Monday, June 8, 2009

Living with the Past: Cobblestone

I'm not much of a world traveler, but I've been to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. It's ugly. A disaster. It has all the charm of an empty parking lot. It was created by destroying a marvelous old neighborhood and paving it over with concrete. Then it became the site of a massacre of unarmed civilians.

The goal of the Chinese government was to create the world's largest urban square. In this they succeeded. Unfortunately, the design was inspired by Stalinist Russia, which, as choice-of-models goes, is like hosting a banquet inspired by the Donner Party.

Tiananmen needs everything: benches, fountains, trees, statues. They could start by ripping out the concrete. Such a contrast with something the Italians have known for centuries. On the left is a small section of an open urban square in Piacenza that embraces the past and feels welcoming, comfortable to the eye. And it all starts with what's under your feet.

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