Streets and Squares


In the week 4 lecture, various aspects that make up the key elements of a city environment were discussed. These included streets, squares, canals, parks, urban facilities and mobility facilities. I found the discussion on streets and squares to be particularly engaging and intriguing as they are elements that i had never full explored before, and the lecture brought forward a lot of information that I was not previously aware of. 


Dr. Mirko Guaralda explored the street as more than a traffic corridor and emphasised how integral it is to life within a city. Streets are usually shaped by the culture that creates them and the street scapes that result are vastly different from one another. Street spaces can encourage interactions between people, and depending on the nature of them, encourage or discourage people to linger in the space. The primary function of the street is usually a determining factor in this, however, this may change over time, and a street space may be adapted to suit the current needs. An example of this is the intersection of 7th Avenue and  Broadway in New York City, which was recently redeveloped by well known town planner and architect Jan Gehl. In his book, “Cities for People”, Gehl underlines various key factors that influenced his decisions in redeveloping the space. He closed the roads to pedestrian traffic and installed flexible seating options in there stead. He recognised that doing this would encourage people to linger in the space and change the environment, giving the intersection more of a public square feeling. Having previously visited this space in January 2012, i found it to be a very interesting urban environment and something of a refuge from the busy streets that surrounded it. Even in winter, the space was heavily used and the majority of seating was occupied. 

Time Square after the redevelopment.

Time Square after the redevelopment. Image Sourced from:

Another interesting portion of the lecture, was that on public squares and the huge variety of them. I was previously unaware of the number of different types of public squares that there were, or how diverse they are. This was definitely an interesting point and increased by awareness and knowledge of public spaces within a city. Mirko also used the Memorial Mall in Washington DC as an example in the lecture, and having previously visited the mall, i found this easy to relate to. I found the mall to be quite an imposing space and this made its significance very obvious. It highlighted the axis between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial and provides an path between the other various monuments that lie between these two. The space itself is fairly open and this allows the monuments to stand out and dominate their immediate surroundings. When i visited the mall it was undergoing some renovations and maintenance work, so various parts were altered, however, the desired effect of the designer was still felt strongly. 

Washington Memorial Mall viewed from the Lincoln Memorial in January 2012.

Washington Memorial Mall viewed from the Lincoln Memorial in January 2012.


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