Anette Freytag

Urban Parks and Velocity: When a Train Links Different Worlds
Anette Freytag

Urban Parks and Velocity describes the impact that industrialization, new engineering, and especially the opening up of Europe through the railway has had on modern society, and in particular on urban parks, one important setting for modern city life. The designs of two parks serve to help analyze the aesthetics of the time: the park Buttes-Chaumont in Paris (1866-67) and the Türkenschanzpark in Vienna (1885-88). Both parks are open toward the city as well as toward the countryside, and a railway serves as a visual and physical link. In Paris as well as in Vienna, the parks mirror the landscapes of the new weekend destinations for city dwellers, which are then reached by the new railway lines. The design represents how the distances between city and countryside have been dissolved by new engineering, whereas the new experience of transition and a rapidly changing scenery during the ride has similarities to the perception of quickly changing attractions and vistas during movement in the park.

However, while the railways are usually linear and of high speed (similar to the new linear boulevards of Haussmann Paris), the actual movement of the promeneur is generally slowed down through the winding paths within the park. They become enclaves within the hectic city, while at the same time celebrating the city. The same set up of nineteenth-century city parks can be found in the language of the twentieth-century landscape design in the Jardin Atlantique, which was built above the new TGV railway station in Paris, at the beginning of the 1990s. The noise of the parting trains and the stench of the underground infiltrate the park, where several landscapes are combined in a very condensed form. Once again, the railway links the landscape of the park with the landscape of the destination of the parting train. The park design stimulates the visitors’ desire for distance and their memories of past voyages and discoveries, and shows how landscape is structured by technology and motion.

Anette Freytag is an art historian and has worked as a journalist since 1986. She studied art history in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris (1990-98), and macroeconomics in Vienna (1990-92). Through her interest in art theory, architecture, and the social parameters of art, she discovered garden history and landscape design. She wrote her master’s thesis on the contemporary urban parks of Paris and soon after became an assistant to F. T. Bach, professor of modern art at the University of Vienna. From 1998 to 1999, she realized a series of broadcasts on contemporary European landscape designers for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF and managed the international congress "Gardens of Today & History of Tomorrow." As of October 1999 she lives in Brussels, where she has deepened her interest in landscape and culture and worked for the European Union on agriculture and rural development.


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