Five of the world’s most innovative public gathering spaces
As the world’s population becomes more nomadic, drifting through countries to travel or work abroad, public spaces have become a focal point for cities that desire to be noticed. They’re a way to showcase the area’s culture, commitment to design and environmental sustainability, while providing a central focus and a sense of community. These five cities are bringing back the social element of public spaces with contemporary locations for people to come together.
01. Marin Civic Center — San Rafael, California
Designed by architectural legend Frank Lloyd Wright, the Marin Civic Center was completed posthumously. What sets the Marin Civic Center apart from Wright’s previous projects is his commitment to designing every single detail in the building, from signs to furniture.
UNESCO is currently considering designating the Center a World Heritage Site. Besides hosting an array of cultural events, the Center also served as a source of inspiration to science-fiction giant George Lucas when designing Star Wars sets, and welcomed Andrew Niccol when filming Gattaca.
02. Blaak Square — Rotterdam, Netherlands
The Blaak Square and its surroundings attest to Rotterdam’s unstoppable avant-garde thinking. Destroyed during WWII, the area has been entirely rebuilt and is now an eclectic mix of extraordinary architectural concepts. Whether you go for the St. Laurenskerk church (the only medieval church left in Rotterdam), Piet Blom’s 1984 Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) or renowned design firm MVRDV’s Markthal (the biggest covered market in the country), Blaak Square is a visual feast. Just around the corner, the many restaurants, bars and terraces of the Old Harbor bring life to the area at night.
03. MuseumsQuartier — Vienna, Austria
Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier is one of the world’s largest creative complexes. Located in the former imperial stables, the district unites 18th-century architecture with modern additions by designers Ortner & Ortner Baukunst and PPAG.
In between its walls, you will find mumok (the Museum of Modern Art) and the Leopold Museum, which showcases one of the world’s most important collections of Austrian modern art. Works are on display by prominent artists including Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka. In addition to its indisputable reputation as Vienna’s cultural heart, the MuseumsQuartier is simply a beautiful place to grab a coffee or lunch in fine weather and relax on one of the square’s colorful lounge chairs.
04. Superkilen — Copenhagen, Denmark
Coordinated by the City of Copenhagen, Superkilen is a public park intended to celebrate diversity. The park was designed by SUPERFLEX, a Danish art group exploring alternative models of social and economic organization through their “Tools” (projects).
The idea behind the project was to represent the people who live in the area surrounding the park, a diverse neighborhood that is home to over 50 different nationalities. SUPERFLEX divided the space into three sections and gave each a distinctive purpose: the Red Square (urban life), the Black Market (classic square) and the Green Park (classic park). Superkilen was then populated by objects from around the world, all chosen by its residents. The story of each can be found on the app that accompanies the project.
05. River Reconstruction — Zhangjiagang, China
Overwhelmed by pollution, the city of Zhangjiagang called in Botao Landscape to revitalize the river and the city itself. The company laid new road plans to reduce traffic congestion, cleaned up the river, installed a waterfront park and designed a commercial district to boost the local economy. The project was divided into three main sections: the Gudu Harbor block, the promenade garden block and the former parking plaza block.
Botao Landscape’s use of modern design references the history of the city and focuses on “human needs.” With a space for public art, symbolic lily pads floating in clean water and the bamboo raft dock, amongst many others, the Zhangjiagang Town River Reconstruction is a dynamic redesign improving the daily lives of the residents while paying homage to the local history.
Written by Kamila Beyssembaeva
Headline image of Superkilen in Copenhagen by Comrade Foot