Vertical Maze

Pocket Parks

With limited space, creating an attractive and fun area for residents to enjoy can seem like a daunting task - enter the pocket park! These mini-parks are perfect when you need a significant impact in small spaces. From urban playgrounds to tranquil green areas, they're ideal if you want to make the most of your smaller footprint while still giving locals plenty of room (and opportunities!) for some much-needed playtime.

Published: 27 January 2023, edited: 16 February 2024

The Future of Urban Parks & Playgrounds

Pocket parks, otherwise called mini-parks or parkettes, are small parks that are commonly accessible to the public. First popping up in Europe after World War II, pocket parks were built more because of the scarcity of available resources and not so much for their chic or design aesthetics.

With many larger cities experiencing a rebuilding and reconstruction phase, building materials, funding, and available labour were limited. As such, many of these cities did their best to dig out of the rubble and construct small public parks to rejuvenate their neighbourhoods and harken back to their more peaceful pasts.

By the time the 1950s rolled around, pocket parks had made the jump across the Atlantic and began to pop up in larger cities up and down the east coast, like New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The smaller costs associated with these projects made them attractive to communities and provided their residents with a petite oasis of tranquillity and relaxation. 

A small nature play playground next to a street in Australia.

Small parks designed for the users

Pocket parks can be precisely planned or sometimes happen as a happy coincidence. Abandoned, irregularly shaped lots are great candidates for these miniature masterpieces of landscape architecture, with many providing the ideal setting for local relaxation and enjoyment.

Due to their small size, pocket parks are more often than not intended to serve a rather hyperlocal population and purpose than a more sprawling park. A pocket park in a business district may cater more to users as a place to enjoy their lunch or breaks at various tables and benches.

In contrast, a residential area's pocket park may focus more on the children in the surrounding area and provide them with a structure upon which to play. It's common when taking these things into account, then for a pocket park to oftentimes receive a good amount of input and feedback from the would-be users, providing them with a say in what they want in their pocket park and how they want it to be configured.

A small park in the middle of Krakow, Poland

A small park in the middle of Krakow, Poland.

A green oasis in an urban environment

Pocket parks are much more than a rest stop for weary urbanites; they provide immense social and ecological benefits. These little green spaces can be havens for all sorts of creatures, providing abundant sustenance and shelter – not to mention the relief that comes with an extra layer separating it from its busy surroundings! By helping ease overcrowding in larger parks, these pocket-sized wonders strengthen our relationships between nature and humanity alike.

Outdoor gym under the railway in Melbourne, Australia.

Pocket parks are trending

Although they aren't technically a new product within the commercial park and playground industry, pocket parks are trending upward. Their environmental benefits, the economic potential to attract new businesses and residents, and positive public health image have many city planners and landscape architects buzzing at the thought of creating a niche setting that is perfectly designed and constructed with the needs of its local users in mind. With so many possibilities and potential, it's easy to see why pocket parks are on the up-swing across many world urban centres. 

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