NYC –> Shanghai, 37 days & counting: Let them eat cake!

August 4th, 2013. 37 days.

2013-07-31 18.05.30 So not quite cake…but people are “gobbling” up the new public space at 51 Astor Place in the East Village! Ok, so it’s technically a POP, or a privately-owned public space (many have discussed the “contested” nature of this space due to its not-entirely public status), but this space, under construction for about two years, is a most-welcome addition to the neighborhood. While I’m not a fan of the building itself, its public plaza helps fills a void in the number of available gathering spaces in the area. In the few weeks since its opening, New Yorkers have embraced it as if it had been there all along – sort of like reconnecting with an old friend you hadn’t seen in a while and feeling like no time had passed at all! It feels natural – and it should as it has many of the elements of a classical square. Most importantly, unlike its neighbor just caty-corner from it (where the Alamo sculpture – “The Cube” sits) it works because you can actually SIT in it, it’s shady and has already attracted food vendors – all key ingredients to a successful plaza, as William Whyte pointed out long ago, and all accounted for by State of Place. Personally, the plaza has already served me well as a meeting point for me and my fiance and as the location of an impromptu encounter with a friend visiting from out of town (who incidentally had recently come back from a Fulbright in Shanghai!)…Can’t wait to explore these kinds of spaces in China!

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