgia
image: Chris M. Morris via Flickr

When PPN members were asked which cities have the best networks of open spaces, there were a handful of responses that came up again and again. A few outliers appeared once or twice—Ann Arbor, Austin, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Seattle among them—but six cities clearly dominated the results. These top cities cover different regions of the country, but they all have a healthy dose of green within their urban core, whether due to historic squares, centrally-located oases, a smattering of smaller green spaces throughout the city, or a mixture of new and old spaces that together create an interconnected network that keeps green spaces close, no matter where you are in the city.

Though many cities were mentioned as having the best network of open spaces, below we review those that were mentioned most often, along with some of the best spaces within these cities selected by our members.

1. Boston

Boston Common image: Alexandra Hay
Boston Common
image: Alexandra Hay

Boston’s Best Spaces

  • Copley Square
  • The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway over the sunken highway
  • Fenway Victory Gardens
  • Along the Charles River
  • The cemetery by the old North Church
  • Arnold Arboretum
  • The Boston Common
  • The center of Commonwealth Avenue
  • Spectacle Island

Check out The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Boston for more great places.

2. Chicago

Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park image: Alexandra Hay
Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park
image: Alexandra Hay

Chicago’s Best Spaces

  • Millennium Park
  • Jackson Park
  • Grant Park
  • Humboldt Park
  • Lakefront Trail
  • Promontory Point
  • Lurie Garden in Millennium Park

3. New York City

Squibb Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park image: Alexandra Hay
Squibb Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park
image: Alexandra Hay

New York’s Best Spaces

  • Central Park
  • The long walk up all the new park space on the Hudson River
  • The High Line

4. Philadelphia

By the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia image: Michael W. Murphy via Flickr
By the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia
image: Michael W. Murphy via Flickr

Philadelphia’s Best Spaces

  • Fairmount Park
  • Rittenhouse Square
  • Those smallish, neighborhood parks near the downtown
  • The Wissahickon area of Fairmount Park

5. Portland, Oregon

Spring Portland Evening: Looking across the Willamette River towards downtown Portland with the Hawthorne Bridge after a springtime rainfall in the city image: Aaron Hockley via Flickr
Spring Portland Evening: Looking across the Willamette River towards downtown Portland with the Hawthorne Bridge after a springtime rainfall in the city
image: Aaron Hockley via Flickr

Portland’s Best Spaces

  • The green walkway through the center of the city
  • The long riverside park and Portland’s goal of all residents living no more than a quarter of a mile from a trailhead
  • Any of the fountains
  • Forest Park
  • Jamison Square
  • The bicycle paths

6. Savannah, Georgia

A Savannah Landscape: Early evening view of Madison Square and the Jasper Monument image: Rob Shenk via Flickr
A Savannah Landscape: Early evening view of Madison Square and the Jasper Monument
image: Rob Shenk via Flickr

Savannah’s Best Spaces

  • Any of the neighborhood squares
  • Forsyth Park
  • Walk another block in any direction, you will find another beautiful square
  • Reynolds, Madison, and Telfair Squares

At the start of 2013, a questionnaire was sent out to members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). The theme: favorite spaces. As you can imagine, responses were varied, and included many insightful comments and suggestions. Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND over the course of 2013, and we are now re-posting this information here on The Field. For the latest updates on the results of the 2014 PPN Survey—focusing on members’ career paths in landscape architecture—see LAND‘s PPN News section.

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