Wednesday, September 26, 2012

North Square, Boston

North Square is a splendid urban composition. It has an asymmetrical triangular shape and an asymmetrical composition of buildings surrounding it. There is a pleasant variation of architectural facades and building masses, yet all are united by a similar scale. In its visual eccentricity and tight dimensions, North Square has much of the appealing character and charm as a Medieval European square.

The streets that branch off from the square are very narrow, themselves very similar to tight Medieval lanes. Hence there is a strong sense of enclosure within the square, with only minimal piercings to break the wall of buildings that surrounds this outdoor room.

The exception is on the south side of the square, where the buildings on either side of the space stretch inward towards each other yet never converge - instead they leave a broad opening that quite picturesquely frames a vista of Boston's financial district. This not only provides a pleasant distal focal point but also helps give visitors to the square a sense of orientation and a sense of location within the larger context of the city's overall urban form. There is a clear, perceivable visual link between two neighborhoods.

The square also has a palpable sense of identity and place through its link with Boston history. The square is anchored on one end by an ornate and visually eccentric Italian Catholic church, a manifestation of the Italian immigrant history that has played such a large role within the history of Boston and within this neighborhood, the North End, in particular. Facing onto the square at its other end is the restored colonial-era home of Boston's most famous revolutionary hero, Paul Revere.

The authentic cobblestone pavers that carpet the square further enhance the historic identity of the site and act as a visual marker to distinguish the square as a discernable and unique space, not just any old intersection of regular streets.

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