Culture in the City
10 October 2012
Assignment 1: City Beautiful in Civic Center Park
“The noblest sort of heart is that composed of the united will of many citizens” (Robinson, p. 10), and this united will is brought forth by the City Beautiful movement. The core goals of the City Beautiful movement is to create a better city through the development of unity, civic pride, and better citizens. Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado is a prime example of the City Beautiful movement manifested into reality. With its’ grand manner architectural style it attempts to instill a sense of unity and civic pride with in the residents of the city, which in the City Beautiful style is intended to lead to better citizens over all. Civic Center Park illustrates the core goals of the City Beautiful movement through the monuments present, the design, and the location of the park its self. In the city beautiful movement it is key to create pubic space; this idea of public—shared—space is intended to create a place where all members of the community can come together in a central location. Civic Park is a large public space that is located in the center of downtown Denver, with busy streets on all sides that do not cut through the park but strategically curve around it as to simply incorporate the park into city life; this curvilinear street design is an aspect that Camillo Sitte advocated for in urban design. Also in order to create this sense of a shared public space the park is completely encircled by public buildings, which is an aspect of Grand Manner design that Sitte greatly appreciates in ancient cities (Sitte, p. 469); it creates an “...unbroken frame of public buildings” (Sitte, p. 475), which produces a “…cohesive effect of the square…” (Sitte, p. 477). From the center of the park one can spin around and view the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Public Library, City Hall, and the newly added Colorado History Museum with out leaving that one spot. The boulevards leading to this central, open space are all broad, beautifully paved, and extensively tree lined, which is a key aspect in Grand Manner design. Much of the foot traffic in the area seemed to choose to walk these paths to their destinations instead of the main roads, despite that most destinations appeared not to be within the park its self. Facilitating a sense that this area is for the public use in more aspects than just a park. Another way in which Civic Center Park is reaching out to the public is through the program “Grow Local”. Near the center of the park is a space of land that has been cultivated into a community garden, where the food that is produced is donated to local non-profits and is cared for by volunteers in the community. The goal of the “Grow Local” foundation is to “promote local food, local community, and local economy” (Civic Center Park sign). This program that is central in the park entirely focuses on the betterment and unity of the community surrounding Civic Center Park. It establishes a connection amongst the citizens of Denver for it is completely local and is supported by the immediate community for the immediate community, which is a key concept in the City Beautiful movement. This aspect of having an open public space surrounded by civic buildings is a core City Beautiful ideology, for it turns the entire area into public domain. All that can be seen is open to the public, allowing the citizens to feel united and a part of something larger—their city. This connection helps to produce pride in the citizens, for when one feels connected they also feel a sense of responsibility. As Robinson put it in his paper, Improvement in City Life, “the happier people of the rising city beautiful will grow in love for it, in pride in it. They will be better citizens, because better instructed, more artistic, and filled with civic pride” (Robinson, p. 10). With responsibility also comes pride when the area is one that is...