Candidate – Hungary
Submission by: Municipality of Budapest Önkormányzata
Project name: Naturally on the banks of the Danube
The Municipality of Budapest created an approximately 7-hectare urban park on the Danube bank North of Római part in cooperation with Főkert. When defining the character of the new park an innovative, ecological design was chosen, focusing on nature, instead of the „traditional” urban park development. A park where visitors come to be in nature, to rest and relax. This idea was the backbone for creating the structure of the park, it defined the functions, the design, the use of materials and the selection and use of plants.
The park consists of several distinct units in terms of theme, atmosphere, plant use and function, displaying landscape uses and features characteristic of waterfronts and of the edge of settlements. These units are connected by the walkway, like beads on a string. Our goal was to bring traditional rural landscape characteristics back to urban areas.
One of the priorities for creating Pünkösdfürdő Park was to provide recreational facilties for a wide range of users. The park offers leisure activities (both active and passive) for all age groups including small children and the elderly alike. The playground is available to children and their parents, while the soccer, basketball and beach volleyball courts were designed for older children and adults. Other physical activities including ping-pong and petangue. Walkways, benches, deck chairs, fire pits and tables invite people to relax on their own with their friends, to contemplate the scenery and nature along the Danube bank, to engage in conversation, board games, or the cook over a campfire. In order to ensure accessible design, which was another priority, an equal opportunity expert was asked to participate in designing the park.
Ecological principles were taken into consideration when selecting the plants for the site, biodiversity and sustainability were kept in mind. The divers, interesting plant communities invoke various Hungarian landscapes, at the same time making allowances for local conditions, for the intended use, and for maintenance possibilities. In addition to native plants horticultural varieties are also included. The landscaping design of the park aimed at creating natural effects with green areas that can be easily and cost-effectively maintained. The perennial areas were designed with the use of ornamental grasses and other perennials that are well suited to local ecological conditions, thus reducing the cost of watering. In addition to intensively used lawns wildflower meadows were created using a mixture of perennial, annual and a wide variety of grass seeds, thus reducing the number of times cutting is required per year.
Circular economy was one of the important objectives both for the creation and the maintenance of the park. The concrete foundation of the slipways that were demolished were ground and reused as foundation for roads. The site development was done with balanced earth-moving to minimise the amount of delivered and transported soil, only soil require to improve soil quality was brough in. The green waste from public parks, composted on Főkert’s premises, was used to add fertility to the soil.
The intensively managed green surfaces of the park (intensive grasses, perennial beds, trees) are watered using automatic watering systems to ensure appropriate irrigation for the given vegetation period. The watering system can be remotely controlled to modify the amount of water used in accordance with weather conditions such as extreme rains or droughts. Formerly stagnant water after heavy rains damaged the paved surfaces that could not be drained due to flood protection measures were designed to drain into several new water gardens, thus water is retained in the soil, where plants can uptake and evaporate it. The system was designed to handle extreme amounts of precipitation, and so far, it has proven to be able to absorb and store extreme rainfall very well. Of all the vegetation that was planted in the area the way of maintaining extensive grasses and the plant application of perennial sections contribute the most to withstanding the extreme conditions resulting from climate change. In two low-lying areas of the park rain gardens were created as a solution to the former problem of water drainage. These water gardens can function as temporary water storage in case of extreme precipitation. Shade sails provide shade on the playgrounds until the trees planted grow enough to take over this function.
Recycling bins placed in strategic locations serve to form the visitors’ environmental consciousness. Green waste from the area is composted at the facilities of the site operator. In addition to this a community composting area was set up, to provide composting possibilities to people living nearby.
Wellbeing of visitors/users
Community forums were held during the design process to assess the needs and expectations of the users of the park. The scope of users was extended to include various age groups, as well as cyclists, dog owners, disabled, and lovers of different sports. The unique character of the area is represented by unique street furniture design: benches with a back or backless ones, pick-nick tables all in the same colour and made of the same material. The convenience of park use is served by 84 benches, 7 pick-nick tables, 23 deck chairs, 51 waste collecting bins, 32 bicycle racks, 1 bicycle service station, 5 drinking fountains, and 3 fire pits. Next to the playground accessible washrooms/toilets were built.
Selection, origin and quality of the products and materials
The green surfaces of the park were created to increase biodiversity/species diversity, with a environmentally conscious, ecological approach. The park aims to draw people’s attention to the role and importance of biodiversity. It can be an inspiration to other public spaces and to private gardens in their selection and use of plants. This is emphasized by the educational trail with its signs that invite all ages of visitors to learn about their environment. The signs and the street furniture were designed especially for the park, using uniform materials, and creating a unique style. Pavements were designed to allow for accessibility, under the concrete surface of the main road ground up concrete from demolished objects was used as a foundation. The large sand surface on the playground also serves to drain water. Shock-absorbing rubber cover was only used in minimal quantities, where the function required it. The old, black poplars that were growing along the watercourse of the Danube have become dangerous. Their trunks and larger branches were left on site as deadwood, or used to create seating, thereby raising awareness of the importance of the idea of creating habitat and of recycling materials.
The overall design
The area was transformed to an attractive city park with a strong ecological message, which serves as an example with innovative landscaping solutions despite the numerous unfavourable conditions of the former flood protection area (poor soil conditions, long and narrow area surrounded by pavement, single layer herbaceous vegetation, exposed area on the Danube bank, visually divided from the water by a dam). When determining the character of the park we dismissed the requirements of a traditional urban park. The park is unique because it is a park on the edge of the city where people come to be close to nature, and to rest and relax. This idea was the backbone for creating the structure of the park, it defined the functions, the design, the use of materials and the selection and use of plants. The naturalness that characterizes the park creates an exciting unity with the applied contemporary elements. The park consists of several distinct units in terms of theme, atmosphere, plant use and function, displaying landscape uses and features characteristic of waterfronts and of the edge of settlements. These units are connected by the walkway, like beads on a string.
The units of the park:
Confluence (receiving area), Border (agricultural products), Meadow (with unique seed mixes – 6 different types – planted accompanying surfaces), Margin (accessible walkway), Grove (area covered in “bush forest” – it includes the fitness areas), Lowland (sunken sports area, area for sunbathing with a terrace), Garden (orchard, petanque-courts), Sandy area (central playground complex, with rain shelters and washrooms), Protective forest (gridded tree planting). Four buildings were built in the park, with their identical design they blend into the park, matching its naturalness. Wooden structures with broken contours, reminiscent of boulders, hide the pavilion of the coast guards, the washrooms, and two rain shelters.
The impact on the environment
To decrease the ecological footprint of the project demolished pavements were reused, the newly created green surfaces are managed extensively, and the circular approach is used in waste management (selective waste collection, composting). The newly created green surfaces – most of which are extensively managed – create recreational opportunities for visitors to the park, while also providing new habitat for birds and insects.
Innovative value off the project
The project is more ecological than traditional landscape design and public park development, more emphasis is placed on adaptation to climate change. As for green surfaces there is significantly more extensively managed areas than intensively managed lawns.
This approach creates a park whose maintenance is more economical while it helps initiate a change of attitude among park users regarding the fact that we can be in a “park forest” environment in an urban setting. The park has an important message: it is our individual responsibility to take care of nature, to preserve biodiversity, to respond to climate change. The stations of the educational trail present this topic in an interactive manner, with unique information boards and graphics. Most of the information boards that were created as part of the project serve to raise awareness about the environment and to strengthen the ties to the area, the others help visitors find their way around in the park.