Three of Astana's parks form a linear greenway: Astana Park, the Esil River promenade, and the park of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. The uses of these parks are distinct functions of these parks' designs and features. Collectively, these parks demonstrate how park design might encourage or discourage specific uses.
Astana Park's paths are, in varying places, slabs of rock, cobblestones, and asphalt. The cobbled slabs are uncomfortable to walk on, but romantic in their look. Flower-beds and benches nestled in alcoves created by densely planted trees are interspersed among the cobbled slab walkways. Young couples often promenade in this part of the park. In another part of the park, there is a well-appointed outdoor gymnasium, where local youths often engage in informal competitions of strength on the surprisingly well-maintained open-air athletic equipment.
Broad, landscaped, multi-terraced promenades also run parallel to the Esil River. Families and friends stroll here, often joined by roller-bladders and recreational cyclists speeding over the smooth asphalt. On both banks, the paths provide access to the river, and the riverbed along the lowest-terraced path is shallow. Older men often fish, young women sometimes sunbathe, and people of all ages jump in the water to swim, weather permitting.
At the park of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, curvilinear packed-dirt paths wind through groves and around water features. Runners frequently take to the paths, as the packed dirt is softer to run on than the asphalt or cobbled paths of the other parks. The winding paths and water features encourage contemplation and the use of one's imagination. Strolling through the park, as many do, can be restorative or intellectually stimulating. The opportunity to let one's mind drift is, moreover, a welcome distraction to most who choose to run through the park.
How do the features of your city's parks influence use? Discuss the ideal park. What features does it have? When groups use a park – runners, chess players, or skateboarders, for example – do they take ownership of the park? How do they shape how others use the park?
Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Data linked to sources.