Humans have always been identified as social animals. People may lead solitary lives at times but eventually, they need social interaction with other people and the surrounding environment.  The daily routine of a human being is a varying motion from one private space to another, and the intermediate space between these destinations is often a public space. Public spaces, especially in a city, are those places where the people come together to interact with the city. 

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Historically, Public Spaces have played a crucial role in various reformative movements. Even today, from Pride Parades to Protests against various injustices, public spaces are a fundamental backdrop to the union of people. Public spaces also facilitate leisure activities and promote a healthy urban life. Marketplaces, City Squares, Parks, Civic Buildings, even sidewalks and streets, and transport hubs are all various examples of Public spaces. 

Listed below are a few famous public places around the world.

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1. ST. PETER’S SQUARE

Sprawling just outside St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square is a large, oval Square wrapped by Doric colonnades about four columns deep. The approach to the Square from the Basilica is a trapezoidal piazza which brings the Basilica into its focal perspective. Nestled in the rich, sacred, and historic Vatican City, the Basilica and the Square is visited by many tourists from all around the world. Saint Peter, the apostle of Jesus considered by Catholics to be the first pope, is the namesake of both the Basilica and the Square. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the Square around an ancient Egyptian Obelisk that was erected in the 1500s. Fontana del Bernini, a granite fountain designed by Bernini in 1675 is an imitation of Fontana del Maderno, a granite fountain designed by Carlo Maderno in 1613. Both these fountains act as the two foci of the Oval Square while the Obelisk rises from the ground in the centre.

Bernini designed the colonnades surrounding the Square to look subdued in the presence of the royal ornamentation of the Basilica. The simple Doric columns create an optical illusion as one moves through the Plaza. The columns also appear to move as a viewer’s perspective moves, creating an interesting experience for the people. 

Rome and Vatican City have had a large influence on the Classical styles of Architecture even in the modern world. St. Peter’s Square is as busy today as it used to be in its conception and is a classic example of a successful public space.

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The colonnade SOURCE: By MarkusMark – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org
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Panoramic view of St. Peter’s Square with the obelisk in the middle SOURCE: By I, Dfmalan, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org
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St. Peter’s Square as seen from above, Vatican City SOURCE: By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

2. PARC DE LA VILLETTE

In a time when parks were an emulation of the natural environment, so much so that the landscape designers artificially recreated forest vegetation conditions in the middle of the urban, Parc de la Villette was a digression from the usual theme of parks. The design formed its roots in culture rather than nature. Parc de la Villette is an award-winning project designed by Bernard Tschumi with the philosophical help of famed Deconstructivist Jacques Derrida. It is a park that has embraced the Post-Modernist philosophies to create a beautiful public space in Paris. The location of the park was originally a meat market, which relocated in the 1970s. Tschumi won a competition for the design of the park; it was a redevelopment project envisioned on one of the last land expanses of Paris. The famous Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie and the Conservatoire de Paris and important concert venues are all located inside the boundaries of the park.

Tschumi also introduced thirty-five architectural follies, which he placed as various focal points inside the park. Located at the intersections of intangible lines forming an invisible grid, the follies all function differently. This grid is superimposed over all the other activities that take place in the park. Some follies are just sculptural additions to the park while some have functions and potential for user interaction. This grid is superimposed over all the other activities that take place in the park. Some follies are just sculptural additions to the park, while some have functions and potential for user interaction.

Parc de la Villette is an urban collation of various themes and activities, from concerts, museums, circus performances, themed gardens, play spaces, and spaces for human leisure. The park is an asset to Paris and an architectural inspiration to architects all over the world.

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The superimposition of various elements of the park with the grid of follies SOURCE: https://www.archdaily.com
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Picture of a folly painted red SOURCE: http://www.tschumi.com
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Picture of a folly SOURCE: https://www.flickr.com
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Parc de la Villette diagram SOURCE: https://www.pinterest.com

3. GARDENS BY THE BAY

Gardens by the Bay is one of the largest Modern Park designs in the world. The conception of the Garden is an integral part of Singapore’s City in a Garden vision. The park materializes into a nature-embracing leisure destination, drawing in residents of Singapore as well as numerous tourists from around the world. It is a design undertaking of the British Architectural Design firm Grant Associates; Gardens by the Bay is an expressive and magnanimous architectural and horticultural marvel.

