Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A pair of slideshows illuminating what makes a public gathering space work and what doesn't
As the 'Occupy' protests have reminded the world over the last several weeks, central plazas and squares play a crucial role in successful urban areas. When they're done right, these spaces act as a focal point for the civic and social life of a city, a place where impromptu gatherings, people watching and even, political discourse all naturally intersect. When designed poorly, though, they can act as a black hole, sucking the life out of a city center.
Influenced by urban sociologist William Whyte, the Project For Public Spaces has focused on understanding what's necessary to maintain or improve on these spaces. In 2004, they released their rankings of the best and worst public squares in the world. Since then, PPS maintains an up-to-date data base of over 600 public spaces, outlining the pros and cons of each one.
Below, we've taken a look at some of the best and worst examples of central plazas and squares all over the world:
10 Great Central Plazas and Squares
10 Failed Central Plazas and Squares