Born of civil disobedience, historic Freedom Park is the people’s once again.
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DETAILS

LocationAtlanta, Georgia, United States
ClientFreedom Park Conservancy
SERVICE:
Size130 acres

“More than 30 years after Atlanta’s Freedom Park emerged from successful grassroots efforts to block a highway expansion, the need for a new vision for the park’s future has arisen. Seeking to unify constituent desires around economic viability alongside ecological value, some 70 potential initiatives were identified and prioritized according to ease of implementation, duration, and cost. Told in a compelling narrative, the People’s Plan exemplifies the imperative goals we need to achieve if we are truly to move forward as socially equitable communities.”

– 2021 ASLA National Awards Jury

Despite Freedom Park’s rich history as a site of protest in late 20th-century Atlanta, proximity to vibrant destinations, and vast, bucolic open space, the site has suffered from indistinct identity, unclear boundaries, unsafe pedestrian crossings, low biodiversity, limited placemaking, and minimal programming. SWA’s master plan ushers a new era in the park’s evolution from former infrastructural “scar tissue” into more potent “connective tissue” that engenders unique cultural exchange, civic activism, care for the natural environment, and a richer park experience. As the project was planned during the COVID-19 pandemic, a robust series of online and in-person meetings, presentations, surveys, and outreach programs helped give voice to public priorities and shape the “People’s Plan” for Freedom Park. The park’s design framework embeds its legacy of civic action into the plan, leveraging the site’s association with some of the nation’s great leaders in social justice and welfare by re-defining traditional master planning narratives and prioritizing civic discourse.

Three primary criteria — education, procession, and assembly — were prioritized to guide the narrative of future improvements. More than 70 projects were identified, which were then grouped into signature projects to focus near-term fundraising and design efforts. This resulted in a design that tells a compelling historical narrative, contains a unified identity with a variety of park programming experiences, provides safe pedestrian access, improves ecology and stormwater management, and implements a robust family of art and wayfinding. Through this lens, the plan utilizes a framework guided by public input, reinforcing the common ground that defines Atlanta’s Freedom Park.

Winner, 2021 Honor Award – Analysis and Planning, ASLA National

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