Archives for category: landscape architecture
Overhead Subway Gives Riders
a Glimpse of the Park


One of my favorite parks in Berlin is now complete. The west end section of the Park am Gleisdreieck officially opened to an enthusiastic public this past weekend despite rain and thunder. 

Dog Park

A former rail yard, the Park am Gleisdreieck shows how a little imagination and a lot of hard work can transform a toxic brown field into an eco-friendly space with meadows, playgrounds, sport fields, bicycle trails, and areas dedicated to native plant and wildlife preservation. This park also has a cafe, open air theater, vegetable garden, and dog run. The Park am Gleisdreieck incorporates elements from its past (rail ties, tool sheds, and towers) into a modern multi-functional design.






The Buckeye or Horse Chestnut tree (Aesculus californica) reminds me of my native California. Its white flowers are a signal that spring has arrived; and when the leaves drop in July, it’s a signal that the scorching hot weather has begun. 

In Europe, the Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x carnea) is very similar to the California variety except its flowers are pink and the leaves drop in the Fall. After the Linden tree, the Red Horse Chestnut is probably the most common street tree in Berlin. Berlin is trying to add more trees to the city, and their work is beginning to pay off. All over town, I’m seeing a lot of newly planted trees. It certainly softens this gray and rather cold city. 
The Buckeye or Horse Chestnut tree (Aesculus californica) reminds me of my native California. Its white flowers are a signal that spring has arrived; and when the leaves drop in July, it’s a signal that the scorching hot weather has begun. 

In Europe, the Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x carnea) is very similar to the California variety except its flowers are pink and the leaves drop in the Fall. After the Linden tree, the Red Horse Chestnut is probably the most common street tree in Berlin. Berlin is trying to add more trees to the city, and their work is beginning to pay off. All over town, I’m seeing a lot of newly planted trees. It certainly softens this gray and rather cold city. 
Directly across from Treptower Park in Berlin is the Blaue Apotheke (Pharmacy). By attaching five plastic flowers to the building facade, the owners of this structure have transformed a rather ordinary piece of architecture into something whimsical. What better way to attract customers and improve the urban landscape.

On cold and cloudy days, this building adds a little sunshine to the bleak environment. It certainly brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately, there’s not much whimsy in current architectural design. It seems that many architects take their designs too seriously. What ever happened to the Gaudi’s of the world? 
Directly across from Treptower Park in Berlin is the Blaue Apotheke (Pharmacy). By attaching five plastic flowers to the building facade, the owners of this structure have transformed a rather ordinary piece of architecture into something whimsical. What better way to attract customers and improve the urban landscape.

On cold and cloudy days, this building adds a little sunshine to the bleak environment. It certainly brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately, there’s not much whimsy in current architectural design. It seems that many architects take their designs too seriously. What ever happened to the Gaudi’s of the world? 
Mercy Hospital Parking Lot

Most people go about their daily activities hardly noticing the ubiquitous parking lot. Yet, the parking lot is a familiar and useful part of modern life. Characterized by black top surfaces, minimal landscaping, and pole lighting, these open spaces dominate many urban landscapes. Since most parking lots are designed to maximize parking space, they lack extensive landscaping and are generally ugly heat islands in summer or frozen wastelands in winter. Parking lots are rarely “designed,” and if they are, it’s done cheaply and haphazardly. It doesn’t take much money to beautify a parking lot, just a willingness to make an eyesore more attractive. 

Here is a wonderful example of an ordinary parking lot made beautiful. It’s the Mercy Hospital parking lot in Portland, Maine. Located on the corner of Spring and Winter, this simple and economical design relies exclusively on annuals and grasses massed along the guard rails. The colorful plants not only soften the harsh asphalt pavement, but they attracts birds, bees, and useful insects. The carefully selected plants also compliment the brick sidewalk and brick hospital across the street. Thank you Mercy Hospital for adding a little bit of beauty to Portland!

