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Publication Date

2010

Abstract

In the early cities, green spaces were not considered as important, because cities arose as settlements against natural and rural environments. There were intentionally no green spaces allocated in the central areas of the ancient Greek cities. Munford (1961) notes in reference to the Acropolis of Athens that “the course Rock seems as if it is never covered with anything but buildings”. There was scarce vegetation and a few trees were planted for shade in the agora to comprise a fraction of the public place. The public green spaces for activities were located outside the city while the green spaces inside the city were private gardens, buffers around sacred places, orchards, or most likely, undeveloped lands. The Miletus Plan from conception had not cared about green spaces and other natural conditions like rivers, lagoons, and hummocks, and lasted in Europe until the 18th Century. Therefore, it is not a surprise that Vitruvius did not mention green space in his classic De Architectura.

In ancient China, things were similar. The Book of Craftsman, official technical guide of East Zhou Dynasty (771B.C.-256B.C.), showed the basic principles on city planning. The grid plan (fig.1), similar to the plan of Miletus, seems to have no room designated for green spaces. In most cases, green spaces for the public were outside cities, however a remarkable exception was the city of Beijing (fig.2) built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), where the Jingshan Hill over 45 meters in height was piled behind the Forbidden City and ten thousand trees were planted in 272 ha at the Temple of Heaven for the sake of Fengshui (Fu & Zhao, 2008).

In addition, the natural lagoons west to the Forbidden City were extended and converted into a series of lakes called the Three Front Seas and Three Rear Seas. The former became royal gardens with the Jingshan Hill and the Temple of Heaven, while the latter existed as large public green spaces. However, the element of water proportionately dominated the spaces instead of the trees, and its essential purpose was to supply water and for shipping and flood control. Thus, green spaces were not paid enough attention to and were therefore not systematically planned, even if they did exist and did contribute to form systems in ancient cities.

It has been since the Industrial Revolution that green space has been considered important to the city. Urban sprawl and overpopulation and pollution caused by industrial development made the living and working conditions of city dwellers atrocious. Thus, urban green space was regarded as a necessary method to improve the public environment and ease social tension. As a result, public parks occurred as typical green spaces in cities. They were called “lungs of a great city” by Camillo Sitte (Munford, 1961), and their implementation spread from Europe to America. Nevertheless, it was not until the development of the Boston Emerald Necklace project that the consideration of green spaces as a holistic organizational system gained prominence. In the last century, research and practice on green space systems and their applicability in the city has been a major part of city planning and landscape architecture. As critical issues such as climate change, ecological crisis, and fast urbanization continue to increase, the green space system strategy is gaining increased implementation as a major part of green infrastructure, primarily for its integrated and interdependent ecological, recreational, and cultural/historical considerations. Green space systems evolved throughout time, from greenheart to greenway. The distributed green land system is a concept similar to greenway, attempting to solve current problems of urban green space planning.

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