The 101-hectare garden is subdivided into three parts: Bay South, Bay East, and Bay Central. It rests on reclaimed land adjacent to the Marina Reservoir, with many parts overlooking the scenic water of the Bay.

The park consists of plant conservatories, lakes, relaxation spaces, and children’s spaces amongst many others. The design and technology employed in the creation of this garden enable the thriving of many exotic species of plants. This is used to raise awareness about the same for the visitors.

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The Conservatories named The Cloud Forest and Flower Dome have a scaly, ichthyic, ribbed structure enclosed in glass. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, the glass of the structure brings in ample sunlight for the exotic plants growing within. The rest of the park consists of The Sun Pavilion, Floral Fantasy, Heritage Gardens, Art Sculptures, and many more spaces.

The defining and eye-catching design in the entire park is a cluster of Super-Trees. The Super-Trees are a biomimetic architectural design gleaning inspiration from actual trees in a forest; the trunk covered with various species of flowering climbers, epiphytes, and ferns. Embedded with sustainable energy and water technologies, the Super-Trees are lit up at night, making them stand out against the velvety backdrop of the city sky.

The overall experience of the Garden revolves around Edutainment, and the landscape and architectural design of the park brings forth a new wave of public space design for the future.

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Gardens by the Bay, Singapore SOURCE: https://www.archdaily.com
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The Conservatories SOURCE: https://www.archdaily.com
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The Supertrees SOURCE: https://www.archdaily.com
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Gardens by the Bay at night SOURCE: https://www.archdaily.com

4. GRAND BAZAAR

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, is also known as Kapalicarsi, meaning Covered Market. It is one of the largest and oldest marketplaces in the world. With over 4000 shops and 61 covered streets, the market is a bustling hive of activities along intersecting pathways. Recognized as one of the earliest shopping malls in the world, the construction of this historic market was an attempt to stimulate economic prosperity in Istanbul. The warmly lit arched passages of the Bazaar and the brick domes resting on the same arches were built in the 1450s. Rectangular windows placed right below the roof bring in filtered sunlight. The building can be accessed through four entrances.

The Turkish Dolaps (stalls) consisted of shelves which showcased the luxury goods on sale, and a diwan at the front where the merchant sat to attract customers. This is seen even today. The market today sells a myriad of items ranging from jewelry, gold bracelets, furniture, carpets, leather goods, clothes, and textiles.

The Grand Bazaar is a large public space that caters to a large population in the city of Istanbul, serving the people with luxury even in modern times today.

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Inside the Grand Bazaar SOURCE: By Dm Gultekin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org
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Inside the Market SOURCE: By espiritu_protector – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org
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The Entrance SOURCE: By G.dall’orto – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5 it, https://commons.wikimedia.org

5. THE HIGHLINE

While many cities plan for recreational public spaces, cities with higher density and negligible available space for public activities have to find innovative solutions to bring comfort to the city. The Highline in New York is one such project. Highline is a retrofitted public space. What was initially an abandoned railroad subject to crime, was revamped into a linear, elevated public space by a Non-profit Organisation called Friends of The Highline. The High Line is a raised freight rail line that has been converted to heterogeneous public space on Manhattan’s West Side. It was rescued from the cusp of demolition and brought to life as a meandering park that extends to a length of 1.45 miles. It is a classic example of public and private celebratory activities coexisting together at once, amidst an environment of natural vegetation. The park is divided into gardens that retain the original overgrowth from its initial abandonment to manicured landscaped spaces.

There are various performing areas and rental areas available for all kinds of events. The Highline also boasts of eateries and stores, and numerous interaction spaces for tourists and residents alike. Multiple entry points throughout the length of the park create segregation of crowd, allowing for easy mobility in the trail. Regardless of the location of the entrance, The Highline propagates an experience that feels deliberately choreographed, owing to its meandering character. The narrow, linear progression of the Highline creates an advantage for any events or activities happening in it. Due to an overlap of the circulation spaces and activity spaces, there is a promising interaction and connection between all the users on the Highline.

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The Highline, New York SOURCE: https://www.thehighline.org/
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The Highline, New York SOURCE: https://www.thehighline.org/
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The Highline, New York SOURCE: https://www.thehighline.org/
Author

Kriti Shivagunde is a hopeless list-maker. She makes lists more than she breathes in a day. She writes too much, sings too much, and loves hummus too much. She is passionate about sleeping and helping animals. An architecture student from the unfortunate 2020 graduating batch, she hopes to one day call herself an Architect.

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