squares as part of urban open spaces

English: Belmont Open Space in Cockfosters, Ba...

English: Belmont Open Space in Cockfosters, Barnet, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Swan Lane Open Space, Whetstone, Barn...

English: Swan Lane Open Space, Whetstone, Barnet, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Before going into theories around urban open space, the definition of the term and the use of it in this paper should first be established. The definition of an open space according to Hornby (1995) is “a large area especially of land not built on”. With this definition, any open space in an urban area could be considered as urban open space. Open space as part of a city can be seen through different perspectives. For the purpose of this paper, this chapter is defining a specific perspective of open space. this specific perspective of urban open space is the square. I will try to discuss different ideas around the trend, utilization and design of squares and explore the different approaches to the subject. Hornby (1995) defines squares as an open area in a town, usually with four sides surrounded by buildings. “A square or plaza is both an area framed by buildings and an area designed to exhibit its buildings to the greatest advantage”. (Cliff, 2003) Both the above definitions are defining the square as an urban arena surrounded by buildings. This paper will be refering to squares in the same meaning. The following is a discussion on the use of squares as part of urban open spaces.
The use of urban open space differs in different societies in different parts of the world. Local cultures have been defining the use of these spaces in different periods. When discussing the use of urban open spaces, its historical beginnings go back to the Greek Agora and the Roman forum where these spaces were used for political, economic and cultural activities. They are still significant in history for their symbolical function concerning democracy. According to N. Naz and Z. Ashraf (2008) the blended activities of these types of spaces did not continue to the middle Ages. Giving examples from the renaissance cities, they describe the isolated use of market square, cathedral square and others which are confined to single uses of economic, political or religious purpose. They also discuss how these spaces have changed into parking spaces in modern cities.

Starting from the year 1970, when modernism was highly challenged, as pollution and vehicular traffic dominated cities, public space and green open areas were reintroduced into the urban realm. ( Gehl and Gemzoe 2000) The reintroduction of public space according to the above statement was a solution to the growing pollution rate of the environment and it was about reclaiming the city space from vehicles and motor ways. And from this point, public space has become an important element of urban life in many developed countries. Now, cities are growing into more society, pedestrian and people centered urban designs. The use of public space differed in different periods. Generally, it circulated around market place, meeting place and traffic space.


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