We called Lincoln Square home for about 4 years. We’re a few blocks outside of the neighborhood boundaries now, but we used to live just a few blocks away from the heart of Lincoln Square, Giddings (actually Kempf) Plaza, a European-style public square that offers a space for meeting, outdoor seating for restaurants, festivals, and performances. It’s shaded by trees all around the fringes, and there are storefronts enclosing all but one side. Traffic moves lightly past the square on Lincoln Avenue, letting pedestrians freely and safely walk around.
The feeling of being in a European city center is reinforced by the style of the buildings around it, such as the beerhall extraordinaire Brauhaus. In the summers, the fountain comes to life and bands stand in the center to entertain crowds eating gelato. In the winter, a Christmas tree goes up and lights are hung around the square.
The effect of having a public space like Giddings Plaza is huge. There’s a psychological pull toward the space. You get the feeling that if you asked all the residents of Lincoln Square to “go to Lincoln Square,” they’d all congregate in Giddings Plaza. There’s more to it than the sum of the parts. Sarah Morton, who puts together great illustrated pieces on the urban landscape, writes in more detail here on 60625News by comparing Giddings Plaza to a (less successful) square further south.
It’s a shame that so many places in the U.S. don’t have similar public spaces. The car gave us all the means to spread out and live far from neighbors, but it also diminished the importance of the towns/dense living–and with that, spaces that let you walk to everything you needed and the chance to cross paths with your neighbors and new faces. These days, you go to a new “town” and find that everything you need is in strip malls, and the older town center, with the courthouse and main street, is virtually dead.
What’s the equivalent of a public space in the suburbs? A shopping mall? Schools? Certainly there are places to meet, but I think a good test is whether every resident, if asked, would all point to the same heart of the place, where everyone feels some sense of being recharged. Lots of Lincoln Square-ans have a deep affection for Giddings Plaza for that reason.
Here’s a new illustration taken from that inspiration. It’s definitely a departure from my other stuff. My aim was geometric, symmetrical, colorful, and simple. It’s 11″ x 17″ on bright white heavy linen paper and is available at Sacred Art on Lincoln Avenue.