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Public Space Squares, parks and other public areas in the city



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Old August 20th, 2008, 03:35 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philadweller View Post
Europe is much older than America. Squares in Europe were used for executions at one time long before it became a big outdoor living room. American planners are more concerned with what cars are doing instead of people. Unless the city was built long before the automobile like Northeastern US cities and San Francisco one will have a hard time finding these squares over here.

Basically automobiles are to blame for America's lack of squares.
Here's a basically new Square in Stockholm built in the 60s. It's in the very center, and the most central place in Stockholm. Note that cars and pedestrians are on different levels.
And the square is very lively with all kinds of things going on all the time. not on these photos though.

Sergels Torg (Plattan).


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Old August 20th, 2008, 04:19 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plcmat View Post
While browsing many of the European city photo threads, I've noticed that many Continental European cities have huge, paved, pedestrian only squares.

I am guessing at some point these areas served an important function as meeting places, but now when I see them in pictures most of them are strikingly empty. In an area as space-starved as Europe, one would think some of these areas would be either partially developed, or made into greenspace, or something, instead of a huge patch of concrete mostly unused.

Europeans, can you explain this concept to an American who doesn't get it?
Couple of thoughts:
1. With the vast majority of those squares, I really wouldn't call them "huge". Even a place like the Red Square merely counts as "big" imo.
2. I think that, from the start, a large majority of them served three functions: markets, communal events like celebrating something (could be anything really), and in general a place to get together and meet people. The convention center of the Middle Ages, if you will.
3. These days, the market function has diminished although it has far from disappeared, but the other two have lost none of their importance.
4. The description of "unused slab of concrete" really doesn't ring a bell with me. Just about every Western European square that I can think of is paved with some sort of "natural" building material. Could be marble, sandstone or just about anything, but usually way above average. These are pretty posh places, not some sort of forgotten parking lot.

Can't really see how the car has influenced them btw.
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Old August 20th, 2008, 04:38 PM   #23
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Squares often form the centre, or the core of cities in Europe.
Often squares are located where the city was founded, in the old town,and from where it to began expand, and they held and to a extent still hold an important role as a place for pubic meetings, as government centres, and as transportation hubs where many lines of PT meet, for example streetcars, Metros, and Suburban Rails.
Usually this central squares in European cities form a focal point where the city is in its historical core, and usually the city hall and important churches are located on or next to the main square.
A good example of such a square IMO is the Marienplatz in Munich.
It's located in the exact centre of the city, and acts as a hub for Public Transportation (U-Bahn/Subway and S-Bahn/Suburban rail)
pics (from wikipeda)-the white building in the centre of 1st pic is the city hall of Munich

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Old August 20th, 2008, 06:21 PM   #24
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Felvonulási(staging)square in the city park:

If you didnt have figured it out,it was built for this:

Today,its used as a parking lot,or for community events


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Old August 20th, 2008, 07:24 PM   #25
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You can watch the BBC Sport coverage of the Olympics from Beijing on the Big Screen in:

Bradford - Centenary Square
Bristol - Millennium Square
Cardiff - The Hayes
Derby - The Market Place
Hull - Queen Victoria Square
Leeds - Millennium Square
Liverpool - Clayton Square
Manchester - Exchange Square
Middlesbrough - Centre Square
Norwich - Chapelfield Plain
Plymouth - Armada Way
Portsmouth - Guildhall Square
Rotherham - All Saints Square
Swansea - Castle Square
Swindon - Wharf Green
Waltham Forest, London - Walthamstow Town Square


Need I say any more?


Oh, yeh actually, in response to the photo of Nottingham Market Square, its always full of people messing about meeting, running through the fountains and theres normally something going on there. In the winter its used for an ice rink and a christmas market! They've had pop concerts there, all sorts of protests, little stalls, entertainers, buskers etc etc.
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Old August 20th, 2008, 08:17 PM   #26
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Have squares become obsolete in our modern world? The hell no, not at all.
The trend in Eureope luckily goes into the other direction.They are not diminished for the sake of creating a more "car friendly" (aka more pedestrian hostile) environment.

While parks are important they simply are not the same as urban squares. Everyone who has seen both knows the different qualities.
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Old August 20th, 2008, 08:23 PM   #27
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"1. With the vast majority of those squares, I really wouldn't call them "huge". Even a place like the Red Square merely counts as "big" imo."

hm... Red Square is FAR FAR away from largest european squares... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...quares_by_size
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Old August 20th, 2008, 08:45 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plcmat View Post
While browsing many of the European city photo threads, I've noticed that many Continental European cities have huge, paved, pedestrian only squares.

