Now that social distancing appears to be sticking around for the time being, architecture and design firms are adapting their designs to fit our new normal—and improve our current circumstances. Austria-based architecture, interior, and landscape design firm Studio Precht has unveiled a plan for a new park that would allow people living in urban areas to once again enjoy public green space.

A closer look at the park shows an undulating landscape, making for a better aesthetic and a harder walk for visitors.

Many parks in major cities have been closed at a time when people need fresh air and solitude more than ever, so Studio Precht developed Parc de la Distance, a landscape design that encourages visitors to walk the space separately, effectively being alone in public. “The main purpose of the park is to get away for a little while from the noise and hustle of the city,” says architect Chris Precht, who designed the park with architects Fei Tang Precht and Andreas Stadlmayr. “On one level the park should connect people to green, and on another it should connect people to themselves. You walk the park in solitude—you and your thoughts. I think that sometimes it’s important to disconnect yourself from your surroundings to be able to reconnect afterward.”

An aerial view shows the safe distance between each individual walking in the park at the same time.

The labyrinth-like design was inspired by a human fingerprint. Visitors enter and exit individual lanes through gateways, which show whether the path is free to walk. The paths are carpeted with reddish granite gravel and set almost eight feet apart, leaving plenty of space between visitors. Each lane is nearly 2,000 feet long and is bordered by an almost-three-foot-wide hedge. “We used hedges for the park,” says Precht. “They are easy to plant and easy to maintain. On a historic level, they pay homage to traditional French garden design.”

The park would fit in an urban plot of land, or in more remote parts of the globe.

In addition to Baroque gardens, the studio took inspiration from Japanese rock gardens. The height of the hedges varies to give different experiences throughout the walk, allowing walkers to be fully surrounded by nature one minute and able to see across the park the next. As visitors reach the middle of their path, they find a fountain where they can rest before continuing on to finish the walk, which would take about 20 minutes total.

Seen here from a short distance, the park would be a verdant addition to any urban setting, while maintaining the appropriate social distancing practices that have become increasingly important in the age of COVID-19.

The project was designed for a vacant plot of land in Vienna and is still just a proposal. Precht thinks that the concept could work—and is needed—in other cities as well. “To be honest, the chances for this to happen on the proposed plot in Vienna are limited, but through [the publication of the project] we have some incoming opportunities in different countries,” he says. “I think that all cities in the world are busy places and need some spaces to escape from the hustle.”


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