What the experts say In successful squares . . .
1) Design showiness is subordinated Paramount is the creation of an environment that attracts large numbers of people from all social strata and generations, all claiming the space for their own self-expression. So far, here at Canada's primo retail crossroads, you can't find more than 15 people in the square at any one time.
2) Partners are sought Arts organizations, horticultural groups, fitness organizations, educators and youth coalitions shape a space's multi-use future. Alas, the current board controlling Dundas Square is heavily weighted in favour of local businesspeople.
3) There are many uses, many focal points Activities are the basic building blocks of a successful public space. In Dundas Square there are no amenities except public washrooms (installed because local businesses are tired of having their restrooms flooded by Yonge Street protestors) and a ticket booth. No café, no chess tables, no tables for sharing lunch or doing homework.
4) Sociability is fostered People congregate where others gather. It's hard in the current set-up to create dense human interaction because of the cold, granite feel of the place. If a square isn't comfortable for a meeting, a drum circle or a seniors outing, it's in trouble.
5) Change is encouraged This square is spanking new. If enough groups care enough to raise a ruckus and establish some democratizing precedents - like just showing up for activities without "permission" - the people will slowly take possession and it will no longer be viewed as a city cash cow. Even the physical form can change.
What else can you see?
"I don't actually see it as a truly multi-purpose space. It's more a place that people pass through. One of the failings of Dundas Square is that it's trying to have something for everyone. There isn't the stuff around Dundas to really animate it."
Planner with competing architectural firm who asked not to be named
"Sure, it has flaws, and the place is really a bit of a void right now. But my attitude is very different. We need more interesting places like Dundas Square in our city in the worst way. And we need to get good at building them. It distresses me when people pull it apart into a million pieces. I'd prefer to turn it around and say, 'Now that we've got it, what can we do to make it absolutely wonderful?' There's the possibility of a very significant amount of residential intensification, so the whole district may change."
George Dark, landscape architect, Urban Strategies
"Public spaces are the arenas where collective common life, which defines us as a society, is acted out. They are the places where we are all equal and where we are all 'home.' When private agendas of stratification and control are imposed on those places, the very heart of democratic principle is threatened."
Landscape architect Shirley Kressel writing in www.newdemocracyworld.org
"It's hard to design space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished."
Sociologist of street life William "Holly" Whyte
"It's a year when the square is getting used to the city and the city is getting used to the square. There's some hope in relation to things around it that this square will start to evolve. It has to be fine-tuned in some areas, but that's natural. The more interesting problem is not just what the square does or how it contrasts with what's around it, but how it might act as a catalyst to transform its surroundings. I'm hopeful that it will set up those kinds of relationships."
James Brown, of Dundas Square architects Brown + Storey