Public Space – Curtis Brown

This week’s reading got me thinking about community spaces that I have encountered and what makes them successful. In my hometown, there are a few public spaces that are used and many that go unused. Congress Square Park was a plaza that was in danger of being sold to a developer a few years ago. It wasn’t seen as a beautiful space and was looked over by man locals. Located in the center of Portland, the sidewalks next to the plaza had high foot traffic and always had a few visitors, but was never overcrowded. When the city claim it was planning on selling it, city members fought against the city. They responded by stepping in to add public art, new tables, chairs, and start weekly movies in the summer, showing films like Rear Window and Black Panther. The plaza could easily hold over 200 people. This created a new love for space. The community engagement that the city created changed the area immediately.
Once the city realized how powerful the community development was, they moved to involve other parks across the city. This created a shift in the plazas in the town. Following this change, the city involved almost all of the parks and plazas in downtown Portland attracting tourists, but mainly gearing them towards the locals that live within the city. This shows a small way where cities can easily intervene and change community spaces.
There is something special about a small plaza or piazza. In comparison to parks, their spaces are much smaller, allowing citizens to see each other from side to side giving a sense of intimacy. By gathering in this space, the community can unite. In Europe, they tend to have shops with outdoor seating, giving citizens a place to come together. Piazza IV Novembre is a good example of a good piazza. It is a common meeting place with great food, free seating, and heavy foot traffic. You can always see people outside at lunch. The desire to be in the space is what makes them successful.

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