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Urban environment: cuved or jagged?  
      Long tradition of research in psychology and aesthetics has established that we have near universal preference for curved contours. We see curves as inviting and beautiful whereas jagged edges are hard and repulsive. The contrast suggests that that even low level perceptual properties of the built environment can elicit strong responses warning us of environmental risks. [Quote from C. Ellard book Places of the hearth.] Does that works in our case? Are we unconsciously evaluating urban squares according to this principles.      
  Participatory Urban Democracy, Dennison Square, Toronto  
  Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires          
      We are going to select 12 of squares from each of two categories, Curved and Jugged, from our collection of 400 urban squares all over the world. We will show score of our original evaluation with a short comment. There will be a conclusion at the end of this page.

Category #01 CURVED LINES

01. Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires, Argentina - score 56 [out of maximum 60]
Plenty of soft and "curved lines", we specially liked atmosphere here.

02. Rathaus Platz, Salzburg, Austria - score 55
This is one of several squares in Salzburg, totally pedestrianized old city. It was really hard to decide which of those is best, but all of them are with plenty of inviting lines.

03. Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto - score 60
I am probably sentimental here, living in Toronto for last 30 years. This was only place with famous architecture that I was, as an architectural student, aware in the city. Mixture of curved and jagged, but very pleasant.

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  Rathaus Platz, Salzburg  
      #04. Bastion Square, Victoria, BC, Canada - Score 57
Very surprising pleasant little public space facing fantastic bay in downtown Victoria.

#05. Brookfield Place, Toronto, Canada - Score 53
Architect Santiago Calatrava conceived this distinctive architectural marvel and it stands as the ultimate expression of modern urban aesthetic, commerce and culture. This is all that needs to be told about this space!

#06. Campidoglio, Roma, Italy - Score 60
BEST overall urban square in our collection. Designed by Michelangelo Buonaroti in 1536-1546 on the Capitoline Hill overlooking Forum Romanum and a whole city of Rome to the other side.

#07. Plaza Mayor Trinidad, Cuba - Score 60
This magnificent square, with lot of "curved" lines is in the extremely well preserved city of Trinidad in Cuba.

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  Campidoglio, Roma  
      #08. Largo do Shafariz, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal - Score 60
We rented an AirBnb apartment overlooking this square. Exceptional urban space, same and still somehow different than the rest of the Portugal.

#09. Zocalo, Validation (Zaci), Yucatan, Mexico - Score 55
We were quite surprised with the atmosphere in this town, capital of Yucatan State of Mexico. Maya people are present everywhere in their authentic outfits- buipilies. Curves all around you.

#10. Square at Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo - Score 58
It was our daughter that actually visited this square in Japan. She was quite impressed with it and even mentioned soft forms and colours everywhere.

#11. Superkilen, Copenhagen, Denmark - Score 54
This ultra modern square is visited by our daughter, she was very very impressed, taking about it many years after.

#12. Parque Barnabela Ramos, Santa Cruz, Costa Rica - Score 54
This is very typical urban park in Latin America, but similar ones can be found in Spain and Portugal. If you are looking for resting pace after shopping or similar activities this is a place to be.

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Plaça Lesseps, Barcelona          

Category #02 - JAGGED LINES

#01. Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia - Score 34
My friend, architect living in Melbourne, told me that this is the only public square in the city worth mentioning. Many years later this was confirmed by my other friend architect also living there. Bad example of contemporary architecture.

#02. King Street Plaza, Toronto, Canada - Score 48
In the middle of downtown Toronto this is one of relatively pleasant urban space among buildings designed between 1967 and 1969 by famous architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. Spoiled later by removing wonderful art structure from the middle of the space.

#03. Union Square, San Francisco - Score 56
Union Square is one of our favourite places in SF. Not that it is easy to find unpleasant space here, it is THE most European city in US, and everybody knows our taste. We had a wonderful meal here accompanied with live orchestra playing.

#04. U.V. Ceti Plaza, Toronto - Score 38
Stolen space in front of the new structure with "jugged" lines somewhat improved by excellent peace of art.

#05. Lijnbaan, Rotterdam, Nederland - - Score 56
"The Lijnbaan was a fragment of the future built in a city that was desperate to evoke the spirit of times to come" [Evelyn Van Es]. This is what Lewis Mumford, famous urban theorist, has to say about Lijnbaan: "the unity and harmony of all this delight the eye, with just the right combination of the artful and the natural, the intimate detail and the clear over-all pattern".

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  Trg Partizana, Uzice, Srbija          

#06. EDP building courtyard, Lisboa, Portugal - Score 39
An ever-changing facade varies with the light, half-light, or shadow, and changes from more opaque and mysterious, to more transparent, revealing the light pulsating within it, both within the building and in the public space making it pleasant to walk true but nothing else.

#07. Largo Bartolomeu Dias, Lisboa, Portugal - Score 30
This is in our collection just because it is having name Largo, meaning square. Other then that it is hardly having any sense? Being in the middle of the fairground maybe it has some purpose when they are held, now it is totally empty.

#08. St. Giles Terrace, Barbican, London, England, UK - Score 48
This open public space near the outer limits of the Barbican Centre is one of the several squares within the centre. Barbican was one of the most ambitious projects of the post-war period in England.

#09. Plaça Lesseps, Barcelona, Spain - Score 60
Vast open public space at the first glance all devoted to pedestrians, few minor streets were visible from our standpoint. Slowly all the magnitude of the content, attention to details and recognition of social urban needs was revealed.

#10. Trg Partizana, Uzice, Srbija - Score 49
This Trg [Square] was created as a sample of progressive, contemporary way to improve urbanization of Educe having addition "Tito's" in the name and hosting huge statue of Tito for a long time. Even today when statue is removed it is somewhat impressive.

#11. Shwarzenegger Plaza, Columbus, Ohio, USA - Score 38
This is is one of most absurd places I've seen. Entrance to the shopping mall was altered to be somewhat pleasant plaza and then spoiled with this "crazy" Schwarzenegger statue that has nothing to do with Columbus??

#12. Square on Odaiba, Minato, Tokyo, Japan - Score 41
Odaiba is a large artificial island in Tokyo, Japan, featuring many hyper modern and just plain strange buildings memorably described as the result of an acid-soaked pre-schooler's architecture class. Quite surprising even for very modern Tokyo.

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  Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto          


We were definitely affected. So do we see curves as inviting and beautiful whereas jagged edges are hard and repulsive? Not as straight forward as you might think.

First thing I noticed is that great majority of squares in our collection of 397 square are in "curbed' category. Do I know why? No. Second conclusion is that majority of urban squares with jugged lines are having low score [30 or around that figure] with few exceptions. I think that the main reason is that those are mainly contemporary structures and those require exceptional talent and vision as in example of Plaça Lesseps in Barcelona or Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto to make it successful urban space.

Some of the squares in this selections placed in "curbed" category are contemporary ones confirming the preference for "curbed" lines and usage by creators of those to make space more appealing.

Just the opinion that best square we ever visited is Campidoglio in Rome is confirming our preference for historic urban solutions to urban space in the cities.

Let's start the conversation, I would like to hear your opinion about urban environment but in the same breath your opinion about modern architecture over all. Visit at least some of the squares here and get in touch!

  U. V. Ceti Plaza, Toronto - Jagged and square at Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo - Curved  
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  urban squares urbansquares copyright initiative is licensed under a creative commons attribution-share alike 2.5 canada license. June 19, 2022  
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