Chicago, United States
1916 – 1920
Designer Jens Jensen brought the prairie landscape towards the city dweller
|Fig.1||The landscape of the prairie: slight slopes, low grasses, and shrubs (Image: freeimages.com)|
|Fig.2||Design for a part of the park, 1917. A river divides into two meandering streams. Two waterfalls, comprising layers of rock, represent the source of the river. (Image: Bentley Image Bank)|
|Fig.3||Waterfall with prairie forests simulated by the planting of elm, maple, hawthorn, and wild apple. Photo c.1935. (Image: cpdarchives)|
|Fig.4||Along the river stand grasses, cat tail, hibiscus, and arrow herb. Photo c.1920. (Image: Jensjensen.org)|
The prairies of the American Midwest are landscapes of slight slopes and vistas. Low grasses, herbs and shrubs grow on vast plains with the occasional group of trees. A stream winds through the landscape. The Denmark born landscape designer Jens Jensen drew inspiration from the characteristics of this landscape for the design of Columbus Park. Columbus Park is part of the Chicago Park System, a ring of parks and boulevards conceived in the nineteenth century. The park system had to contribute to a "healthy urbanization" - a healing effect was attributed to a stay in a park.
Jensen made endless journeys to observe and photograph the prairie. In 1930 he wrote in The Saturday Evening Post that he wished everyone was able to get in touch with this native landscape, but he was aware of the fact that not every city dweller could go out just like that. "The idea became stronger that it is my duty to bring the outdoors into the city." ( i )
The park design was emphatically not a copy, but a search for the essence of the prairie landscape. Jensen used "citations", parts of the landscape that together evoke the experience of a prairie. Jensen said: “I do not mean by this that I was to try to copy Nature. A landscape architect, like a landscape painter can't photograph; he must idealize the thing he sees. In other words, he must try to portray its soul”( ii )
The higher edges of Columbus Park refer to the typical slopes of the prairie landscape. In the middle there is an open playing field with low planting, referring to a prairie meadow with wide views. Here is an artificial river, which splits into two meandering streams. Two waterfalls, made up of layers of rocks, represent the source of the river. The characteristic prairie forests are simulated by the planting of elm, maple, hawthorn and wild apple. Along the river grasses, cat tail, hibiscus and arrow herb grow. The idealised prairie offers space for modern park functions. The swimming and toddlers' pool has limestone rock walls and the sports fields and golf course fit into the open "prairie meadows".
|( i )||Jens Jensen, Writings Inspired by Nature, edited by William H. Tishler, 2012, p. 86.|
|( ii )||Jens Jensen, Writings Inspired by Nature, edited by William H. Tishler, 2012, p. 86.|