Arkansas town recalls history with new urban landscapes
The Farmington townscape plan retrofits a suburban five-lane commercial highway into a walkable multiway boulevard with a new town centre. The plan employs civic landscapes to re-stitch a fragmented 5,000-person bedroom community, once a vibrant farming town. Working within the limited resources of this community, the project proposes an incremental urbanisation more reliant on urban landscapes than capital-intensive architectural investments. Townscaping creates ‘articulated environments' through three place-making strategies: context‐sensitive highway design, public art planning and agricultural urbanism.
The plan transforms an auto-centric highway into a great street with civic functions, restoring aesthetic, historic and environmental resources compromised by the exclusive devotion to traffic management, providing a context‐sensitive highway design that enhances the delivery of ecosystem services, including water and air pollution mitigation, carbon sequestration, food production, biodiversification and habitat development.
The unique townscape sets produced from the recombination of ordinary elements lend structure and imageability while providing a new vocabulary of agricultural urbanism. The project avoids the isolation of public art as its own discrete land use, instead integrating public art to develop a way-finding and identity system through the expressive power of signage, building frontage, street furniture, lighting, sculpture, landscaping and other accessories.
Landscapes include fruit-bearing arboretums, foraging landscapes, herbaceous container gardens, viticetums (trellised vines) and espaliers ('plant training'). Urban landscapes are laminated ecosystems, since certain plants optimise remediation of air and water pollution, while others support nutrient cycling and soil husbandry, or integrated pest management. This provides food supply resiliency and security, while democratising access to high nutrition and developing an urban agricultural landscape network in public right-of-ways, recalling Farmington's lost agricultural heritage.
As Gordon Cullen writes in his book, The Concise Townscape: "...instead of a shapeless environment based on the principle of flow, we have an articulated environment resulting from the breaking up of flow into action and rest, into corridor street and market place, alley and square (and all their minor devolutions)."