The Urbanist

Town squares

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Cover art for The Urbanist

17 September 2015

Episode 205

27 minutes


Photo: Panoramas

The original concept of the town square has evolved quite significantly through the years, so what lessons can we draw from its journey? Whether they’re the centre stage for political protests or the ideal place for your morning stroll, squares play an essential role in expanding the public realm.

17 September 2015

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Chapter 1

4 minutes


Photo: Sébastien Amiet

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Chapter 1

Paris: redesigning Place de la Bastille

Cover art for The Urbanist

Paris is currently in the process of revamping seven of its major town squares and one of the most complex projects is the Place de la Bastille. But apart from the name there’s no sign of the site’s heritage. We look at some of the previous planning decisions and ponder what could be the future for la Bastille.

4 minutes

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Chapter 2

7 minutes

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Chapter 2

Cairo: Tahrir Square, the stage for a revolution

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Egypt’s Tahrir Square was where thousands of people gathered in 2011 and 2013 for the popular protests that overthrew two consecutive governments: the stage for Egypt’s Revolution and part of the Arab Spring. But now protesters are banned from meeting there and the government is trying to give the square a facelift. They say this isn’t political but many disagree – we find out more.

7 minutes

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Chapter 3

7 minutes


Photo: Garry Knight

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Chapter 3

How to plan a great plaza

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There’s much debate about how to properly build a town square – from considering the buildings nearby to beautification and sometimes a bit of defensive architecture too. But it is important to take a step back and understand how powerful a square can be. So, where does the concept of the modern town square come from? Nick Childs, founding partner of the architecture practice Childs & Sulzmann, tells us how the design of the square evolved through the years.

7 minutes

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Chapter 4

5 minutes


Photo: C_Marjan Lazarevski

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Chapter 4

Macedonia: how Skopje has failed to revamp its main square

Cover art for The Urbanist

Macedonia’s capital Skopje is something of a monument to the brutalist school of architecture and one of its main features was an open plaza at the centre of the city. It was devoid of statues, fountains and any other kind of decoration but popular as a meeting point. But now all that’s changed. Visit Skopje today and the main square looks like somebody’s staging a sculpture exhibition there, due to a project called Skopje 2014.

5 minutes

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