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Great Public Squares: An Architect's Selection Hardcover – April 5, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0393731736 ISBN-10: 0393731731

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393731731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393731736
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 11.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #685,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“this unique, beautiful book is a great contribution to the understanding and appreciation of an urban space…Highly recommended.” (D. Sachs - CHOICE)

“The great virtue of Gatje’s book is the quality of computer-generated plans….The book will undoubtedly be much consulted in design, urban planning, and architectural history libraries.” (ARLIS/NA)

“[T]his book is fantastic….an astonishingly helpful and insightful guide, and it is great fun to read….[A] book you should have on hand, and pronto. It should be subtitled An Induction to Wonder.” (Corduroy Books)

“[W]hat a book!...The clarity of the drawings is exemplary...[C]oncise detailed text about the history of the square and what makes it work, together with color illustrations...Without having visiting them, the reader is given a remarkably full impression of each of the squares...The descriptions of the forty squares contained in this elegant book should go a long way to improving our understanding and appreciation of successful external urban spaces and will be invaluable to planners, architects, scholars of urbanism, cultured travellers and to anyone with a keen interest in the built environment.” (Roy Milne Frias - RIAS Quarterly Journal)

“[A] carefully and lovingly crafted book….a very good place to learn from the successes of the past.” (John Hill - Daily Dose of Architecture)

“For anyone who loves to explore foreign cities, this book provides you with beautifully detailed drawings of public squares, as well as photographs of the area….like a travelogue of wonderful public spaces, some familiar and others a new adventure.” (Current Books on Gardening & Botany)

“Squares, to be great, rely on having an attitude about entries, exits, likely paths, surrounding edges, surfaces, and, like typefaces, consider history and associations and occasionally include trees, flower beds, and, of course, require repeated visits. The equivalent in graphic terms of illustrations or photographs used in print or on television. Squares are a fascinating and rich subject for everyone concerned about their visual environment. Bob Gatje understands them.” (Ivan Chermayeff, Chermayeff & Geismar, NY)

“If we but pay attention, Bob Gatje's beautiful drawings and intelligent text will take us a long way toward reviving the lost art of designing coherent public spaces, the most urgent architectural issue of our time.” (Robert A.M. Stern, dean, Yale School of Architecture)

Great Public Squares is far more than just another contribution to the literature of international urban design. Rather, it constitutes a record of the lifelong observation made by the refined eye of a superb architect. The graphic elegance of each plan will make this volume valuable to both scholars of urbanism and sophisticated travelers. It certainly will be my travel companion as well as my guide to the spatial richness of many of the world’s greatest cities.” (James Stewart Polshek, Polshek Partnership Architects, NY)

“Robert Gatje embraces that tradition, not for nostalgia but for renewal, and offers with his clear and beautiful graphics an unprecedented comparison of many of the world’s great—and lesser-known—urban squares with a consistent scale and fascinating comparative statistics. The book will open the eyes of travelers, historians, and practicing architects to the outdoor rooms cities have offered as gifts to urban life and to the city as a growing architectural project.” (Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, NY)

About the Author

Robert F. Gatje, formerly partner of Marcel Breuer and of Richard Meier, lives in New York City.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Plancentric on May 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
What makes a vibrant and memorable gathering place? In architect Robert Gatje's visually compelling and insightful new book Great Public Squares (W. W. Norton, 2010) -- a collection of his drawings and writings - it has to do with material, pattern, scale, and spatial dynamism, not to mention history and complex socio-economic forces. Mr. Gatje forces us to think more deeply about why certain public places are so memorable to us.

He has drawn forty public squares to scale so you can compare each central place with its surroundings -- to understand how each functions within its context.

His cover image of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, essentially a remodel by Michaelangelo, is especially seductive and thought-provoking. It captures the force field that is the swirling oval pattern at the center appearing to pull the two flanking facades off kilter, crimping them toward the entrance even as they appear to slide past the building at the center. This intense play between space and structure, which is a function of all great public spaces, has always interested architects.

The book helps us see public space in new ways or as if for the first time. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Architext on October 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hate to disagree both with the Amazon reviews and those on the book jacket, but the subject of everyone's praise - the graphics of the drawings - was actually my big problem with the book. The drawings are extremely bold, heavy, saturated, and colorful. I would have appreciated simple, cleaner, Nolli-style plans much more for purpose of comparison and analysis. When the bright green trees on the plan jump off the page more than the square itself, I have to question his graphic hierarchy. It may be a personal preferenance, but I found the drawings to be visualy distracting and hard on the eyes.

Similarly, I wish that Robert Gatje had utilized professional photography. He took almost all the photos himself, which is admirable, but ultimately many of them look more like tourist photos than architectural documents.

I still give thie 3 stars because the selection, content, and research were all very interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark227 on January 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Coffee table books about architecture very often focus on eye-catching photographs and neglect two dimensional drawings. As an architecture student, the best thing about this book is that the author devoted so much time and effort to creating beautiful plan drawings of each square. The text and photographs are helpful for understanding each more fully, but I would be perfectly happy with purchasing only the 40 exquisite drawings.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vicente Del Rio on June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book. Well conceived and beautifully done, it is indeed (paraphrasing one of the reviewers above) a "feast to the eye". You are going to find great drawings, photos, and information about 35 plazas, most of them in Italy. Like any book of its kind, it is a bit limited geographically and misses, for instance, great examples in Buenos Aires, a city known for its beautiful squares and parks, and in the historic towns of Brazil. But a more "scientific" distribution was not behind these studies, probably done simply for the fact that the author enjoyed doing it. The information conveyed is very useful from a design point of view though a bit more rigor in the urban design analysis would have been welcomed (such as a common assessment criteria that would allow for cross comparisons), and land use maps for better understanding of context (which bring most of the life to these squares). But, that's ok, after all this is "an architect's selection". I also spotted a couple of mistakes in the names of streets, but not much till now. Price is good too for the high printing and binding quality you get. As a professional and educator I highly recommend this book, and I already bought another one as a gift to a friend. Buyers may also like my book Lisbon: Between History and Modernity / Lisboa: Entre Historia e Modernidade: 2011 Urban Design Summer Program in Lisbon, City and Regional Planning Program, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. (Volume 1)
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