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Great Public Squares

An Architect's Selection

Robert F. Gatje (Author)

Overview | Inside the Book

Forty outstanding urban spaces of the Western world, analyzed and drawn at a common scale for easy comparison.

From the storied piazzas of Rome, Venice, and Florence to the elegant places of Paris via less familiar gathering places in Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Portugal, to the former marketplaces and graceful Georgian-style squares of the United Kingdom, to the most interesting and impressive squares of the New World—Santa Fe, Portland, Boston, and New York—architect Robert Gatje offers new insights, stunning computer-generated plans, and color photographs to convey the spatial experience, supplemented by a brief history of each square and measurements to assess their success in meeting human needs for inspiring outdoor space. There is no other source for this comparative data in one place.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • April 2010
  • ISBN 978-0-393-73173-6
  • 11.4 × 11.3 in / 224 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“this unique, beautiful book is a great contribution to the understanding and appreciation of an urban space…Highly recommended.” — D. Sachs, CHOICE

“Squares, to be great, rely on having an attitude about entries, exits, likely paths, surrounding edges, surfaces, and, like typefaces, consider history and associations and occasionally include trees, flower beds, and, of course, require repeated visits. The equivalent in graphic terms of illustrations or photographs used in print or on television. Squares are a fascinating and rich subject for everyone concerned about their visual environment. Bob Gatje understands them.” — Ivan Chermayeff, Chermayeff & Geismar, NY

“The great virtue of Gatje’s book is the quality of computer-generated plans….The book will undoubtedly be much consulted in design, urban planning, and architectural history libraries.” — ARLIS/NA

“[W]hat a book!...The clarity of the drawings is exemplary...[C]oncise detailed text about the history of the square and what makes it work, together with color illustrations...Without having visiting them, the reader is given a remarkably full impression of each of the squares...The descriptions of the forty squares contained in this elegant book should go a long way to improving our understanding and appreciation of successful external urban spaces and will be invaluable to planners, architects, scholars of urbanism, cultured travellers and to anyone with a keen interest in the built environment.” — Roy Milne Frias, RIAS Quarterly Journal

Great Public Squares is far more than just another contribution to the literature of international urban design. Rather, it constitutes a record of the lifelong observation made by the refined eye of a superb architect. The graphic elegance of each plan will make this volume valuable to both scholars of urbanism and sophisticated travelers. It certainly will be my travel companion as well as my guide to the spatial richness of many of the world’s greatest cities.” — James Stewart Polshek, Polshek Partnership Architects, NY

“Robert Gatje embraces that tradition, not for nostalgia but for renewal, and offers with his clear and beautiful graphics an unprecedented comparison of many of the world’s great—and lesser-known—urban squares with a consistent scale and fascinating comparative statistics. The book will open the eyes of travelers, historians, and practicing architects to the outdoor rooms cities have offered as gifts to urban life and to the city as a growing architectural project.” — Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, NY

“[A] carefully and lovingly crafted book….a very good place to learn from the successes of the past.” — John Hill, Daily Dose of Architecture

“For anyone who loves to explore foreign cities, this book provides you with beautifully detailed drawings of public squares, as well as photographs of the area….like a travelogue of wonderful public spaces, some familiar and others a new adventure.” — Current Books on Gardening & Botany

“[T]his book is fantastic….an astonishingly helpful and insightful guide, and it is great fun to read….[A] book you should have on hand, and pronto. It should be subtitled An Induction to Wonder.” — Corduroy Books

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