I am guessing at some point these areas served an important function as meeting places,
Quite true. They had many original uses. Sometimes they started as a village common which became a market place. In many cases today, those same squares are still used as large markets on selected days of the week (or month). In other cases they were created as meeting places for the city's population, especially in front of Royal residences so they could cheer the Royalty. In others, they were purely to offer an open space to view important and elaborate public or private buildings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plcmat View Post
but now when I see them in pictures most of them are strikingly empty.
Living in Europe, I can say that I rarely see them empty during a normal day. It could be though for a number of reasons.
* Time of day: Maybe the photographer took the picture early in the morning.
* Sunday: Some cities in Europe (Germany is a classic for this) Shut down almost completely on Sunday's, so the only people walking through the squares are tourists wondering where everyone has gone This isn't case everywhere though, as many other country's in Europe are thriving on Sundays.
* Weather: I have seen some deserted squares in the middle of bustling Lisbon. But then again, it was 40° midday. No one in their right mind would stand in the middle of these large squares under the hot sun. Same if it's a cold winters day. (I once saw this great video shot by a Spanish artist of people standing under the shade of the big flagpole in Mexico City's massive square on a hot day. It was time lapsed and it was amazing to see the line of people moving with the thin line of shade as the sun moved)
* Location: Sometimes they were built in a once busy location which today has become more residential
* Some of the ones you have seen may actually be in small towns. Even small towns in Europe can appear extremely dense to Americans but their small population might mean not a lot of people use these squares.

Well, there are lots of reasons why it could have been empty at the time. But the whole point of these squares is that they have specific uses which may not be every day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plcmat View Post
In an area as space-starved as Europe, one would think some of these areas would be either partially developed, or made into greenspace, or something, instead of a huge patch of concrete mostly unused.

Europeans, can you explain this concept to an American who doesn't get it?
Actually, they are rarely concrete in Europe, usually paving stones of some type, but this does differ of cause.

They still have plenty of uses.
* Markets still operate in many of these squares, but often only on selected days of the week (or month). (Or year as Christmas/Easter markets pop up around Europe)
* They are used for public gatherings. During major sports events they may have giant screens installed to create a party atmosphere for those who couldn't get into the stadium; Public rallies or protests; Meeting places; Lunch or rest spots (weather permitting); Transport hubs etc

They certainly have a place in our modern cities and the populations would hate to see them go. As for turning them into parks, many have been in area's where they didn't attract crowds, but usually the ones left today still are busy places despite those photos that you may have seen
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Old August 20th, 2008, 08:50 PM   #29
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I think its not hard to guess where the roads were: Debrecen's main artery,cut in half - for cars.

(from http://www.civertan.hu/legifoto/legi...page_level=103)
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Old August 20th, 2008, 09:35 PM   #30
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Here are the largest squares in the world.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...quares_by_size
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Old August 20th, 2008, 09:38 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mekky II View Post
"1. With the vast majority of those squares, I really wouldn't call them "huge". Even a place like the Red Square merely counts as "big" imo."

hm... Red Square is FAR FAR away from largest european squares... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...quares_by_size
Congratz.
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Old August 20th, 2008, 11:05 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plcmat View Post
I've noticed that many Continental European cities have huge, paved, pedestrian only squares.

I am guessing at some point these areas served an important function as meeting places, but now when I see them in pictures most of them are strikingly empty. In an area as space-starved as Europe, one would think some of these areas would be either partially developed, or made into greenspace, or something, instead of a huge patch of concrete mostly unused.

Europeans, can you explain this concept to an American who doesn't get it?
In Copenhagen the squares used to be where all the trading was ( some are stilled used for such - with flower or fruit markets..

Other's like our City Hall Square are used for all sorts of cultural things like when we hosted the MTV Music Avards or when our national teams are playing where they set up big screens... and if any sports teams wins big they are also celebrated on the square... in the winter they set of a ski jumping hill on it with fake snow ( we rarely get snow ) and have some fun there ( other squares get artificial ski rinks and such )..


