BLDGBLOG’s post about “over-landscaped” parks in South Korea makes me think of my favorite “natural” space in Chicago, Ping Tom Park in Chinatown on the south branch of the Chicago River at 18th St.

The article discusses Korean photographer Hosang Park’s new photography work featuring these tight, semi-open spaces typically installed at high-rise apartment buildings.

The article talks about how the park’s amenities and features are so crammed together that the park is more a symbol of what a park can be. I was hoping Nicola or Park would address if there’s an inherent cultural style found in the park. That is, are they really over-landscaped, or do they resemble other artistic designs of East Asia.

Would we say that Korean Hangul characters are “over drawn” or have too many lines crammed into one character?

The Ping Tom Park in Chinatown has many similarities to the small parks featured in the blog post: They both have a strictly designed layout, as opposed to the free flowing shape and boundaries of American forest preserves; each features a pagoda; there is a lot of hardscaping using various materials of many colors to form the walkways.

A perception I take away from the article, Ping Tom Park, and the photos of the parks in Korea, is that the open space and green or grassy areas are available purely to watch and respect, but not to step on.

It seems the author’s opinion, which may be the same as the photographer’s, but that’s not clear, is that these parks are so perfect and manicured that we can’t appreciate them as much as more “natural” looking recreational spaces. However, the photographer, Park, unconsciously speaks to its benefits and why they continue to be constructed: “the trees, paths, and water features, no matter how artificial, push up property prices by providing an implicit guarantee of ‘the environmental benefits of a place where they belong.’ “

I also wrote about two other Chicago parks, Jackson and Millenium, in November 2007.