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Here's What Happens When Starchitects Design Parks

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When commissions for public parks are given to high-profile architects, often the end result is a park that thinks it's a building, or a building that thinks it's a park. But that doesn't mean that avant-garde green spaces don't have their own charms. Take Pritzker laureate Tadao Ando's Hyakudanen garden for example. Part of the Awaji Yumebutai conference center, hotel, and memorial in Awaji,Japan, its staggered, boxy set of uniformly laid-out plots is pretty far afield from what a landscape architect might create. It's also easily the highlight of the sprawling complex. Corralled below is a globe-trotting catalogue of starchitect-designed parks, gardens, and green spaces. This is what happens when the people behind some of the world's most eye-catching buildings are invited to play outside.

↑ Seoul's Dongdaemun Design Plaza opened in March, giving the city its first characteristically sci-fi-lookin' Zaha Hadid-designed space. The $451M complex hosted Seoul Fashion Week, and is outfitted for concerts, conventions, and other high-profile events. According to a project description, the structure and its surrounding park are meant to blend together "seamlessly as one landscape element, blurring the boundary between architecture and nature." Hadid populated the undulating green oasis with references to traditional Korean art, incorporating reflecting pools, lotus ponds, and bamboo groves.

↑ Completed in 2005, Connecticut's Whitney Water Purification Facility and Park is an underground water treatment plant that Steven Holl—designer of many a large institution and award-winning homecovered with a six-"sector" public park. Each of these areas corresponds to a process going on beneath it, i.e. "ozonation bubbling" happens under a landscape dotted with "bubble" skylight lenses, and an area for "rapid mixing and high turbulence" is demarcated aboveground by "agitated grass mounds penetrated by little streams." The facility's public and operational needs take place in a metal-clad structure shaped like an inverted drop of water.

↑ After decades of delays, monumental modernist Louis Kahn's posthumously built Four Freedoms Park opened to the public in late 2012 on the southern end of NYC's Roosevelt Island. In exploring Kahn's odd sources of inspiration—including, perhaps, the Great Seal that FDR added to the dollar bill in 1935—The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright recently suggested it was one of Kahn's best works.

↑ Originally commissioned as a housing complex and finished in 1914, Catalan modernist Antoni Gaudí's Park Güell was turned into a public park by the Barcelona City Council in 1923. Its grand double staircase now leads up to a public square, and all of the much-emulated Sagrada Família designer's mainstays are present: twisted stone columns, ornate tile-work, and serpentine seating.

↑ In 2010, MoMA-expanding NYC architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro rolled out a "floating hyperbolic paraboloid lawn" atop NYC's Lincoln Center restaurant, part of a large-scale renovation that was the subject of an entire book. The grass-topped micro-park is still going strong, despite early irrigation woes.

↑ In 1983, deconstructivist architect Bernard Tschumi was chosen over Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, and Jean Nouvel to revitalize the abandoned site of a former Parisian abattoir as part of an urban redevelopment project. Tschumi organized Parc de la Villette around 10 themed gardens, in what's been described as a "user-defined" approach to park design that leaves the space "completely open for interpretation."

Grin Grin Park, a garden stretched across an artificial island off the Japanese city of Fukuoka, was designed by self-taught Japanese architect Toyo Ito, winner of the 2013 Pritzker Prize. His firm described the park, which is situated atop and around three green-roofed buildings, as a space where the "whole landscape becomes a series of hills continuous throughout the interior and exterior where people, light, and air crisscross."

· Dongdaemun Design Park & Plaza by Zaha Hadid in Seoul opens [Design Boom]
· Whitney Water Purification Facility and Park [Architizer]
· Exploring Roosevelt Island's New Four Freedoms Park [Curbed NY]
· AD Classics: Parc Güell / Antoni Gaudí [Arch Daily]
· Lincoln Center's Rooftop Lawn Ready to Roll [Curbed NY]
· Tadao Ando's Awaji Yumebutai [Archinect]
· AD Classics: Parc de la Villette / Bernard Tschumi [Arch Daily]
· Grin Grin Park [Open Buildings]