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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A town square is an open area commonly found in the heart of a traditional town used for community gatherings. Other names for town square are civic center, city square, urban square, market square, public square, Platz (from German), plaza (from Spanish), piazza (from Italian), place (from French), and "maydan" (from Persian and Arabic).

Most town squares are hardscapes suitable for open markets, music concerts, political rallies, and other events that require firm ground. Being centrally located, town squares are usually surrounded by small shops such as bakeries, meat markets, cheese stores, and clothing stores. At their center is often a fountain, well, monument, or statue. Many of those with fountains are actually named Fountain Square.


Urban Planning

A celebration in the town square of the Catalan city of Sabadell

In urban planning, a city square or urban square is a planned open area in a city, usually or originally rectangular in shape. Some city squares are large enough that they act as a sort of "national square".

The first urban formations started appearing at least 6000 years ago. Within urban areas open public space always existed and it served a very important purpose. Along with the development of human society and the development of cities, the squares acquired more and more functions. At first, the squares were established at the crossroads of important trade routes where exchange of goods as well as ideas took place. For example, Phoenician trades–people invented numerical and linguistic pictographic inscriptions out of the need to record transactions. Another very important function of the public square was that it served as an opportunity to exercise the power of rulers with military processions and parades.

Wars and inventions of dangerous weapons, where the ambition was not only to capture women and goods, but to destroy enemies, led to cities surrounded by thick walls and elaborate systems of defense. These became very densely populated, but even under these conditions there was always room for an open public space. Its functions were expanding too. Major places of worship were placed there, squares were used as permanent or temporary markets, monuments to important predecessors were erected and revolutions or contra-revolutions were staged. The squares became the location of royal courts, government buildings and city halls as manifestations of wealth and power. They were also used for races, like the Palio race in Siena, bull fights, executions, or even just to collect rain water in large underground cisterns.

Lindenhof square in Zürich, Switzerland
Main square in Rapperswil, Switzerland
Market square with 142 apartment buildings in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland

In recent times, theaters, restaurants and museums are also finding their place on the squares. Cities themselves, are actually becoming museums, a collection of human experiences that preserve numerous cultural values. Particularly since the invention of motorized traffic, the individual vehicle has almost destroyed most of the open public spaces. A car parking at one point had more value than the accumulated historical inheritance – human cooperation, technological processes, architectural and urban planning – that a square embodies (Source:


Soldiers and Sailors is a town square monument that Grover Cleveland laid a cornerstone for and later dedicated in Lafayette Square, Buffalo.

In the United States, a town square typically consists of a park or plaza in front of the original county courthouse or town hall.

In some cities, especially in New England in the U.S., the term "square" (as its Spanish equivalent, Plaza) is applied to a commercial area (e.g., Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts), usually formed around the intersection of three or more streets, and which originally consisted of some open area (many of which have been filled in with traffic islands and other traffic calming features).

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, and especially in London and Edinburgh "square" has a wider meaning. There are public squares of the type described above but the term is also used for formal open spaces surrounded by houses with private gardens at the centre. Most of these were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. In some cases the gardens are now open to the public. See the Squares in London category. Many public squares were created in towns and cities across the UK as part of urban redevelopment following the blitz.


In Mainland China, People's Square is a common designation for the central town square of modern Chinese cities, established as part of urban modernization within the last few decades. These squares are the site of government buildings, museums and other public buildings. The probably best-known and largest such square in China is the Shanghai People's Square.


In Russia, central square (Russian: центра́льная пло́щадь, romanised: tsentráĺnaya plóshchad́) is a common term for an open area in the heart of the town used for community gatherings. Often it has no official name or is informally referred to as central square. The name of the town can be added to specify the meaning. Central squares are usually located opposite the administration building or some major landmark, e.g. a Great Patriotic War memorial or a cathedral.

See also


Simple English

File:Piotrków Trybunalski -
Market square in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland

A town square is a large open area in the centre of a town. Town squares were traditionally places where people came together to meet, or to sell and buy things, or to be entertained. They often had markets, or they were used for concerts. They are often surrounded by shops or cafés.

Other names for town square are civic center, city square, urban square, market square, public square, Platz (from German), plaza (from Spanish), piazza (from Italian), and place (nearly rhymes with “bus”) (from French).

Many town squares in the 20th century became used as car parks. In recent years cars have been banned from some town squares so that people can enjoy the open space once more, free from traffic and pollution.

In other parts of towns there are often smaller open spaces which are called “squares”. They are often square in shape, but some are different shapes.

Some famous squares include: Red Square in Moscow, Beijing's Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Times Square in New York City and Trafalgar Square in London.


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