Most Famous Public Squares of the World
1.Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Located in the middle of the Melbourne, the square is an unconventional blend of old and new. With intricate historic architecture on one side and metallic-clad shards on the other, there is a maze of streets that links various landmarks to one another. With theatre performances, contemporary art exhibitions and concerts and events, the place also has bars, upmarket restaurants and cafes. The fractal façade system allows buildings to be different while maintaining an overall coherence. To create the triangular panels, sandstone, zinc (perforated and solid) were used. A big triangular module consists of 5 smaller modules, all of same size and proportion. The square is paved using 500,000 cobblestones of variegated coloured Kimberley sandstone from Mt Jowlaenga, Western Australia. It is an important place for celebration and protest but received a lot of criticism in its earlier days due to its unconventional look.
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2.Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium
The square measuring 68x110m is known as The Grand Place or the Grote Markt. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, this is the central square in Brussels. Surrounded by guild houses, the City Hall and the Maison du Roi, the square is home to 17th century public and private buildings. It is considered as one of the most beautiful public squares of Europe. But the plaza is surrounded by two important buildings such as the Brussels City Hall and the King’s House, presently called the Breadhouse. Initially a place for trading of goods, the streets emanating from the square were named after food items like butter (Rue au Beurre), herbs (Rue du Marche aux Herbes), etc. After the bombardment of Brussels in 1695, most of the buildings were rebuilt or restored. The Gothic Tower which is the Town Hall could be mistaken for a church but unlike most European plazas, this one doesn’t have a church.
3. Main Market Square, Poland
The main purpose of the square was commerce. Surrounded by historic townhouses and churches, the square has Cloth Hall built in the Renaissance style with a Polish parapet, Town Hall Tower, Church of St. Adalbert, Adam Mickiewicz monument and Gothic style St. Mary’s Basilica. The square has a lively street life. Measuring 200m x 200m it was set up at the intersection of ancient trade routes on a square plan. The churches are not aligned with the sides of the square. The buildings surrounding the church are 500-600 years old. In 2010, under the square, the biggest European underground museum with an area of 4000 sq.m was opened. With time, the buildings might have acquired a neo-classical look but the basic structures are quite older, which is visible in their doorways and architectural and interior details.
4. Naghsh-e Jahaan Square, Isfahan, Iran
A UNESCO world heritage site, this square measuring 160 m x 560 m is also referred to as Shah Square or Imam Square. It is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid Era. The square is surrounded by Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque on the west and the east sides respectively. On the North side lies the Qeysarie Gate that opens into Isfahan Grand Bazaar while on the south lies the Shah Mosque. The square was not aligned with the axis of Mecca, so when one enters the entrance portal of Shah Mosque, one makes a half right turn which enables the main court to face Mecca. Donald Wilber explains that the vision for Shaykh Bahai was that the mosque should be visible to a person situated anywhere in the Maydān. If the axis of the square had coincided with that of Mecca, the dome of the mosque would have been concealed form the view by the towering entrance portal leading to it. The angle between the two parts of the building enabled the entrance portal and the dome to be in perfect view for everyone within the square.
5. Old Town Square, Prague
Located between Charles Bridge and Wenceslas square, Old Town Square consists of buildings of various architectural styles from Baroque to Gothic. The square is surrounded by the Gothic Church which has towers as high as 80m and the Baroque St. Nicholas Church. The square is marked by colourful houses, palaces and churches. There is a medieval astronomical clock mounted on the Old Town Hall called Prague Orloj. The clock installed in 1410, is one of the oldest astronomical clocks still in operation.
