Elizabeth Macdonald, Professor of City & Regional Planning, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at the College of Environmental Design, recently published a new book on the impact of waterfronts on urban life, titled Urban Waterfront Promenades (Routledge 2017). Her book examines the possibilities for these public spaces and offers design and planning approaches useful for professionals, community decision-makers, and scholars.
“I originally became interested in the topic after experiencing and learning about waterfront promenades in Vancouver, British Columbia. I came to understand they had been created through planning decisions that dated back to the early 20th century,” Macdonald explained. “The municipality made the simple decision to create a public waterfront where pedestrians were prioritized, and they have continued to implement that idea until the present. It was a very simple idea in the beginning that over the long run has created a highly valued public open space for people of the city.”
Over the course of six years, Professor Macdonald visited urban waterfront promenades around the world and created case studies for 38 of them. From the classic promenades in Rio de Janeiro, to the promenades in Stockholm’s recently built Hammarby Sjöstad eco-district to the Ma On Shan promenade in the Hong Kong New Territories, Macdonald analyzed their physical form, social use, the circumstances under which they were built, the public policies that brought them into being, and the threats from sea level rise and the responses that have been made.
“So often you can’t find comparable information about different kinds of urban spaces in one place,” Professor Macdonald said. “I wanted to put all the case studies together so that when people look from one to the next they will be able to compare them in terms of location, scale, design approach, policy context, and how they are being used. I’m hoping they will help people think about what the myriad possibilities for promenades and how they can be accomplished.”
Professor Macdonald’s book includes extensive plans, cross sections, and photographs that allow for visual comparisons. The hand-drawn cross section drawings are from field measurements taken by Macdonald.
One of the key discoveries during the research and writing of Urban Waterfront Promenades was realizing the many ways in which promenades were brought to fruition.
“I found it really interesting that there was such a variety of different design approaches,” Macdonald said. “In some cases, very simply designed promenades were as welcoming, treasured and used as more elaborately designed ones. For example, those that grew out of some community process or involvement often took on a richness that wasn't there or as apparent in ones that were designed without that community process.”
Professor Macdonald intends her book to be a resource for designers, community members and public decision makers, providing inspiration for people to create urban waterfronts in the future that reflect the values and aspirations of their communities.
Read more about Professor Macdonald’s newest book and purchase a copy of it here.