Squares

Squares, or plazas, take on an extraordinary range of configurations with a variety of enclosing elements (Krier, 1990; Cerver, 1997). The character of a square depends on the enclosing buildings, their heights and what happens on their ground floors as much as the design of the square itself. The urbane character of Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia today (see Figure 5.9) is largely as Jane Jacobs described it years ago (Jacobs, 1961). Its liveliness depends on the variety of the building uses around it: clubs (largely incognito), hotels, a church, a music institute and apartment buildings all of at least three stories in height. People are

Figure 5.9 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia in 1985.

coming and going all the time. As a result people use the square at different times of day as a short cut and for relaxation; children wade in the fountains during the summer and clamber on the statues. Dogs are walked and people sit watching the people cutting across the square who, in turn, are watching them. The design of the square by Paul Cret adds to its ambience but, by itself, would have achieved little.

The Lawrence Halprin designed squares in Portland, Oregon add much to the city. Individually they provide attractive destinations and are much used. As a group they might be regarded as part of an urban design effort to give life to the central area of the city. They remain, however, works of landscape architecture and should be celebrated as such. The water garden Halprin designed in Fort Worth, dramatic though it is, has yet to act as a catalyst in the development of its surroundings (see Figure 5.10). It remains an isolated work of art in a forlorn cityscape.

The two examples of squares included in this book are of the types that many landscape architects regard as urban design. The physical frame in both cases was, however, given and not part of the design commission. The first example, Pershing Square, is certainly a highly urban space. It has had a life of being designed and redesigned. It has yet to fulfil a role as a great urban outdoor room. The second of them, the La Place des Terreaux in Lyon, France, is included in Carles Broto's collection of new urban designs (Broto, 2000). Through careful research we have learnt much about what makes lively, well-loved urban spaces (Whyte, 1980; Cooper Marcus and Francis, 1990; Madanipour, 1996, 2003; Carmona etal., 2003). The problem is that the desire to create active places often conflicts with the desire to create a work of art. The two can be reconciled.

Figure 5.10 The Water Garden, Fort Worth in 2003.

Handling cars in cities remains a problem. Many great squares of Italy and other European countries serve as parking lots today, at least during the daytime. The original functions have been lost. Both the squares described here have parking garages below them. The garage is handled well in one case but not in the other.

Major references

Carmona, Matthew, Tim Heath, Taner Oc and Steve Tiesdell (2003). Public Places, Urban

Spaces: The Dimensions of Urban Design. Oxford: Architectural Press. Gehl, Jan (1987). Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Krier, Rob (1990). Typological elements of the concept of urban space. In Andreas Papadakis and Harriet Watson, eds., The New Classicism: Omnibus Volume. New York: Rizzoli, 213-19.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment