Tag Archives: town

“Urbanesque”:Town square amidst asphalt



Urbanesque: An imperfect mix of 19th century urbanism with 20th century technology.

Like the Promenade Shops in Saucon Valey ( see earlier post) this square, “La Grande Place” , is surrounded by a sea of parking.

While this inner suburb for 9,000 people has a main access road, a boulevard, no commercial uses flank it. Instead, at the end of the road and in the midst of a large parking area stand four building forming a “square” with all the historic references to an Italian  “piazza”. To make things worse, the piazza is bisected by two roads; one has to cross them to reach the flannking buildings. Moreover, its entire north side backs on to a golf course; a contrived sense of a commercial cetre. Bollards have been used to detter cars from going on to the square; a sure sign of design failure. Bollards become necessary  in existing towns where the street design is inherited and inalterable. The designers of this plan had plenty of freedom to devise a car free space the size of a block without reverting to mechanical devices.

This layout, a parking lot that surrounding a shopping street (open or enclosed), can be found in many suburbs and has been criticized as anti-urban. This scaled down version, is found in one of the acclaimed New Urbanist developments – Bois Franc – in Montreal; an ironic twist of urbanism and suburbanism, of urban aesthetic and car functionality.

An ideal world for upscale living based on the car.
(bird’s eye view of plaza by Bing)

Main Street, Main Stage

 Main Street, Main Stage

Same day, time and Small Town. Two public realms centuries and realities appart.

Main Street beautified and “fixed”, displaying history, small retail and street  parking; it stands empty. All the attributes of good urbanism but no activity.
Main Stage, at the end of the same street, is an enclosed 2-level shopping mall boasting affordable groceries, large stores (or chains) and four level parking garage serving the entire street and Square. Messy urban design, no attempt at harmony but full of activity.
Like its predecessors, the Milan Galleria (1870s)and the Toronto Eaton’s Center (1970, it is in town, in time and of its time; a perfect adaptation.