Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This is a large (and aptly “square”) and aesthetically pleasing book that introduces the readership to a selection of 40 public squares in the USA and Western Europe. Squares from Italy dominate the selection, with other public squares chosen from Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, France, the Iberian Peninsula, the USA and the UK.
The book defines a “square” and explains how squares need to be appreciated for their social, architectural and cultural value. However there appears to be no obvious selection criterion for the chosen squares (or what it is that makes them the “best urban spaces in Europe”). Nor is there a justification of why, for example, Eastern European squares have not been included in this selection. The chosen squares are, nevertheless, a visual treat with over 35 ground plans that use the same scale (so that they are comparable). The ground plans even use colours and textures to denote the various objects in the squares' vicinity like trees, brickwork, grass and even shadows.
The public squares themselves and surroundings are captured through photographs and text that give a clear “feel” of the places. The historical roots and usage of each of the squares have been touched upon. However, further detail about their historical usage could have added to the reader's understanding of the purpose and usage of the squares over the years. The photographs and text, nevertheless, draw an excellent picture of what each of these squares mean to the modern‐day user.
The bold, large, square hardback design and the detailed plans are definitely the highlight of this book. The use of a large font size and heavy paper make browsing extremely pleasurable.