Civic

Civic buildings and spaces

The turbine square

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New Urban News Technical Page by Andres Duany, Michael Morrissey, and Patrick Pinnell

A square is a public space, defined by building frontages, seldom larger than a block, usually occurring at the intersection of important streets. The streetscape of a square consists of a formal landscape of trees, lawn, and paved paths. A plaza is similar but its streetscape consists primarily of pavement. The standing of civic buildings is invariably enhanced when they are located within or along these types of public spaces.

The circus

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New Urban News Technical Page by Andres Duany, Michael Morrissey, and Patrick Pinnell

A circus is a regular, concavely curved urban open space;  a circular variant of the urban square. Circuses are the spatial manifestation of the popular roundabout of modern traffic engineering, as buildings are disposed in support of the vehicular geometry. Although a simple intersection, the streets entering a circus give the effect of converging in an intensely spatial urban place.

The circle

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New Urban News Technical Page by Andres Duany, Michael Morrissey, and Patrick Pinnell

Rotary, circle, and circus identify urban spatial elements associated with circular traffic movement. The first tends to occur towards the Rural end of the Transect, the last towards the Urban Core, while variations on the circle occur in between.

The plaza: Parking/plaza techniques

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New Urban News Technical Page by Andres Duany, Michael Morrissey, and Patrick Pinnell

There is a strong reflex for a designer simply to attach the label “parking lot” to an area and then to get on with the design of the building. In fact the necessary function of parking can be a resource for the creation of public space. Overcoming the simplistic conception of “a place for cars” is the critical first step towards techniques that emphasize the creation of a pedestrian-oriented space.

The plaza: The civic plaza

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New Urban News Technical Page by Andres Duany, Michael Morrissey, and Patrick Pinnell

It is often the case that important civic buildings are physically smaller than the private structures around them. Since the human species is given to mistaking size for significance, it is important to understand the ways in which civic buildings can indicate their importance without size, luxury, or hyperactive massing. The space around a civic building is the most important resource for this purpose.

The attached square

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New Urban News Technical Page by Andres Duany, Michael Morrissey, and Patrick Pinnell

Most urban open space, whether it is a plaza, square, or green, is detached from the surrounding blocks by a surrounding street. An attached open space is one that shares its urban block with one or more major buildings. According to William H. Whyte, from his empirical studies on urban behavior, the attached square (the type found at the midpoint of the urban-rural transect) is more likely to be used than one surrounded by traffic. Urban spaces are activated to a great extent by the life in the buildings at their edges, particularly if these buildings supply shopping, food, and drink. Whyte discovered that the most used attached squares were at the corner of a block, tapping into the diagonal pedestrian shortcut.

Turning alleys into neighborhood spaces

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New Urban News Article with images, 1/1/2009
Large American cities increasingly are trying to improve the aesthetics, environmental performance, or sociability of their alleys.

In 2007 the City of Chicago issued “The Chicago Green Alley Handbook,” which is aimed at installing permeable paving, introducing planting, and relieving flooding along many of the city’s approximately 1,900 miles of public alleys.

The return of the neighborhood church

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New Urban News Article with images and sidebar, 4/1/2005

A mature and well-conceived new urban community can easily pass the “orange juice test.” That is, a resident can send a twelve-year-old son or daughter to the corner store unaccompanied to pick up some juice or other basic supplies. One could similarly construe a whole series of authenticity tests for different demographic groups — the school test, the coffee shop test, even the baseball field test. But what about the church test? What one might discover is that the family piles into the car and drives across town to worship, primarily because there is no neighborhood church within walking distance.

Old-style ballparks, fronting on urban streets, spur in-city living

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New Urban News Article with images and sidebar, 9/1/2003
“Context-based” baseball stadiums generate vibrant mixed-use districts despite critics’ questions about “retro” style.

A July 27 New York Times article has stimulated debate about whether the trend toward “retro” sports stadiums has begun to wane and, if so, whether this will be good or bad for cities.

Making a village green successful

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New Urban News Article with images, 3/1/2007
Town green in traditional neighborhood development attracts wide range of uses.

On a Saturday afternoon in late December former Senator John Edwards announced his candidacy for President of the United States before a crowd of 5,000 people gathered on the one-acre green at Southern Village, a new urbanist neighborhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In doing so, Edwards bypassed arenas, large auditoriums, and historic public spaces  in the region. The event illustrates, says Southern Village developer D.R. Bryan, how the creators of new urbanist public greens and squares can never imagine all the uses they will serve.

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