The Appeal of Urban Squares

Cachet of Urban Squares

When visiting a city, I always enjoy discovering urban squares because they are a symbol of a city’s identity. Some have a certain historical appeal while others might be more modern or more family oriented with water features. I especially appreciate the ones that are steeped in history. The ones where you can still see, sense and almost smell how life was way back when.

In Montreal one of my favorite urban squares is the popular Saint-Louis Square in the famous Plateau neighbourhood. A classic Victorian fountain is situated in the middle of a painted water basin where people can cool off in the summer. There are also several benches to sit, rest and read or simply watch people go by. The Saint-Louis Square gazebo serves snacks and ice cream just a few feet away from the bust of the renowned French Canadian poet Emile Nelligan who owned a home nearby. Saint-Louis Square is a few steps away from Prince-Arthur Street, the lively pedestrian walkway, a haven for artists and musicians who add character and ambience to the area.

But what I really love is the architectural quality of the 19th century Victorian houses decorated with delicate wrought iron trim bordering the square. Some residences have architecture that is reminiscent of 17th century French castles. At a certain period the elite of the French Canadian bourgeoisie resided around the famous square.

A livable city definitely needs urban squares that are rich in history with wonderful architecture and well thought out landscape architecture. These spaces are part of the urban fabric of the neighbourhood and of the city itself. They are also a reflection of its culture.

Do you have a favorite urban square?

Here are links to articles on urban square and public spaces that got me thinking about one of my favorite urban square.

The Re-emergence of the Public Square

Seeking the Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S. and Canada  

North America’s Top 12 Public Squares

Are you familiar with It’s a website that offers virtual tours of urban squares for 26 different countries along with beautiful photos of the area surrounding the square in question. It is very well done. The Urban Square website also has a photo blog that explores the visual and artistic aspects of urban spaces.

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