There's an interesting piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on landscape designer Walter Hood, and his work in making more livable urban spaces. For example, he redesigned Splashpad Park in Oakland, "a dilapidated plot near Lake Merritt that was surrounded by traffic and almost sold by the city."
"Bounded by Interstate 580 on the south, Grand Avenue on the west, Lake Park Way on the north and Lakeshore Boulevard on the east, the site with its forlorn fountain epitomized the kind of challenge that Hood finds invigorating. Using layers of plants and varied surfaces, including crushed granite, wood, brick, concrete and grass, Hood has sought to provide 'rooms'' for different activities.
"The design Hood devised after meeting with community activists provides a setting for a thriving Saturday farmer's market, a stage for musical performances, an oasis of green with benches and a pedestrian thoroughfare from a parking lot under the freeway.
"By closing a street, installing a median with palm trees and relocating crosswalks, Hood sought to calm traffic and improve the connection between the park, stores on Grand Avenue and nearby residential neighborhoods. "