What Public Squares Mean for Cities, Eillie Anzilotti

19/05/2016

+ info: CityLab

In their most basic function, public squares are cuts of negative space between buildings. But they are also arteries through which the life and history of a city flow and are suspended: inside a square, the past and present, the personal and political, merge.

City Squares, edited by Catie Marron, brings together 18 writers on the nature of these ubiquitous public spaces—some, like Red Square in Moscow, notorious; others, like Place des Vosges in Paris, a little more obscure.

In 2014, at the height of the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, Marron was in Rome. The local papers were filled with news of civic unrest welling up in places like Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Marron read any account of the protests she could find. “And then, I would look up and be back in Rome, where there were squares everywhere, and they were beautiful and calm,” Marron says.

City Squares expands upon those contrasting functions of public space. At the core of the book is an examination of the geopolitics of the square, told through five accounts of civic uprisings: Tahrir Square, Cairo; Rabin Square, Tel Aviv; Taksim Square, Istanbul; Tiananmen Square, Beijing; Euromaidan, Kiev. In the introduction to that section, David Remnick writes: “the square is the arena of political confrontation.”