Exploring the important role of city parks

Parks and open spaces have long been a vital part of a city’s ecosystem, and the newest exhibit at Northeastern’s Gallery 360 explores how five U.S. cities have incorporated parks into their landscape, and what the future holds for open space development.

“Emerald Networks” opened in the gallery’s main space on Tuesday night and will be on display until April 26. It highlights the past, present, and future of park systems in five cities: Chicago, Washington, Minneapolis, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Hartford, Connecticut. It also details the role of city parks over the years.

“This exhibit really falls in the wheelhouse of our architecture school, which is very much dedicated to research on topics that are relevant and meaningful to the world today,” School of Architecture Director George Thrush said during an opening reception on Tuesday.

The exhibit curators are Gina Ford and Laura Marett, who work at Sasaki Associates, a Watertown, Massachusetts-based architecture firm. Ford also serves on the Northeastern School of Architecture’s board of advisors.

Emerald Networks: Reviving the Legacy of City Parks

A display in the “Emerald Network” exhibit detailing the park system in Minneapolis. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

In addition to graphics showcasing the history of each city’s park system as well as future plans, the exhibit includes information about the evolution of city open space, from being the lungs of the city and putting service before art, to today’s principles of sustainability, social equity, and active programing.

“This show is really an homage to the notion of cultural heritage and the roles parks play in place and the identity of cities,” Ford said.

Exhibit visitors are also encouraged to participate in the interactive portion of “Emerald Networks,” in which they can write suggestions for how Boston’s parks can be enhanced based on today’s guiding principles.

“Clearly open space networks have been at the heart of city planning throughout the history of civilization,” said Jane Amidon, professor and director of Northeastern’s Urban Landscape program. “But the role those networks play have shifted dramatically through generations.”

“Emerald Networks” is also the first piece of the Green City Spaces Colloquium, a series of events on campus that will focus on how city green spaces have been and are designed, as well as how they are represented in the arts and literature.

The exhibit is sponsored by Sasaki Associates in collaboration with the Northeastern Humanities Center, the Northeastern Center for the Arts, the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, the College of Arts, Media and Design, and Gallery 360.