“City squares seem to be waiting for a crowd to fill them up—”
May 15, 2016 9:50 AM Subscribe
How Public Squares Disrupt City Life and Why That’s a Good Thing by George Packer [The Daily Beast] They can break up the monotony of the grid, provide the backdrop for social protest and change, spook you and mystify you—hard to define, city squares are indispensable.
A city square is a physical pause in the urban landscape. It’s a deliberate gap that interrupts the mass and clamor of buildings and streets, breaking up the flow of daily business and creating a space where people can come together, by design or happenstance. City squares are planned absences—they’re defined, first of all, by what they’re not. A city park already has a definition (grass, trees, paths) that tells you how it’s to be used: for leisure, for recreation, as a withdrawal from the city, with the illusion of being in nature and often alone. Squares, unlike parks, don’t take you out of the city. As an extension of urban life, neither natural nor solitary, they’re of the city as well as in it, but with a function that alters through history. Because of their very emptiness, they are full of possibility.From an essay collection, City Squares edited by Catie Marron, which brings together 18 writers on the nature of these ubiquitous public spaces—some, like Red Square in Moscow, notorious; others, like Place des Vosges in Paris, a little more obscure.
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