Rethinking Asia’s Public Spaces

Talking over dim sum at a busy Wan Chai restaurant, it doesn’t take much prompting for Christopher Law to reel off the failures of Hong Kong’s public spaces. “No matter how small the space is, they try to fence it off,” he says, taking of sip of pu-erh tea. “All the public seating is extremely […]

A Walk Through the Bairro Português

Jane Jacobs died five years ago and fans of cities and the celebrated, iconclastic urbanist have been remembering her contribution with walks through neighborhoods around the world since 2007. This coming weekend, May 7 and 8, enthusiastic city lovers in more than 150 cities around the world, from Toronto to São Paulo, will lead Jane’s […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Canada, Heritage and Preservation, Public Space, Society and Culture by Mary Soderstrom Comments Off on A Walk Through the Bairro Português , , ,

Struggling Against the Snow

Victoria Square, Montreal, February 1970. Photos courtesy Le présent du passé.

Posted in: Canada, History by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Struggling Against the Snow , , , , , ,

Defrosting Public Space

Sphères polaires at the Place des Festival By the time February rolls around, Montreal has already been buried in snow for a couple of months and your mental map of the city has changed considerably. Places you’d normally linger — the steps at Place des Arts, the plaza in front of Mont-Royal metro, the giant […]

A Contemplative Evening in Villa Freud

Of the two habits in which Argentines surely lead the world — psychotherapy and plastic surgery — it seems peculiar that the first, rather than the second, would boast a dedicated neighborhood in Buenos Aires. After all, the point of cosmetic surgery is to be seen, whereas therapy is a much more private affair. Maybe […]

Posted in: Latin America, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on A Contemplative Evening in Villa Freud , , ,

A New Square

When I returned to Montreal last fall, I spent much of my time riding around the city on Bixi bikes, which was the closest I’ve ever felt to complete freedom in a very long time: a bike, a city and nothing holding me back from just riding around aimlessly. It gave me a chance to […]

Posted in: Canada, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf 2 Comments , , ,

Making of a Square

Place Gérald-Godin in 1979 and 2009. Compilation by Guillaume St-Jean Over the past decade, Montreal has invested heavily in big-ticket squares and plazas, including the remarkable Place Jean-Paul Riopelle and redesigned Victoria Square, both completed in 2003, and the surprisingly successful Place des Festivals, which opened earlier this year. But some of the smaller new […]

Liberating Hong Kong’s Times Square

Times are a-changin’ and so are the squares. This summer in New York, cars were banned from Broadway between 47th Street and 42nd Street, making Times Square a true gathering place rather than a glorified intersection. Here in Hong Kong, the plaza in front of the Times Square shopping mall has found a new vocation […]

Cambridge, Temporarily

Kendall Square now… Kendall Square as it could be? One of the beautiful things about an academic planning exercise is that you can indulge in a little flight of fancy. A recent exercise at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design let people imagine a temporary urban intervention in one of Cambridge’s famous squares. A “square”, in […]

Hijacking Public Spaces

Bench at Times Square. Photo by Ox Lee It was a balmy, late March evening in Hong Kong. Times Square, tourist hot-spot and the island city’s largest shopping mall, thronged as usual with people basking in the artificial daylight of the surrounding billboards and video screens. But something was different. I looked closely: the “railings” […]

Posted in: Politics, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf 1 Comment , ,

Less is More: New Public Spaces

Movable tables and chairs in a plaza at Broadway and 66th, New York Montreal is in the midst of a great public space building boom. Plenty of new squares, plazas and open spaces have been created over the past six or seven years, most notably in the Quartier international, but also throughout the city. With […]

Posted in: Canada, Public Space, United States by Christopher DeWolf 3 Comments , ,

St. Louis Square’s Old Basin

St. Louis Square, often known as Carré St-Louis (though this is, to the surprise of many, actually an anglicism), is one of Montreal’s greatest public spaces. A traditional Victorian park, ringed by beautiful old greystone rowhouses and villas, it first came into existence as a reservoir in 1851. In 1880, the reservoir was drained and […]

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Place Monseigneur Charbonneau

Montreal’s office district, running between Dorchester Square in the northwest and Victoria Square in the southeast, is not terribly exciting. Compared to Midtown Manhattan, or even Bay Street, it lacks a certain high-stakes punch, the relentless energy of money being made in vast amounts, of high-stress streetlife scurrying from one meeting to the next. It […]

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Place Falun Gong

Place Sun Yat Sen, a small square in the heart of Montreal’s Chinatown, is almost perenially occupied by members of Falun Gong, a psuedo-religious spiritual movement that originated in 1992 in China. Banned seven years later by the Chinese government, which insisted that it was a cult and devoted itself rather heavy-handedly to crushing it, […]