Thanks to all the commenters who responded to my too-vague request in the last post. Let me now be clearer and, I hope, more concise.
This image …
… shows an idea for the design of a civic square intended to be the "living room" of a suburban city east of Vancouver. It does not exist on the ground, so I'm looking for examples that do. The core of the idea is that:
- The square is successful as a civic heart. It's a place people would naturally go to not just to catch transit but also (a) to eat a lunch that they've brought, (b) to meet friends or people-watch, (c) to rally for a political cause, (d) to watch a local sporting team on an enormous screen (e) to attend any of a range of festival events programmed for the space and (f) to feel, as one feels in great squares, that you're in the very centre of the community, a place that is credible as a symbol of the whole community. I'll settle for most rather than all of those things, but the point is to define a certain kind of civic importance. Note that the flexibility of the space to serve many purposes is part of what makes it effective as a symbolic centre. It is, as they say of Portland's square, the community's "living room." It may have some green landscaping but it is mostly hardscaped in the anticipation of handling large volumes of people.
- To me, this means that the place is big, let's say at least 50m in its narrower dimension. (Smaller plaza spaces around rail stations are routine in Europe, but this thing needs to be big enough to do the symbolic and practical work outlined above.)
- The square is also an important node in the transit network, where substantial volumes of people make connections, either between mulitple surface transit lines or between those lines and a rapid transit line. (In the last post I artlessly referred to the place as suburban. I now realize that what I really meant was: a place where the high volume connections happen on the surface, not inside subway stations as is the case in most big European examples. Such a place may well exist downtown in a North American city that lacks much of a subway network.)
- All, or at least most, of the surface transit stops are directly on the square. That is, when you step off the transit vehicle, you feel that you are in the square, not across the street or down the street from it.
- These high-volume connections require walking across the square, not just along one edge of it.
- Finally, let me rule out plazas at universities, where the community served is artificial and intentional. I'm after places that serve as the centres of towns or cities.
I'm asking because I want to discuss this possibility in my book, based on my experience in developing the idea sketched above. It has particular relevance as a way to organize local bus connections at a rapid transit station that is also a local CBD. If really successful examples exist, I want to praise them. If they don't, I'm interested in credible theories of why not. Is there something intrinsically wrong or unrealistic about this kind of design?
The closest I've seen so far are as follows. People who are familiar with these spaces are encouraged to chime in with views on whether they work on the above criteria, especially the perception of the space as a centre or "living room." The notation C? means "I'm not sure if this really functions as a civic heart or livingroom. T? means "I'm not sure if the transit connections are major, that is, I'm not sure if lots of people have reason to make connections here.)
- Copley Square, Boston. (C? T?)
- Mont Royal station, Montréal. (C? T?)
- Plaza on the north side of Gare Montparnasse, Paris. (C?)
- Pershing Square, Los Angeles (T?)
- Picadilly Gardens, Manchester, UK (C?) (not hardscaped)
- Place Bellecour, Lyon, France (T?) (very close!)
- JFK Plaza, Philadelphia (T?) (not clear where bus stops are)
- Alexanderplatz, Berlin, specifically the area southwest of the elevated station, between there and Spandauerstr. (C? T?) (Is this a major bus-rail connection path?)
Thanks for everyone who's commented so far!