1. ART DECO METROPOLIS: Central Park West

(See “Art Deco Metropolis” itineraries.)


For well over a century, Central Park has offered refuge, recreation and rejuvenation to New Yorkers seeking temporary haven from a city of brick and steel, concrete and glass. Weary urbanites turn to the park to enjoy its formal gardens and rustic bowers, its bridle paths and waterfalls. The park offers a retreat to an imaginary state of benevolent nature – a paradise from which are banished not just the modern concrete jungle, but also the chaos and danger of the natural world. No wild beasts lurk behind the park’s carefully tended gardens. Yet the park also offers strikingly contradictory versions of the struggle between nature and technology. It seems to free us from the technology of the city, welcoming us back to a more natural state – but the park is itself a technological artifact, its seemingly natural environments carefully designed, right down to the hidden pipes feeding a rustic waterfall.

Central Park recently celebrated its 150th birthday. After two decades of sustained renovation, it now enjoys enormous popularity among natives and visitors alike, and may be in better shape than at any time in its history. This tour covers the history of the park, and includes half a dozen of the specially designed environments within it: the Pond, the Mall, Sheep Meadow, Bethesda Terrace, the Lake, and the Ramble.