Mercy Hospital Parking Lot

Most people go about their daily activities hardly noticing the ubiquitous parking lot. Yet, the parking lot is a familiar and useful part of modern life. Characterized by black top surfaces, minimal landscaping, and pole lighting, these open spaces dominate many urban landscapes. Since most parking lots are designed to maximize parking space, they lack extensive landscaping and are generally ugly heat islands in summer or frozen wastelands in winter. Parking lots are rarely “designed,” and if they are, it’s done cheaply and haphazardly. It doesn’t take much money to beautify a parking lot, just a willingness to make an eyesore more attractive. 

Here is a wonderful example of an ordinary parking lot made beautiful. It’s the Mercy Hospital parking lot in Portland, Maine. Located on the corner of Spring and Winter, this simple and economical design relies exclusively on annuals and grasses massed along the guard rails. The colorful plants not only soften the harsh asphalt pavement, but they attracts birds, bees, and useful insects. The carefully selected plants also compliment the brick sidewalk and brick hospital across the street. Thank you Mercy Hospital for adding a little bit of beauty to Portland!

Statute of Edwin Booth
(brother of John Wilkes Booth)

At last, inside the park! Gramercy Park is one of only two privately held parks in New York City (Sunnyside Gardens in Queens is the other).Only people residing around the park and who pay an annual fee have access. (BTW: Gramercy Park is open to the public on Christmas Eve.)


I was able to tour the park as a guest of the Gramercy Park Hotel. (Even by NYC standards, this hotel is overpriced. The rooms are nice and not cramped, but there’s no complimentary newspaper, coffee, or WiFi access. The only reason to stay here is access to Gramercy Park.)

An  Unfortunate 1980s Addition

I wasn’t disappointed. Inside the 2 acre park, the noise of the big city was noticeably softer, the temperature a few degrees cooler (on the day I visited, NYC was 97!), and the throngs of people absent. In fact, the lack of people using the park, and the scores of people peering through the fence was a bit weird. Now, I know how the rich and famous feel when they are gawked at. 

The lack of People Inside the Park






Statute of Edwin Booth
(brother of John Wilkes Booth)

At last, inside the park! Gramercy Park is one of only two privately held parks in New York City (Sunnyside Gardens in Queens is the other).Only people residing around the park and who pay an annual fee have access. (BTW: Gramercy Park is open to the public on Christmas Eve.)


I was able to tour the park as a guest of the Gramercy Park Hotel. (Even by NYC standards, this hotel is overpriced. The rooms are nice and not cramped, but there’s no complimentary newspaper, coffee, or WiFi access. The only reason to stay here is access to Gramercy Park.)

An  Unfortunate 1980s Addition

I wasn’t disappointed. Inside the 2 acre park, the noise of the big city was noticeably softer, the temperature a few degrees cooler (on the day I visited, NYC was 97!), and the throngs of people absent. In fact, the lack of people using the park, and the scores of people peering through the fence was a bit weird. Now, I know how the rich and famous feel when they are gawked at. 

The lack of People Inside the Park






My Very Own Gartenzwerg,
Including Plants

One of the first things I noticed in Berlin were the balconies filled with window boxes, containers, and hanging baskets. Most people in Berlin do not live in houses but in apartments; so it’s easy to understand this love of the window box and balcony garden. People want nature, even if it’s on a balcony in the middle of a large city.

You find these small gardens hundreds of feet in the air on large apartment blocks, on upscale apartments, and even on places of business. The abundance of flower shops with inexpensive potted plants makes it easy to add color and fragrance to your home. During the summer months, you see people eating, drinking, or just sitting in their small landscaped oases above the rumble and drone of the city.  

Simple but Stylish
This crowed balcony is above Hexe, a Raucous Bar


A Bit of the Mediterranean


There’s Not Much More Room Here


Very German:  Planned and Coordinated


My Own Garden Oasis
Even in Kreuzberg!