City Squares: Eighteen Writers on the Spirit and Significance of Squares Around the World
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In this important collection, eighteen renowned writers, including David Remnick, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Skloot, Rory Stewart, and Adam Gopnik evoke the spirit and history of some of the world’s most recognized and significant city squares, accompanied by illustrations from equally distinguished photographers.
Over half of the world’s citizens now live in cities, and this number is rapidly growing. At the heart of these municipalities is the square—the defining urban public space since the dawn of democracy in Ancient Greece. Each square stands for a larger theme in history: cultural, geopolitical, anthropological, or architectural, and each of the eighteen luminary writers has contributed his or her own innate talent, prodigious research, and local knowledge.
Divided into three parts: Culture, Geopolitics, History, headlined by Michael Kimmelman, David Remnick, and George Packer, this significant anthology shows the city square in new light. Jehane Noujaim, award-winning filmmaker, takes the reader through her return to Tahrir Square during the 2011 protest; Rory Stewart, diplomat and author, chronicles a square in Kabul which has come and gone several times over five centuries; Ari Shavit describes the dramatic changes of central Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square; Rick Stengel, editor, author, and journalist, recounts the power of Mandela’s choice of the Grand Parade, Cape Town, a huge market square to speak to the world right after his release from twenty-seven years in prison; while award-winning journalist Gillian Tett explores the concept of the virtual square in the age of social media.
This collection is an important lesson in history, a portrait of the world we live in today, as well as an exercise in thinking about the future. Evocative and compelling, City Squares will change the way you walk through a city.
David Adjaye on Jemma e-Fnna, Marrakech • Anne Applebaum on Red Square, Moscow and Grand Market Square, Krakow • Chrystia Freeland on Euromaiden, Kiev • Adam Gopnik on Place des Vosges, Paris • Alma Guillermoprieto on Zocalo, Mexico City • Jehane Noujaim on Tahrir Square, Cairo • Evan Osnos on Tiananmen Square, Beijing • Andrew Roberts on Residential Squares, London • Elif Shafak on Taksim Square, Istanbul • Rebecca Skloot on American Town Squares • Ari Shavit on Rabin Square, Tel Aviv • Zadie Smith on the grand piazzas of Rome and Venice • Richard Stengel on Market Square, Grand Parade, Cape Town • Rory Stewart on Murad Khane, Kabul • Plus contributions by Gillian Tett, George Packer, David Remnick, and Michael Kimmelman; illustrations and photographs from renowned photographers, including: Thomas Struth, Philip Lorca di Corcia, and Josef Koudelka
taught to submit meekly to oppression.” In the days that followed, the commemorations became protests, and on April 22, the government declared its intention to clear the square. But people responded by turning up in even larger numbers. They erected a tent city, and city residents offered food and water and support. On May 20, the government declared martial law, but the protests grew. At its peak, more than a million people were in and around the square. They carried placards with sentiments
professor of urban studies at the University of Cape Town, Vanessa Watson. Watson lives in the same suburb where she was living when Nelson Mandela dropped by her house on his way to the Grand Parade. The baby boy whom Nelson Mandela held is now a twenty-four-year-old law student. Watson speaks in a firm voice with a strong South African accent. She says it was logical that the ANC would have chosen Grand Parade: “It’s the largest and most important public space in Cape Town. It’s the most
his father used to park there. He said—with what I thought was respectful perplexity—that the square had a “quirky, almost indefinable idiosyncratic quality that persists despite the removal of so many of the old quirky, idiosyncratic establishments.” “Quirky” is the right word for the spirit of the place, partly because while every new generation has stamped it, certain things (not only people’s attire but their habits and desires, at least as reflected by commerce) do seem recognizable as a
in an environment that will be radically different from what we have known or can put on a drawing board. Instagram, luminaria San Domenico, Piazza San Gennaro, Praiano FRANCESCO AMOROSINO, Instagram, thousands dance the tango in honor of Pope Francis’s birthday, St. Peter’s Square, Rome VUTHEARA KHAM, Instagram, Place du Théâtre, Paris OLIVIA INGE, Instagram, Fitzroy Square, London ACKNOWLEDGMENTS WORKING WITH AN EXCEPTIONALLY talented and collegial team of people is as great a pleasure
Qizilbash community, some of whom had lived for centuries in the ancient courtyards, would be resettled to concrete blocks on the city’s edge. A four-lane highway was to run through the intricate cedar columns of the caravanserai. Along the highway would stand concrete housing blocks, designed for 1970s socialist workers in an East German mold. In the center would be the new square. But before the plan could be implemented, the president of Afghanistan was assassinated by Russian Spetsnaz storm