Many parks and public gardens have closed during lockdown with the worry that the rules of social distancing would not be practised. But designers in Austria have invented a way to keep people apart while giving them the benefits of nature.

In Vienna, famous parks like Schönbrunn or Belvedere closed their gates due to the COVID-19 lockdown, leaving people with limited space to exercise or get fresh air. Such restrictions got one design team thinking: "how would a park look that introduces the rules of physical distancing as a design-guideline?"

Rendering of an urban park
Studio Precht has designed an urban park for social distancing ©Studio Precht

Studio Precht came up with a design proposal for a vacant plot in Vienna to be transformed into a park that would incorporate the rules of social distancing called 'Parc de la Distance'. Laid out in a swirling, maze-like pattern of circular, hedge-lined paths, the design was inspired by a fingerprint. What designers say is a nod to the thing we're all missing the most: human touch.

"Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape. Every lane has a gateway on the entrance and exit, which indicates if the path is occupied or free to stroll. The lanes are distanced 240cm from each other and have a 90cm wide hedge as a division," explains designer Chris Precht.

A maze-like park design proposal
It has a maze-like design to keep people a safe distance apart © Studio Precht

Visitors walk along a granite gravel path and although they are visually separated most of the time, they might hear footsteps or pebbles from the neighbouring paths so as not to feel too isolated. Sometimes visitors are fully immersed by nature, other times they can pop their heads over the hedge to see across the garden. But at all times, they keep a safe physical distance from each other. Studio Precht says the paths follow the wavy patterns of a Japanese zen-garden towards a centre with fountains. From there, visitors continue to circulate outwards.

ParcdelaDistance_Precht (9).jpg
The design allows people to fully immerse themselves in nature ©Studio Precht

"The individual journey takes around 20 minutes and offers something very unique for bustling urban areas: A brief time of solitude. A temporary seclusion from the public. A moment to think, to meditate or just to walk alone through nature," adds Chris.

Although the proposal was designed with Vienna in mind, Studio Precht says it can be adapted anywhere and will stand the test of time, even when we can walk side-by-side again.

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