MA Student, Christoph Ficher, highlights the importance of time in landscape architecture projects.
Swamp Cypresses growing in about half meter of water at the Westpark attracted my attention in one of my projects. Now I got the chance to have a closer look at them. When walking the park it turned out to be a really interesting piece of landscape architecture.
The landform gives the impression of a valley with water bodies in the centre framed by sloping hills on each side well overgrown. Some areas felt like hiking in the foothills of the Alps. Other parts along the water had a very natural look and feel although one could still sense the underlaying design and get a glimpse of it here and there.
The park is well used and filled with a wide variety of leisure activities like model-boating, biking, running, walking, sun-bathing or enjoying one of the gardens or barbecue areas. There are also art exhibitions and an open air cinema festival. A few once used to be modern features, the not so well attended perennial and shrub plantings and the dotted structures with very different themes hint that the current park developed out of a transition over time.
Finished in 1983 for the International Garden Show (IGA) on 65 ha of an abandoned agricultural plain. Over 1.5 million m3 of soil was moved in the process of creating the now existing landform. About 200,000 people live in the vicinity of the park of which half live within 1 km. The winning entry of the regional design competition of landscape architect Peter Kluska got mixed critics especially in relation to the olympic park.
Looking at the original design plan and historic photos after my visit to Westpark revealed some impressive changes after only 30 years. Most of the structures and hard material aged gracefully. The matured vegetation eased the original strong curvilinear design and has a very pleasing effect on the overall appearance. The clear hierarchy of paths is still in place and works well with almost no desire lines created by the visitors. The views when entering either parts of the park from the bridge show a very inviting setting.
To me it seems that time is an underestimated design element in contemporary landscape architecture. Foreseeing the future use, the ageing of materials and the maturing of the vegetation is fascinating challenge in any landscape design.