Principles of urban plazas


An attractive urban plaza depends on its organization, design, and management of the space. Conventionally, urban space is organized in comparative laws to interior space. Squares and streets within the urban area are the main components of urban space. According to studies conducted by Canniffe (2011) and Zhai (2014), the principal elements of an urban place are the streets and the squares which are the main elements of city design and equally the most important way of creating a good setting for public and commercial buildings in a city. Urban square also called, (civic spaces, town squares or plaza) are the spaces that form focal points in public space network. Urban Square’s planning to meet the requirements and realities of a post-carbon; climate responsible, and safe as well as comfortable for the residents needs proper planning, designing, and management (, n.d.). However, gauging the standards of a square requires placing the urban plaza on balance against the six principles of urban plazas; image and identity, attractiveness and destination, amenities, reaching out like an octopus, the central role of management, and different funding resources. It is through these principles that in our case we can effectively analyze the site and neighborhood of Reginald Cooper Square London Ontario Canada.

What mental picture do we see when Reginald Cooper Square is mentioned? Does it meet the six principles of a good urban plaza? What mental image will this head in Metro Newspaper of July 12th, 2012, “Mayor disgusted with Reginald Cooper Square” create in the mind of a reader who has never been to the place? Well, this is what this paper seeks to unravel while evaluating the Reginald Cooper Square and its neighborhood against the six principles of urban plazas. Through an analysis of the site’s streetscape and its neighborhood, establishing the advantages of the square’s design and management while citing the social and economic advantages will help in understanding and appreciating this square whereas citing some of the gray areas will be crucial in offering some advice for improvements whenever necessary.

Principles of urban plaza: Reginald Cooper Square

Image and Identity

Urban squares are the focal points of any public space as it provides a forum for exchange, both social and economic as well as being the focus of civic pride and community expression. When talking of pride, human beings often tend to feel proud of what is attractive, well-organized, clean, and any other positive attribute. This is what the principle number one of image and identity analyzes in an urban square (Projects for Public Spaces, 2015).

It is the image and the identity of the square that shapes its identity and the identity of the entire city. The presence of beautiful sites like the fountains, parks among others. However, a great image of a square is tied to great civic buildings located nearby, city halls, library, or commercial buildings.

The civic space provided by the Reginald Square neighborhood gives Victoria Park an ample community extension and greener image apart from its great contribution of land value it offers the Urban Plaza. Such civic place in the neighborhood gives the spring into life through promoting social lives of the people around. Additionally, the New Academic Building and St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica among other surrounding social places connects the residents around other than giving the site a landmark identity. How the residents of Reginald Urban Square and the neighborhood of Waterloo, Pictons, Dufferin, and Centennial values such public spaces will crown the places as world-renowned places (Goncalves, 2012). Besides, the Cooper and Lanning Square neighborhood gives the site a towering identity and most of all an attractive investment setting.

Equally, the presence of dilapidated buildings with weeds growing on the Reginald Cooper Square, as reported by the Metro newspaper, paints a bad image and washing down the proper identity of the Reginald Cooper Square. The need for open space through construction of small parks and recreational areas refurbished would be a good plan for painting a clearer picture of this square. Besides, the plan to change the streetscape through an upgrade and installation of infrastructure elements, such as water and sewer lines, commercial parking lots, street lighting, sidewalks, roadways, traffic stop signs, and lights as well as a Regular Street cleaning and potholes repair according to Gwendolyn (2013) are essential. When fully implemented, will lead to a creation of a new face of the site that will not ‘disgust’ the Mayor.

Attraction and Destination

Making a place attractive and worth a stopover or a place to invest as well as settle is one aim of urban plaza principles. An attractive place deems the place not a short cut to a better destination as Reginald Cooper Square is to many of the pedestrians who wishes not to cycle downtown.

The presence of smaller sections, such as outdoor cafes, fountains sculptures, or band shell of performers is what is needed to liven up a place and make it attractive again. The attempt to create a public space between City Hall and Centennial Hall in downtown London needed re-furbishing that would create that greatest project that the architects had (Nikitin, n.d.).

However, with the Reginald Cooper Redevelopment plan, the place has been turned into a great destination for travelers and investors due to the presence of many economic and social amenities as well as increasing the Square’s accessibility through the transport network in the neighborhood (Madison, n.d.). The monument, Ted Bieler’s sculpture left behind in 1977 by Japanese Canadians adds an attractive setting to Reginald Cooper Square and the site which is of great advantage, especially for the lovers of art.

Through the use of the idea of ‘Power of Tens,’ workable goals for the destination can be effectively created and implemented in this square, especially, by creating ten good places and each place with ten good things to offer a full program for a successful square. This can prove to be the most effective way to make the site more attractive in addition to what its neighborhood Reginald Cooper Square already have now.

