Every now and then in our travels we get a kick out of finding design solutions that are at the opposite pole of how we approach something. So as a firm that prioritizes horticulture in the public realm – and by the way, Lynden Miller’s book called Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape is a good read on this topic – we had to scratch our heads at this bunker, ummm I mean planter:

Though it’s potentially well irrigated, judging from the irrigation tubing extending from it, there’s very little room for the main event – plants! This streetscape planter suffers from the same problem:

Scale of planting material is one of the (many) design considerations that make public horticulture succeed or fail. If the scale of planting isn’t holding up to its surroundings, it basically becomes invisible.

That’s one of the reasons why the plantings on Michigan Avenue are so bold. In a small town, they would be over the top; amidst towering skyscrapers, they hold their own.

Photography by Judith Bromley

Here is another photo pair from our travels where the median plantings lack a sense of scale. When viewed from farther away (in this case, just the sidewalk), they lose all impact.

In contrast, the street below is also a two-lane road, but the plantings, designed to distinguish the primary artery between downtown and the airport in Des Moines, make a statement from both within the car (plantings are elevated to be visible to drivers), and from the sidewalks where neighborhood residents encounter them. In this case, massing and scale work together to make a distinctive environment.

Seen great examples of urban greening? We’re big advocates of public horticulture, please share what you’ve seen!

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