Architecture can form the structure for internal or external gathering places, however, geographer Doreen Massey defines places, not by their physical characteristics, but as the points of interconnecting flows of people, goods, communications, memories, and imagination, positing that all places are meeting places.
At the heart of the city centre, Nottingham’s Old Market Square is where the local inhabitants go to work and play; protest, mourn and celebrate. It is a place of formal and informal encounters, where friends and acquaintances meet, by chance or design; where strangers might exchange a glance or a few words; where people watch other people.
Originally a shared market place for Saxon and Norman settlements, the earliest maps of the city show that the footprint of the square has remained the same for many hundreds of years, though its design and edge have gone through numerous transformations. The latest remodelling was undertaken by internationally renowned landscape architecture practice Gustafson-Porter: unveiled in 2007, it has won a raft of awards including the inaugural RIBA CABE Public Space Award.
Drawing on work undertaken with architecture students to explore individual experiences of the square, the paper will outline some of the flows, past and present, as well as the physical elements, which contribute to the square’s success as a place of encounter. (By: Ms. Lindsay Purssord: Senior Lecturer, Designed Environment & Visual Arts, Nottingham Trent University)