The Power of Ten that can turn this site into a greater place that the parks around would be the development of social amenities, such as clubs and stylish restaurants, banks and financial institutions that would benefit the marketers around as well as having other development plans. Equally, the Power of Ten would, however, compromise on the civic space of the square residence.


Amenities, in a square, make the place more habitable and comfortable for people to use. The presence of bench placement, waste receptacles, and lighting always strengthens the identity of a square while highlighting specific entrances and pathways. Also, the presence of public art, as well as either permanent or temporary amenities, is crucial to establishing a friendly setting admirable for social interaction.

The presence of good transport network that makes Reginald Cooper accessible through some higher order transportation corridors in the surrounding areas makes this place quite comfortable to live in too (Kent, 2016). By improving the transportation routes of Wellington, Richmond, Dundas, and Oxford, the site will be very accessible to vehicles, cyclists and around 10-20 minutes’ walk for pedestrians into the site.

Other amenities, such as spacious parking that are well managed and grassed with some plants makes this place very attractive. The bench placement, waste receptacles and refreshment shops in Reginald Cooper Square would be much comfortable for the residents as well as those who bypass the place. It is also important to point out other amenities, such as social halls, playgrounds, and parks within the square that act as resting places.

Amenities help in improving not only the livelihood of the residents but also boosting their economic status as well as social status. Therefore, actualizing the Wellington Street Plan Amendment will see this neighborhood a greater place to live not only for Reginald Cooper Square residents but also their neighbors too.

Reaching out like an octopus

This principle requires an urban square to be as accessible as possible with well-distributed access routes. The street sideways, sidewalks and the ground floor of the neighboring buildings should lead into the square. The accessibility of an urban square is explained with the “reaching out like an octopus” considering how an octopus’ tentacles reach out into its surrounding.

Elements within the square that makes it visible from far as well as the ground floor activities of the square are what attracts pedestrians to move towards the square and makes a right square. The Central Avenue, the Wolfe Street, and the Wellington Streets make this square more accessible for those going downtown. Also, the activities around the park, the University, and the commercial places satisfy the “reaching out like an octopus” phrase.

However, the lighting of these streets enlivens that area with activities and making it more accessible through sidewalks, sideways, and access routes are the way to go if the Square is to fully benefit from the resources it has the social amenities and the commercial buildings. Making people want to use the access route and leading sidewalks can only be achieved with adequate investment and development of the transport network around the Reginald Cooper Square as well as its neighborhoods of Centennial (Live Camden, n.d.). In fact, reaching out like an octopus will be of great importance socially and economically to Victoria Park as well as the smaller parks in the Square.

The Central Role of Management

Any well-planned and created resource needs maintenance. Maintenance is an essential part of the management of any asset that one has. Therefore, it is implied that for adequate and maximum utilization of the site, there must be a management plan that understands as well as promotes ways of keeping the square safe and lively as the principle of “The central role of Management” requires.

The central role of management principle demands for an understanding of the existing and potential users of the square.  It is through the understanding of the opportunity gap that full utilization of the square is achievable. Learning how its neighborhood of Reginald Cooper Square is the way to project the potential of the site.

Well-trimmed hedges, watered flowers, cleaned pathways and emptied waste receptacles are some of the small managerial practices that can make squares, such as Reginald Cooper the most preferred place in the neighborhood. Good management means comfort and safety in the square. Therefore, the central role of management of making the site more comfortable and safe can prove to be the best solution if it is to realize the most recommendable standard of Square and place to be within its neighborhood. Such management will ensure the economic, social and infrastructural development of the place due to high preference.

Diverse funding source

After ensuring good management of the Square, getting funding sources becomes the next step to off-start a most attractive, comfortable and safest square. A well-managed square ranks higher than the scope of an average city park or even a public works department. A keen look into the site’s neighborhood, Reginald Cooper’s Square, many opportunities, which can act as sources of funding are identifiable. The infrastructure around the neighborhood, such as schools, parks, and settlement around can offer enough funding for Reginald Cooper Square and see it at a better place development wise.

Other than rent from the café and restaurants around together with other small commercial activities around the site, the partnership is another source of funding. Seeking partnership with other commercial businesses such as banks and financial institutions, taxes from the adjacent property such as the Park Café and Pavilion Café can be of great importance to the Square not only economically but also socially and infrastructural due to the building of more apartments.


In summary, the development, management, and maintenance of the site and its neighborhood Reginald Cooper Square are highly dependable on the plan its developers have. From the analysis of the six principles of urban plazas, it is clear that site presents a lot of development opportunities, advantages, and disadvantages at the same time. However, religious observance of the principles of image and identity, attractive and destination, amenities, reaching out like an octopus, the main objective of management, and diverse funding sources will eventually give Reginald Cooper Square a better image, maximum resource utilization, comfort and make it the most preferred site in the neighborhood.

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