Project: URBAN PARK IN LERVIG | or how to manage a controversy from a common imagery | Stavanger, Norway
The design seeks to integrate 4 (2 + 2) different interpretations of the concept of urban park. The first 2 represent the antagonistic conflict between the two great institutions in charge of “prefiguring” the image of the future public space: the Stavanger Kommune -the City- and Urban Sjøfront -agency representing private interests of all land owners along the seafront. The ubiquitous image of park like something MONUMENTALLY GREEN to be enjoyed in a contemplative and sublime way, and defended by the Kommune, is far from the image of “programmable” park, defended by the Urban Sjøfront, characterized by urban uses and where groups of skaters live together with children cycling, kayakers, urban farmers, summer concerts, etc. The way to describe the various architectural elements summarizes this situation: the Kommune described the access to the park as “romantic promenade” while the Urban Sjøfront described the bleachers as “mechanisms of cultural action.”
This struggle is represented in a clear way on the two large dominant areas of the park: the lawn’s green against the concrete’s gray. However, the design process tries to turn this situation into agonistic; that is, one accepts the existence of the other without striving for their mutual exclusion. The initial architectural strategy to manage this controversy is based on using public participation processes to transform a quantitative problem into a qualitative question: the first discussions focused on what percentage of surface was due to be green and what to gray.
So, after a complex participatory process in which both institutions were invited as well as public agencies, private lobbies, neighborhood associations, local artists, etc., 2 other new interpretations about the future of this park were incorporated: the first embodies a nostalgic idea of their own past as fish canneries and responds critically to the despotic sweep of these local identity features that the new urban planning is causing. Interestingly, this is a present idea in the winning competition proposal but unknown by participants. The second interpretation is referred clearly to another feature of their identity, as Norwegians: the sea as a dominant landscape.
In response to these 4 interpretations of what should be the image of the future park (the sublime green, the programmable grey, the fish canneries past and the dominant sea) we submitted 5 different designs that try to respond to the above-mentioned complexity. Both Kommune and the Urban Sjøfront understand that this proposal is the one that better integrates interests, prejudices, desires and dreams both of these two institutions and participants in the process. The final design builds a multilevel landscape using the circle (like fish cans) as the main geometric pattern in order to establish a direct relationship with Stavanger’s glorious industrial past.
Within this topographic system, a large wooded parkland invades the periphery of the park acting as an experiential, visual and acoustic “buffer” while the gray areas constitute a promenade bathed by the sea and with multiple levels. This is where a response to the identity of the Norwegian relationship with the sea occurs: the multiple levels of the different platforms are designed so that the dry landscape changes depending on the tides throughout the day, month, year, every lustrum or every half century. The design understands that this changing and surprising situation may reinforce this sense of belonging and build a strong narrative around cultural sustainability. For this reason, the design even proposes the construction of a small island only accessible at certain times of the year or a pavement hiding a kind of pattern formed by geometric fishes that appears only when wet.
From a social point of view, setting these concrete platforms at different levels allows very different situations related to urban and maritime life: jumping into the water, kayaking, fishing comfortably, picnics, concerts, etc., plus those enabled by large unobstructed surfaces and open to the imagination of the user. We sincerely hope that future users will unveil unexpected situations.
On the other hand, the main challenge in terms of environmental and economic management is the implementation of the earthwork for both the formation of the different levels bathed by the tides as to complete the area reclaimed from the sea. For the former, we decided not to use more soil than the existing on the site itself. For the latter, we will use part of the extraction material from the construction of the underwater tunnel linking Stavanger with Solbakk. The rest of the design arises from the use of native plant species and local stone flooring materials, wood from Norwegian forests for furniture…
We are proposing, therefore, to continue with two of the principles of PLAYstudio. First, to play with characteristic images from culture (in its broadest sense) to approach in a different way to ecology. Secondly and getting away from a nostalgic attitude, we understand that any new urban identity must be constructed by the uses which are enabled around the several figurations that the design poses.
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