6. Piazza del Campo, Italy
This piazza in Siena, Italy is one of Europe’s medieval public squares. The shell shaped plaza is surrounded by The Palazzo Pubblico and its Torre Del Mangia, Fonte Gaia as well as various palazzi signorili. A marketplace earlier established on a sloping site, it was paved in 1349 in fishbone-patterned red brick with nine lines of travertine, which divide the piazza into ten sections, radiating from the mouth of the gavinone (the central water drain) in front of the Palazzo Pubblico. The number of divisions is held to be symbolic of the rule of The Nine (Noveschi) who laid out the campo and governed Siena at the height of its medieval splendour from 1292-1355. From the piazza, eleven narrow shaded streets radiate into the city.
7. Piazza Navona, Rome
Built on the site of Stadium of Domitian in the 1st Century A.D., Piazza Navona still preserves the long oval outline of the stadium. It is the pride of Baroque Roman Architecture. Used for various athletic games and competitions in the ancient times, the piazza is known for its Fountain of Four Rivers designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Dotted with bars, it is still an important gathering place for Romans. A very interesting story about the piazza goes like that Bernini was jealous of Borromini, the master architect of the Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone. So out of jealousy and anger, Bernini created one of the figures in the sculpture with its hand projected in the air to depict that he is protecting himself from the works of Boromini as if the building were to collapse.
8. Piazza San Marco, Venice
The principal public square of Venice, it is often called St. Mark’s Square. It is the social, political and religious centre of Venice. The rectangular shape of the piazza was symbolic of its aristocracy. A popular meeting place for Venetians and visitors alike, this 180 x 70 m square has been the place for executions.
9. Place de la Concorde, Paris, France
With an area of 7.6 hectares, it is the largest square in the French Capital. Designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon, the square is decorated with statues and fountains. Two identical stone buildings serving as government houses at the north end represent the best example of Louis Quinze style of architecture that appeared under the reign of Louis V. The two buildings that now house the Hôtel de la Marine and the Hôtel de Crillon have arcaded ground floors and colonnaded facades. In the centre of the square is an ancient Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics. The obelisk which is 23m high including its base and made of yellow granite weighs 250 tonnes. During the French Revolution, a guillotine was erected in the square by the revolutionary government and King Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793.
10. Plaza de Mayo, Argentina
The foundational site of Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo was formed in 1884 after the demolition of the Recova building, unifying the city’s Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Armas. One of the oldest squares, it has been a witness to the most important events in the city’s history from independence revolution to recent political demonstrations. Named after the Argentine revolution that happened in May, the square is surrounded by important buildings like the Cabildo, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Casa Rosada, seat of the national government, the national revenue office (AFIP), the national bank and the intelligence secretariat.
11. Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
An architecture lover’s delight, La Plaza Mayor is famous for its distinctive Herrerian-style architecture which is characterized by geometric rigor, the mathematical relation between the various architectural features, the clean volumes and the almost total absence of decoration. The bronze statue of King Philip III, created in 1616 was not located at the center of the square till 1848. Three fires have struck the plaza in its history. The rectangular plaza measuring 129 m x 94 m has 237 balconies present on the three-story residential buildings that face inward towards the Plaza. The plaza has been a multitude of activities from bull fights and executions in the past to annual Christmas market, soccer games, stamp collecting and coin collecting market on Sundays and holidays. This plaza with 9 entry gates, has arches that surround the perimeter of the square, displaying a uniformity in architectural style.
12. Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal
Located in Libson near the Tagus River, the square was remodelled by Portuguese Architect Eugénio dos Santos after being destroyed by earthquake, tsunami and fire. He designed a large ‘U’ shaped rectangular square opening towards the Tagus. With galleries on the ground floors and the arms of the ‘U’ ending in monumental towers, reminiscent of the monumental tower of the destroyed Ribiera Palace, the architect’s plan was realised almost completely except for the decorative details which were changed later. Also called the Commerce Square to indicate its new function, the square has symmetrical buildings which serve their purpose as government offices. The equestrian bronze statue of King José I, inaugurated in 1775 in the centre of the square. The triumphal arch in the square, called the Arco da Rua Augusta has a clock and statues of Glory, Ingenuity and Valor. The plaza and port was not only a transportation hub but a business hub too. The National Monument of Portugal since 1910, is a home to the oldest cafe in the city, Martin da Arcada and the Pousada Hotel.
