Top 10 Squares to Watch Out For

National Mall and Union Square; credit: Rendering produced by: Methanoia

s we’ve all seen recently, public space is a fragile thing. Attempts can be made to destroy it, but as people realize what they take for granted is about to disappear, they react. People reclaim a space. Landscape architects should understand the value of public space and what it can give to a city, its people and future generations. Public spaces, squares and plazas have the power to initiate a city and its community into a renaissance. Here are “10 Squares to Watch Out For” projects that aim to do just that in the next few years. 10. Southern Concourse, Kings Cross Station, London, UK by Stanton Williams

A stone’s throw from Granary Square by Townshend landscape architects and part of the beautiful latticing of the new concourse by John McAslan and Partners, the Southern Concourse is the final piece in the puzzle of a complete overhaul of the Kings Cross area of London. Work is due to be finished this autumn.

9.  Jaarbeursplein, Utrecht, by OKRA

One of the touted clever elements in the Jaarbeursplein is the relationship between open, square space and the built form – supposedly allowing for a pedestrian orientated experience.

8.  City Gardens, Aberdeen, Scotland

A team headed by Diller Scofido + Renfro (in conjunction with Keppie Design and OLIN) won the competition and the support of Aberdonians to build the Granite Web. Then disaster struck. Rejected as not being financially viable, funds are instead being concentrated on developing pedestrian connectivity throughout the city. It will be interesting to see what happens here, and whether the project will be regarded as a missed opportunity or a red herring in the rejuvenation of Union Terrace Gardens and Aberdeen itself.

7. Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio, US by James Corner Field Operations

An updated proposal for Cleveland’s notoriously banal square has been released by Field Operations. The plan aims to weave the four small squares into one large square-park with grassy hills and trees a-plenty. If this project gets off the ground the green infrastructure will run past the park’s perimeters truly reinvigorating downtown Cleveland.

6. Green Square Town Centre, Sydney, Australia by Stewart Hollenstein and Colin Stewart Architects

The exciting images of this proposal convey liveliness and vivacity – but most importantly, the space has been thought about functionally, in terms of how it would be used as a festival space but also during everyday peak hours. The plaza has submerged functional spaces to create more room in an area which as plenty of high-density residential towers.

5. National Mall and Union Square, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and Davis Brody Bond This is a monumental landscape with incredible resonance. If the project successfully maintains its connection to the individual and retains the history of the site, it will be an awe-inspiring experience for the visitor. 4. Casablanca Sustainable Market Square, Morocco, by TomDavid Architecten The mushroom-like canopy structures will collect rainwater, which filters into a system that flushes toilets around the square and cleans the floor of the market, whilst offering shade for the sellers. The elevated plaza provides infrastructure for both the legal and illegal markets both of which, say the practice, are vital to Morocco’s economy. 3. Rethink Athens, Athens, Greece by OKRA This project intertwines a green and blue strategy for the capital of Athens, as well reducing vehicular traffic to instigate change throughout the whole city. Considering the problems that have rocked Greece’s economy, will the design rise to the challenge and help the world rethink Athens? 2. Cadillac Square, Detroit by PPS

Well, actually just Detroit. The city made the headlines this month as it filed for bankruptcy. Yet, all eyes should be on Detroit as the potential there is huge. Project for Public Spaces has worked with Detroit for many years and the most recent project is Cadillac Square. One can only hope it continues to go ahead as the city struggles.

1. South Plaza, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, UK by James Corner Field Operations

Let us not forget that some of the major design considerations for an Olympic park are when they enter ‘legacy mode’. Alongside this, the fact that the designer for the new South Plaza is James Corner of High Line fame, means that the space will be one of the most eagerly anticipated projects of the coming years. Mix this with Corner’s dreams of a carousel, tree lined boulevards, picnic areas and climbing walls and you have the number one public plaza to watch.

Still, as with the good, so often comes the bad. Only the time will tell if these projects are actually successful – though all seem to be promising. A public space can indeed rejuvenate a community, but a public space can also be hollow and void if it does not engage with its purpose. Next in the series are ten projects that are, shall we say, a bit lacklustre – next up will be The Top Ten Square Fails.

Article by Sonia Jackett.

Published in Blog

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