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Why Don’t We Do this in the USA? October 24, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in life, Marseille.
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CIMG4667This is Cours Julian. It is one of many public squares in Marseille. The USA has a number of them too. But they are different in France. Paula and I decided one of the big differences was the way France seems to invite commercial interests into the public space. For example, ringing this square are restaurants (where we are sitting when I took this picture on Sunday). Book shops too. All of them spill out into the public area. You can see two sets of chairs in the outdoors area in this picture. You can also see a small independent book seller in the middle, not associated with any shop around the perimeter. It is even more packed on Saturday or the weekdays. They have cheese fairs ever Wednesday — a bunch of cheese sellers drive in for the morning and anyone walking buy can pick up some fresh cheese. There are also two playgrounds, one for toddlers and one for little kids, maintained by the city. All in all, it makes for a very active and well used public space.

When we were discussing this it reminded me of the Sculpture Garden in Seattle (under construction in that picture). They have a central cafe – which is very nice – owned by the Seattle Art Museum, which runs the whole garden. There was no space for commercial interests. Now, I realize this isn’t the same thing as the public space above, but it might have been a great opportunity. Imagine being able to walk down to a restaurant that put tables out near some of the sculptures and eating there in the summer? Clearly one has to deal with access, but they seem to have solved that problem in France.

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