During the pandemic many public parks and gardens closed with the worry that the rules of physical distancing are not practiced. In Vienna, all famous parks, like Schönbrunn or Belvedere closed their gates and residents had to use streets and alleys to stretch their legs. But how would a park look that introduces the rules of physical distancing as a design-guideline? 

Austria-based studio Precht – previously known as Penda – has designed a maze-like park envisioned to allow people to be outdoors while maintaining social distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

 Park de la Distance, Vienna, Austria / Precht

Although ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint. 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. Along their path, people walk on reddish granite gravel. Although people are visually separated most of the time, they might hear footsteps on the pebbles from the neighboring paths.

 Park de la Distance, Vienna, Austria / Precht

Each individual journey is about 600m long. The height of the planters varies along this journey and give different levels to the hedges throughout the park. Sometimes visitors are fully immersed by nature, other times they emerge over the hedge and can see across the garden. But at all times, they keep a safe physical distance to each other. 

 Park de la Distance, Vienna, Austria / Precht

Similar to the wavy patterns of a Japanese zen-garden, the paths slowly spiral towards a center, where fountains are placed. These symbolize a source of life and inner balance. From the center, visitors continue to circulate outwards. The individual journey takes around 20 minutes and offers something very unique for bustling urban areas. “A brief time of solitude,” said Precth. “A temporary seclusion from the public. A moment to think, to meditate or just to walk alone through nature.”

The ‘Parc de la Distance’ is proposed for a vacant plot in Vienna. But as pandemics, noise and stress are global issues, the guidelines of a park in the age of physical distancing can be implemented in any city around the globe.

 Park de la Distance, Vienna, Austria / Precht Park de la Distance, Vienna, Austria / Precht Park de la Distance, Vienna, Austria / Precht Park de la Distance, Vienna, Austria / Precht