The rise of parks

The rise of parks

This week on Podparks, Alice discusses the evolution of parks in the 20th century with guests Paul Rabbitts, Dr. Catharine Ward Thompson, Digby White, Christy Boylan and Jayne Miller. 


Paul Rabbitts, Author, Parks Historian and Public Speaker, introduces us to the first significant change in park design: wartime parks. The first and second world war changed the way parks were designed to favor physical activities and sports. However, as time went on and local governments took on park management as their responsibilities, parks were relegated to and deprioritized, creating a sharp decline in park visitors.

Dr. Catharine Ward Thompson, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA), emphasizes how new individualistic principles and the rise of suburban life further shifted the attention away from parks.

But in the late 20th century, public spaces became the forefront of public life once again. New urbanism movements, such as the people-centered doctrines of Jane Jacobs, emphasized the importance of creating public spaces for diverse neighbors to meet. At the same time, there was a shift in the entertainment industry, and musicians began to frequently perform in outdoor spaces, bringing attention to large parks around the world.

As parks gained territory in the public discussion, the International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration (IFPRA) was born, creating a new space for parks professionals to share their experiences, look for funding and help expand the park industry. We get to hear from Digby White, former CEO of IFPRA, and Christy Boylan, former Chair of the World Parks Academy, who share their experiences in the creation and first years of IFPRA. 

IFPRA became the biggest parks organization in the world, and in 2015 they transformed the organization into World Urban Parks. Jayne Miller, CEO of WUP, discusses the new role and objectives of this growing organization, and emphasizes the need to continue advocating for parks. 

This podcast is only one of the many resources available inside the WUP member platform. Discover more resources and connect with park professionals around the world at 

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