One interesting aspect of the compilation of square data from London was setting off simultaneously on a hunt for the favorite square of beloved New Urbanist designers. New Urbanism is a way of describing the philosophy and praxis behind making great, sustainable cities. The term was coined in the early nineties to differentiate an approach that built on the heritage of over 2000 years of city building from the approach that has prevailed in the Developed Countries since the Second World War. The Congress for the New Urbanism began in 1993. Amongst the founders were Andreas Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Stephanos Polyzoides.

My job was to coax the each of these professional leaders and a few other top designers into divulging their favorite squares. I gave them no geographic constraint, but I did ask them to share with me their favorite “antique” square as well as a square that they had designed, built and truly liked. This proved more difficult than I had imagined. Designers can think of many aspects of many places that they may applaud – picking the very best is a difficult task. So I encountered some resistance in coming up with a favorite. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk broke the ice by offering her “pick of the day,” and we were off and running.

Were there some common themes in the ones chosen? Probably the most obvious is how different each square truly is from the others picked. There is a tremendous range – from the smallest (Liz Plater-Zyberk’s pick in Paris, Place de Furstenberg) to the largest European pick (Jacque Robertson’s and Andres Duany’s Place de Vosges, also in Paris), and to the largest non-western square, the Imam Square in Isfahan, Iran, also picked by Jacque Robertson. Shape also runs the gamut – from perfectly square to the highly elongated (Marlborough High Street, Perseverance Square, Ruskin Square, Imam Square). Generally, the issue of enclosure also has a wide range – from those with very low enclosure ratios to quite high. Conclusion: in great place making, there are many ways to home base. 

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