13. Red Square, Moscow
The landmarks in the Red Square include St. Basil’s Cathedral, the highest wall of the Kremlin with the Spasskaya tower with the clock, the Lobnoye Mesto – a brick platform where many executions issued by “Ivan the Terrible” took place, the Kazan Cathedral built in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, the Mint, the Zemsky Prikaz town hall, the historic shopping mall GUM, the Minin-Pozharsky monument, the red beauty – State Historical Museum and of course Lenin’s Mausoleum. One of the most visited public squares, this UNESCO listed World Heritage is the centre of Moscow. The square was formerly used for public ceremonies and coronations of Russian Tsars and is even today used for official ceremonies, parades and high profile musical concerts. Originally, it was the site of a central market square, and considered sacred because of various festive processions being held there.
14. Saint Peter’s Square, Rome
The plaza is located in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. St. Peter after whom the Basilica and the square are named, was an apostle of Jesus and also considered to be the first Pope. St. Peter’s Square was designed and built between 1656 and 1657 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was appointed for the job by Alexander VII. As per Alexander’s instructions, Bernini developed a design as an elliptical plan for the square measuring 240m x 196m. The two semi-circular colonnades represent the stretched arms of the church embracing the world. The colonnades consist of four rows of columns adding to a total of 284 Doric columns with a height of 20m and width of 1.6m and 88 pilasters. There are 140 statues of popes, martyrs, etc. on the top of colonnades created by Bernini and his students. The Egyptian obelisk placed in the centre in 1585 has one fountain on its either side, one created by Bernini and the other by Maderno. The square depicts Late Renaissance and Baroque styles of architecture. There are optical illusions created in the square by the means of the colonnade where from a particular tile among the cobblestones, four rows of columns seem to converge into one. Also while crossing the piazza, columns seem to approach and move away creating movement, thanks to special geometric calculations.
15. Tiananmen Square, Beijing
One of the largest city squares in the world, Tiananmen Square is surrounded by Soviet-style monuments and government buildings. A flag raising and lowering ceremony at dawn and dusk happens at the north end of the square. One of the four marble lions in front of the Tiananmen gate has a bullet hole on its stomach from the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
16. Times Square, New York
One of the busiest squares of the world, Times Square is actually not even a square but a street that has developed into a business district over the years. With skyscrapers lining both sides of the road, it is filled with flashing lights, video screens and LED signs. Times Square has restaurants, theatres and hotels and the place looks best at night. Stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets, it is a major commercial and entertainment centre. Also referred to as the ‘Heart of the World’, it is one of the world’s busiest pedestrian areas drawing 50 million tourists annually.
17. Trafalgar Square, London
Named officially as the Trafalgar square in 1830, the square is visited by 5 million tourists every year. The square has a capacity to accommodate 19,999 people at the same time. Historically used for community gatherings and political demonstrations, the square is abuzz with all kinds of activities these days. Known for its 169 feet high Nelson’s column guarded by 4 lion statues designed to honour Admiral Nelson, after his victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and fountains, the square is surrounded by National Gallery on the North, St Martin-in-the-Fields Church to the east, and facing it across the square is Canada House. The Mall is located on the south west while Whitehall is to the south and the Strand to the east. Charing Cross Road passes between the National Gallery and the church.
18. Zocalo, Mexico
Also called the Main Square, Arms Square or Plaza de la Constitución, Zocalo has been the main ceremonial center since the Aztec times. Plans were made to contruct a monument in the square dedicated to independence but only the zocalo (means plinth) was built. Although the plinth got buried long ago but the name remained. It has been the site of royal proclamations, military parades, Independence ceremonies and modern religious events. Today it is the main site for national celebration and protests. The square measures 240m x 240m and has an enormous Mexican flag ceremoniously raised and lowered each day.