I’d forgotten how much I love Toulon, France. It’s a naval town, and the sister city of Norfolk, Virginia, where I live in the States.
The little plazas–scattered throughout Toulon–are amazing. Full of character and life. And, they are so close together that you’re never more than half a block from a lively public space.
Our Hampton University architecture program has worked with officials and urban planners in Toulon each summer since 2010 to develop design strategies for revitalizing the city using architecture and urban design.
This year’s HU students in the plaza in front of the opera house, on the way to an event.
Reception hosted by the Sister Cities organization in Toulon.
A sketch I made this year of a pedestrian friendly street in Toulon. We got to see inside an apartment on this street in 2010.
This refection photo from Toulon was part of my recent exhibition.
I’d never been to Uzes, France even though some of my Hampton University architecture students had. Uzes is home of the famous urbanist, Leon Krier, though we didn’t get to meet him there this year. We often use his book, The Architecture of Community, in my Urban Theory class.
Visiting Uzes made for a wonderful day of learning and exploring. I even wrapped with two decent sketches of my own.
Arriving in Uzes, Mason sent us off…
…into the market…
…and lunch on our own.
Then to work–sketching…
…and discovering details of the town.
Learning to sketch from Ray Gindroz…
…a famous architect and urban designer.
One of my sketches in progress.
A courtyard of Uzes.
A street in Uzes.
A small little plaza along a street in Uzes.
My sketch of the market square, after the market finished.
The trees make this plaza very pleasant.
Here’s a quick glimpse into St. Stephen’s Green. The squares and greens in Dublin are separated from the street by dense vegetation and high wrought iron fences. That technique doesn’t work it the States, where such separations tend to yield dangerous spaces. But here they seem safe enough (at least for me to occasionally pass through by myself at mid-day).
Due to the separation, the squares and greens are peaceful, quiet, and serene. They offer respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Like New York’s Central Park, St. Stephen’s walled off Green was designed to be seen, not heard. The views were designed to be “scenic” in the tradition of English landscape design (i.e., they were carefully composed for the visitor’s viewing pleasure). St. Stephen’s Green is not a park for playing football/soccer or dodge ball. Frederick Law Olmsted would probably not be pleased with all the sport that’s been carved into Central Park (it runs counter to his original intentions for serenity, visual perfection, and individual contemplation).
St. Stephen’s Green is often quite still. And far fewer people go in than if the edges were transparent, “perforated,” or “porous.”
The Green is fine (and at times quite delightful) but I do quite prefer bustling, noisy, stone-paved plazas myself. Dubliners, too, want urban spaces like that and many hope for the addition of new piazze (Italianate plazas) in the center of town. They have only three to my recollection: Meeting House Square, Temple Bar Square, and Smithfield Plaza. The first two are quite small and the third is very large. It is, I’ve been told, the largest cobbled plaza in all of Europe. (Or perhaps, just the longest?)
What Dublin lacks in piazze though, it makes up for in bustling pedestrian-only shopping streets. Dublin clearly has the corner on the market with regard to streets, with some of the finest pedestrian shopping streets to be found in the world (Grafton Street and Henry Street, for instance).
Cottage at the south east corner of St. Stephen’s Green.
A formal garden in the Green.
Workers re-shingling the roof of a garden pavilion. They said “hi!”