Great Public Squares: An Architect’s Selection

Great Public Squares: An Architect’s Selection
Robert F. Gatje
Publication Date: 

Cloth, 224 pp., $65

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. Robert Gatje explains how he defines, judges, chooses, and draws the squares, and describes what we can learn from these great public spaces. He includes a key to the colors and textures used in his drawings to indicate walkways, brickwork, waterways, architectural elements above the buildings, umbrellas and awnings, as well as various types of plantings. The squares he has chosen are “...all in use today, are generally admired, and will be familiar to many.” Of the 40 public squares shown, 20 are in Italy, five in France, four each in Great Britain and the United States, two each in the Czech Republic and the Iberian Peninsula, and one in Greece. They are arranged by country in roughly chronological order. Gatje explains that the large number of squares found in Italy is due to the historical early use of outdoor space in a warmer climate. There are a number of examples of paired squares found in some of the Italian cities. The accompanying photographs are very well chosen. Perhaps one of the most intriguing squares is the one in Moravia with its graffiti–decorated houses.

This book is like a travelogue of wonderful public spaces, some familiar and others a new adventure. Gatje invites the reader to compare their favorite public squares (which might not be included in this book) to his selections. My only complaint about this book is its size. It is really a coffee table folio, a little cumbersome to take along as a guidebook.

— Joan Richards, volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden