More community = less architect: The piazza

The European piazzas are among the most celebrated urban spaces in the world, with each of these destinations having a rich history and story-filled past. Yet what makes them such beloved places is better explained by what they don’t have than what they do.

Visit any of these venerable ‘urban stages’ and you’ll find they nearly all have something in common in its space – nothing. No architectural walls, platforms and stairs, no trellises, central fountains and planters, not even trees and benches. What you will find instead is scores of people. What you’ll also find is the things they spontaneously bring with them instead, like foldable furniture (see the permanent breakfasts), blankets, drawing pads and instruments, though usually nothing but themselves. In the photo above, notice the organic clusters of people in the piazza, as well as the surrounding outside dining scene supported by waves of portable furniture.

However, over-designed plazas have become such an icon of decision-makers being out of touch with what people really want and need, that it’s appropriate to document this unfortunate trend via this ‘more community = less architect’ series. Please post examples for this ongoing series here on the CoolTown social network.

Image: Piazza Del Campo, Siena, Italy by ionk.

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