What are gardens and parks for? There’s a book on the subject – a very good one I reckon. Rory Stuart is digging deep into the subject in ‘What are gardens for: Visiting, Experiencing and Thinking about gardens’. The book came to mind when contemplating Varvsparken – possibly the world’s tiniest park, located in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Can you call an area measuring perhaps 5 sqm a park? As an example The Britannica Dictionary defines a park as “a piece of public land in or near a city that is kept free of houses and other buildings and can be used for pleasure and exercise”. Other similar sources add large to the their definitions. Cambridge Dictionary describes a park as “a large area of land with grass and trees, usually surrounded by fences or walls, and specially arranged so that people can walk in it for pleasure or children can play in it”. It’s somewhat difficult to relate much of these descriptions to Varvsparken. But there are keywords to grasp for. Such as trees (a tree), free of houses (only a bird house would fit in) and pleasure.
Varvsparken, Gothenburg, Sweden
As can be implied from the photos, this was once wharf heartland. A huge wharf comprising nothing but heavy metal industry. Even weeds would be struggling to see daylight here. But just outside the wharf boundaries a birch thrived. Workers longing for greener pastures took delight in planting blooms next to it. Taking breaks nearby to admire their efforts. By 1992 Varvsparken (The Wharf Park) was a fact.
The wharf is no more. But the park is standing strong, endorsed by local authority and kept relevant by former employees. It has recently been refreshened and is again inviting for contemplation and recreation (using the local authority’s own words). I’m personally struggling with the practicalities of that vision, but as tiny as it is, the symbolism is massive.