Exit133 is about Tacoma

Here’s How American Cities Can Learn From Italian Piazzas

When we talk about design of public places in Tacoma, examples from Europe are often cited for how it could be done better here. 

Italian architect A. Ghigo Ditommaso argues that although there is general agreement among urban planners and architects in America that the Italian piazza is a great template for public space design, there is surprisingly little comprehension of the fundamental spatial characteristics that make them work.

  • Keep Centers at the Center
  • Connect the Urban Paths
  • Activate the Edges
  • Set the Stage (and the Arena)

This seems stunningly simple, and yet so few American cities seem to be able to get it right. For Tacoma, at least, location could be part of the challenge - using Ditommaso's criteria, where in Tacoma could we locate such a functional public space?

Read more at Next City



1. A really fantastic piazza space would be the intersection of Proctor and 26th—it already has some decorative brick work. Can you imagine some benches around the circle, and people strolling along the shops, getting a gelato at Met Market,maybe kids kicking a soccer ball?  Could we stand to give up the street thoroughfares to get a pedestrian piazza in return?  2. Another one might be the space just down from E9, a block from 6th Ave. That area already closes for the Tuesday farmers’ market and has a nice neighborhood feel, but again you sacrifice some street connections. 3. Tollefson Plaza should be a piazza, but it’s not—it’s not really in the middle of anything except streets, but a block up from there were the UWT stairs start at the base of 19th and at the entrance to the Swiss has piazza potential. 4. On Hilltop, block off the very underused one-way L Street at 10th and expand Peoples Park into a piazza space.

April 28, 2015 at 12:06 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Great spot for this is MLK & 9th. Near to businesses and in a revival zone. Not far from busses and there is People’s park which we already use as a hub for summer festivals. Another are is South 56th and Tacoma Ave.

April 28, 2015 at 1:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Take out Park Place North and build buildings with shopping around a Piazza there - between Broadway and Pacific, 9th to 11th.  Kill the roads, keep the rail, and build only walkable entries to this Piazza.  Keep all the buildings on the edges.  That’s the only place in Tacoma I could see something like this.  I know they tried this before on Broadway but there weren’t enough active edges.

These Piazzas really rely on getting cars completely out of these squares.  America doesn’t really have the guts to try it… and maybe we shouldn’t. 

I’d really like to hear from David Boe on this one.

April 28, 2015 at 1:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Btw, I think we already have Piazzas here in the States; the suburban mall.  Ya, the food sucks, it’s long and narrow instead of square, and it’s covered with a roof -  but doesn’t it qualify?  Active edges? Yes.  Center of suburbia?  Yes.  Connects suburban Paths?  Yes.

I’ll trade it for the Italian version any day though…

April 28, 2015 at 1:33 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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