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Walk in the Concrete Park ...

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Name:Michael Patrick
Location:San Jose, California, United States

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Monday, May 23


Walk in the Concrete Park

winding stone and concrete steps below Highway 87, Guadalupe River Park, San Jose, California, May 21, 2005

According to this release, the Guadalupe River Park and Gardens are not to open officially until September 10. However, I found while walking down Santa Clara Street that a portion of the park still closed just a few weeks ago had opened to the public. I took a walk there and overall was pleased from a design point of view.

The location has a major handicap in that the river runs alongside and underneath the Guadalupe Parkway overpass, an imposing concrete structure that casts large shadows and contrasts tremendously from most of its surroundings. Yet, the concrete and stone of the redesigned channel complement the overpass and turn it into a feature of the park. At the same time, the design has just enough detail and organic elements--such as the stone, the vegetation, and the river's own winding path--that it doesn't share the starkness of the overpass.

In the "urban renewal"/"urban removal" days, several street blocks in this portion of Downtown were erased from the maps, facilitating private development by the superblock but creating disconnects among the area's individual parts. This park, along with its ped/bike paths, helps unify the neighborhood and establish a physical connection across the blocks. And, with the two sides of the freeway being very unlike each other (since far more redevelopment activity has happened on the east side than on the west), the winding channel gives both sides something in common.

I don't mean for this to sound like puff--we shouldn't forget how the paths under the bridges make great homeless campsites and how Mother Nature never uses concrete when building her watercourses--but in terms of aesthetic design, I think the new park is very good. Take a look:

vegetation, Guadalupe River Park at W Santa Clara Street, San Jose, California, May 21, 2005 young couple underneath West San Fernando Street bridge, Guadalupe River Park, San Jose, California, May 21, 2005 geese, Guadalupe River Park, San Jose, California, May 21, 2005

June 5: Lately the fences have been back up at this portion of the park for whatever reason. But today I walked by and saw a guy inside, sitting on a bench and reading a book, so, hey, I guess it's open.