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City Parks: from London to Singapore and beyond…

Keep reading to get a taster of what architectural delights City Parks has in store; from Victoria Park to Park Guell, and Millennium Park to the Hollywood Mountain, this beautiful book has showcased them all!

This visually stunning and beautifully written celebration of park life around the world will get you itching to pack a bag and visit them yourselves. Architecture and travel writer Christopher Beanland’s follow-up to Lido features the storied greats such as Central Park and Parc Guell but takes the time to showcase some lesser-known examples that you may not have known existed. Exploring what you can find there, who goes there, why they are important and how parks respond to their environments, this glorious, illustrated tome is a fascinating record of the world’s most interesting and innovative parks. Read on for a selection to get you hooked…


Millenium Park, Chicago, USA

Plenty of parks feature public art and sculpture, and indeed many parks exist explicitly to display sculpture, such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the UK and Storm King in the USA. But perhaps Millennium Park has got the most instantly noticeable public art icon in the shape of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, aka The Bean. Cloud Gate has become a sight-bite, a shorthand now for the city itself. Millennium Park dates from 2004 when the rail lines running through this prime slice of Downtown Chicago were covered over. It’s a prissy, formal, corporate affair but one which proves very popular, with many visitors keen on eyeing Frank Gehry’s bonkers Pritzker Pavilion too.


Xuhui Runway Park, Shanghai, China

An eco-conscious park that makes use of the ‘sponge city’ principle with water gardens and runoff areas to encourage rainwater to permeate and storms to be mitigated, Xuhui Runway Park was designed by Sasaki Architects and opened in 2020. The park takes its cues from the former Longhua Airport and military base. Just up the road, near to another park – the Shanghai Botanical Garden – the young J. G. Ballard was imprisoned with his family in Longhua internment camp, a story told with bravado in Empire of the Sun and an experience that was to shape one of our greatest 20th-century writers.


Park Guell, Barcelona Spain

Funny how some parks become de facto tourist attractions (the High Line being the most obvious example) and here in Barcelona the story is no different. This is not, of course, a place to come in search of solitude and you won’t find many locals relaxing as with a usual park. Instead, visitors cram in to see Gaudí’s flamboyant and playful buildings and other touches: the mosaic salamander that you might be forgiven for thinking was designed specifically by Gaudí to be a background to Instagram selfies, and the curving serpentine benches, as well as the uniquely exuberant houses and planting terraces. Whenever I’ve been here it’s been hotter than the inside of an apple pie.

Seoullo 7017 Skypark, Seoul, South Korea

An advertisement for the benefits of repurposing rather than demolishing (a topic which is even more important now we see the wastefulness of knocking things down and the environmental impact of that methodology), Seoullo 7017 (built as a highway in 1970, turned into a park in 2017) is an intriguing attempt to make something that was not very friendly into a place you want to stay. I must confess to expecting more in the way of greenery when I was there, but I still think it counts as a park – there are the planters, benches, kiosks and corners to explore that you’d expect in a park. As time goes on the plants should grow taller.


Victoria Park, London, UK

On cold days and warm days alike I’ve donated hours of a life which ultimately will be too short to Victoria Park. I’ve talked shop, flirted, dated, complained, felt elated, learned exercises, biked, picnicked, laid on the ground next to people I care about and watched the clouds and the starlings flit across the sky. I’ve dreamed, planned, wondered, wished things would happen the way I needed them to, felt excited, compelled, downcast. In lockdown, when things were always awful, and in the sunny times before the nightmares of 2020 began, the park was for me, like so many others, a place where all different kinds of life revealed themselves.


City Parks

Christopher Beanland | £22.95

City Parks by Christopher Beanland is published by Batsford


Image Credits:

Millenium Park, Chicago, USA, Eric James / Alamy

Xuhui Runway Park, Shanghai, China, Courtesy of Sasaki

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain, Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy

Seoullo 7017 Skypark, Seoul, South Korea, Maria S. / Alamy

Victoria Park, London, UK, Nathaniel Noir / Alamy