Is there a place for the notion of central park in a 21st century fringe? In a sprawled, disconnected landscape, the concept of nodal and multimodal infrastructure is one proposed design intervention. Spatially, this would look at structuring nodes in areas of existing infrastructure and access to potential or existing mass transit. In this scenario, the spatial configuration of open space would develop into a series of networks and decentralized parks that connect nodes together. Thus, one must ask, is a central community park part of the phased out 20th century American dream?
Moreover, is decentralization actually a viable remedy to the plague of sprawl? To support this argument I would ask the following question: if we seek to reconfigure a sprawled fringe landscape by centralizing development in a single town center, what happens to the scattered development far outside of walking distance, or even biking distance? Have we done anything to reduce the daily vehicle miles traveled per person or the frequency of car use over walking or biking? (One stipulation of this conceptual spatial pattern is scale - a study area of a 1/4 or 1/2 square mile would need to be treated far differently than a study area of 16 square miles.) Instead of concentrating all commercial, retail and services in a single town center, what if we spread them out in a series of smaller satellite centers that offered similar basic amenities? Big box stores could still be concentrated in a larger hub where people could drive from further distances to reach, but ideally could walk, bike or carpool to a smaller satellite center for every day items.
This would be a process of strategic infill that could begin to connect seemingly disconnected suburban entities to each other and eventually to larger urban centers and cities. This revised pattern of development could have significant impact on open space networks, ecological systems and transportation options. Instead of focusing on simply preserving land we would be able to focus on integrating under utilized, disconnected open space parcels into a larger system.
So, decentralization to fix disconnection?