The byline of this blog says it's a reflection on what works and what doesn't in terms of making public open space usable.
Look at this picture. Who wouldn't want to be in this space? The guy on the right with the dog was just soaking it up. I knew how he felt. I didn't want to leave either.
Now mentally remove the tree. What are you left with? A whole lot of gravel, a large granite outcrop and a few piddly shrubs. No-one would EVER want to linger in that environment, right?
TREES ARE THE BEST BANG-FOR-BUCK POS IMPROVER THERE IS.
We put far too much emphasis on expensive paving and fixtures and miss what really counts (Elizabeth Quay is a perfect recent example). Look again at the picture: no fancy paving, no expensive fixtures... yet an incredibly peaceful place that makes you want to linger.
It's Central Park in New York BTW. Check out an aerial picture of the park sometime and be staggered at the canopy cover. And this in a cold climate! How much more do WE have to do this!!
But notice something else: the tree is BIG. We have to use more large-growing species if we want to get the same effect. There are far too many small to medium trees being used in Perth because people are anxious about root damage. Two things: (a) "meh" to a bit of root damage - accept it's the price you have to pay to have great POS and (b) the damage is never as bad as you imagine. We can all point to the horror stories but the reality is that they are relatively few and far between. The vast majority of large trees cause few problems. If we constantly design for the worst case scenario we will end up with the worst case: POS that nobody actually uses.
PS…to really get a sense of this space, click on the picture.