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Great Plazas and Malls are the Heart of Great Cities


Great Plazas-how and why

Edward J Blakely

Great outdoor plaza make street and mark communities as good places to live. City planners and designers try to replicate the great central plaza of the world as we move to higher density, more work near and in home living/working. It is rare that new plaza live up to their expectation as seen on the drawing boards. The reason for this is that few new plazas follow the basic rule that made the old plazas work.

Out oldest and most well-known central plaza were functional and not decorative. They were usually adjacent to the city central market or bazaar so the functioned as the place of meeting and exchange-where the horses stopped and people dismounted their carriages to enter the market or to gather for smoking, talking or enjoying the open air as seem below






As the separation of business and leisure increased with the development of places to eat and communicate on the edge of plazas emerged form followed function. Modern plaza design seldom comes from the tradition of the past. Too many times the plaza is a required design with no reference to the functions it needs to perform.

In this blog we want to give a pictorial view and set of reference points for designing good plaza and malls.

Rule 1. Connect plaza to and with streets;

Rule 2. Make the plaza function as a meeting place with transit connections;

Rule 3. Street furniture and active large open space in critical—don’t clutter the space;

Rule 4. Cafes and shops operate around and on the plaza and not be restricted to the periphery;

Rule 5. Have activity on the plaza such as artist working, performers and other life;

Rule 6. Clean, clear signage that spells out what is on the plaza or mall space;

Rule 7. Have the plaza managed by an active management program—not just policed but people in uniforms or tee shirts working the plaza and providing users with a sense of surveillance and active space control

Rule 8. The plaza must be spotlessly clean—no graffiti, no litter, no dirt or grime

Rule 9. The plaza need to be wifi enabled and CCTV activated

Rule 10. The Best plazas are open 24 hours or at least until midnight with easy pathways to clean well policed parking and transport.

Santa Monica California meets all of these criteria as do all of those featured above.