Monday, October 26, 2009

Shelby Farms Park

Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Years: 2008-2009
Architect: James Corner, Field Operations Landscape Architects

In April of 2008 landscape architect James Corner won the competition to reconvert Shelby Farms outside downtown Memphis, Tennessee, which with 4,500-acre stands as the largest urban park in the United States -five times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park. Formerly a penal farm and currently hosting separated park and farming facilities, Corner envisions transforming Shelby Farms into a hybridized space of health and recreation centered on its agricultural past. A million newly planted trees will help define twelve different landscapes, seven of which will focus on agricultural and gastronomic education. There will be a range supporting livestock such as llamas, goats and cows as part of a farm exhibit, a community garden area spanning 150 acres, a fish lake with an adjacent restaurant and educational space, a school whose curriculum will have a special focus on environmental and agricultural issues, 300 acres of agricultural research fields, an ‘Agricenter’ which will provide a farmers market area as well as cookout facilities, and 100 acres of orchards which would supply the farmers market.

Although perhaps not as radical as it could be, Shelby Farms Park’s large size and the fact that such a prominent landscape design office as Field Operations is designing it, offers the potential for a significant press exposure, and may influence the design of other parks worldwide. Its accessibility (a frequent shuttle service is to be provided) from nearby downtown Memphis, will hopefully contribute to its popularity amongst the local population, offering them an opportunity to reconnect with the land and helping them rethink their relationship to the food they consume.

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