Anyways I'm not sure why you find the squares to look empty - atleast not from any place in Europe I have been.. (maybe you are thinking about Eastern Europe's old communist military parade squares? )
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Old August 21st, 2008, 02:41 AM   #33
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The only hideous paved square in Europe that has to change that I can think of right now is Alexanderplatz in Berlin. And I say that in spite of liking Berlin very much. That's probably why I care enough to say it. However, Sergels Torg (Plattan) in Stockholm shown above seems uglier yet I have not seen that one in person. Pretty much all those communist-inspired squares are unattractive. Anyway, those two I would not mind seeing turned into parks or something else unless they change the buildings around them.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 06:50 AM   #34
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I love them when they are lively and crowded...but they are depressive when they didn't have success and end up being a rather sad place.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 05:28 PM   #35
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Squares like these are catching on in places. Toronto in the past decade has attempted to create one called Yonge-Dundas Square. Wiki claims that it sees 56 million pedestrians per year. It was officially opened in 2002.










I had a hard time finding pictures of it when it is busy, but whenever I am there it is usually packed.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 08:05 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Greco View Post
Not anymore!Our dear mayor Boris scrapped those plans aswell as pedestrianization of Embankment.
There are plans to plant hundreds of trees and create many new pedestrianised areas in south London all the way from Tate Modern to Elephant & Castle.

I wonder if Boris will refuse to give this plan planning permission. Remains to be seen. I wonder why he´s against pedestrianisation? He seems to be a complete idiot.

Still, I think you´re being a bit negative. For a city of its size London is pretty pedestrian friendly. The south bank, trafalgar square, covent garden, leicester square, paternoster square etc..
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 04:53 AM   #37
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If the only criteria for a square would be plain pavement, then the Heiligengeistfeld (200.000 hectares) in Hamburg would have to be considered a damn huge square. Here is a map with the area. The Heiligengeistfeld is the area in orange, all paved with tarmac.



It is mainly used for northern Germany's biggest fun-fair, which takes place 3 times a year (alltogether 3 months) and for some other irregular events (like public viewing during important Football champonships, or for big circuses). However, still nobody considers it to be a square, but just a damn huge paved field. Maybe because it doesn't have any athmosphere which lets you stay there when empty.

Here, part of it being used for public viewing


And here when it is empty
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 05:21 AM   #38
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In Barcelona it's kind of weird. There's 3 of those huge squares: Pl. Catalunya, Pl. Espanya and Pl. Glňries. The first is mostly tourist territory - I mean, there are locals around but not really on the square itself. Pl. Espanya sees more actual use, but most of it is actually rather car-oriented so it could definitely be better. Then there's Pl. Glňries, which is a crappy attempt at turning a crossing of urban highways into a pedestrian square. More like Trainwreck Square. Luckily it's being turned into some sort of open park, but the works won't be over until at least 2010 I think (maybe it's actually 2011 or 2012... but hey, it's been like that for decades, surely 4 years don't mean anything -_-)

There's some other relatively big squares such as Pl. Tetuan, Pl. dels Paďsos Catalans, Pl. Universitat, Pl. Urquinaona, Pl. Francesc Maciŕ, etc., with varying degrees of success. Pl. Urquinaona and Pl. Universitat are very crowded and lively - Pl. Urquinaona is in desperate need of improvements in human transit, honestly, but they do their job just fine. Pl. Tetuan isn't so popular, but it's a nice place. Pl. Francesc Maciŕ is kind of like Pl. Espanya but without a transportation hub around - it's an important commercial and business area, though, and the adjacent areas are densely populated, so it never gets empty... again, not really pedestrian I guess. Then there's Pl. dels Paďsos Catalans, which would ALWAYS be empty were it not for skaters and the fact there's a big train station on it... personally I think it's a big failure but I kind of like it anyway. It's a nice place, just... you have this relatively big park next to it so why should you go there and risk being run over by skaters when you can just sit down at the park or get into the train station.

The rest of the squares are all pretty small, but they're usually trademark places of the neighbourhoods they're in. Oh, except for Plaça Lesseps. That one's a trademark of the city but only because it's been under works for like 40 years. And I mean literally 40 years. It's not some figure of speech.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 06:16 AM   #39
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Can you imagine if they turned those squares into parking lots?

[/sick laughter]
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 12:40 PM   #40
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There is a reason why the Heiligengeistfeld is called feld and not platz. It lacks an urban framing, a very important feature for a square. It lacks any feature other than an ugly looking common asphalt pavement. Thats fair because its a paved field for huge events next to a park. That makes it exactly that, a large paved field next to a park. Squares are quite something else.
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