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Squares: A Public Place Design Guide for Urbanists

Mark C. Childs

Vital public places - squares, post office steps, playgrounds, street corners - are centers of joyful celebration, heartbroken communion, civic discussion, or for simply hanging out. Squares is intended to help designers, planners, public officials, students, developers, and community leaders understand the history and theories of public commons, elicit community dialogue and desires, respond to the natural and built environment, and design compelling places.
Mark C. Childs contends that places built to support conviviality are critical components of a good town. He includes theory, brief case studies, and 126 design queries and discussions. These questions range from the general - "How can the life of the community be strengthened by the planning of a civic place?" - to the particular - "Is the place delightful on a Tuesday morning?" "What makes a good place for a rendezvous?" Childs explores the design implications of the automobile, electronic media, the natural environment, urban furniture and structures, public safety, and public art. Interspersed with Childs's text are brief essays by other authors addressing particular kinds of public spaces: parks, urban beaches, farmers' markets, and community gardens.


Mark C. Childs is assistant professor of architecture and director of the Design and Planning Assistance Center, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Childs is also the author of Parking Spaces: A Design, Implementation, and Use Manual for Architects, Planners, and Engineers.


"Childs has created an elegant, easy-to-read, and well-organized traditional planning handbook to help designers, planners, public officials, students, developers and community leaders understand the history and theories of publc spaces. . . . Collectively, Squares is a useful reference material for those interested in creating or improving upon open space in their community."



" Squares is amazingly thoughtful and comprehensive; it could well become the standard source for learning and teaching about squares--one of the most important components of traditional urbanism."


New Urban News

"(Childs) offers insight into the design of thriving civic centers through case studies and analyses of dozens of public places, mostly in North America--beachfronts and city plazas and farmers' markets. But the book is more than a guide for urban designers. It is a reminder to anyone who has ever attended a street parade or a festival, protested outside city hall, accomplished a day's worth of errands in one trip, or simply bumped into an old friend or neighbor at the post office that a thriving civic life depends on a thriving civic center."



"Childs offers an excellent primer for individuals interested in the design of public outdoor space. . . . A thought-provoking work, it whets one's appetite to know about a subject that should be of interest to all. . . . Highly recommended. All levels."


Choice Magazine

"Childs writes with a special sense of reverence for his subject. Employing an understated, exploratory writing and compositional style, Childs wisely sticks to the timeless basics, but with a keen eye to current needs."


Urban Land Magazine

9 x 9.5 in. 230 pages 64 halftones, 30 figs., 5 charts