Getting There: The Return of a Public Infrastructure
Greek agora, urban society, modern technology, Syracuse, Erie Canal, architecture, Clinton Square
The Greek agora was a crossroad, a civic center, a marketplace. The colonnade stoa lining the Agora of Athens was, as John Camp has written, "a true public building, designed for no specific magistrate, group or function..anyone could pass the time of day there. It was, therefore, a popular meeting place..." An agora was a social space, a place to meet or a stop while en route to other destinations. Such public space naturally formed at the intersection of social, political and commercial activities and promoted a diversity of constituents.
Public space is where society is shaped and where the collective will is expressed. Like an agora, it is a place of commercial activity and of leisure; its design has, above all, cultural and political importance to the citizenry. Public, open spaces and streets are the infrastructural glue of urban society and carry broad, political and philosophical meaning.
Public transportation grew with the development of modern technology, threading through streets and open areas in all cities. It is a public good; it connects neighborhoods, provides market and labor access, and is essential to most economies. In the case of Syracuse, the center of roadway infrastructure meets at Clinton Square. The Erie Canal, railroads and local electric railways then brought businesses and people, making Clinton Square the equivalent of an agora in the 19th century.
As the popularization of buses and private cars led to the phaseout of the Erie Canal and trains, public infrastructure no longer connected diverse neighborhoods, commercial activity dispersed, and access to labor shifted.
Architecture of the public realm also deviated; architects of buildings that composed public, open space no longer aspired to represent collective ambition, but rather to fulfill individual benefit and expression.
This thesis envisions Clinton Square as the new agora of Syracuse, a ready-made public square serving as both a transit exchange center and a marketplace. New public transportation systems of four tram lines, numerous bus lines, and shared bikes meet here and mark the return of infrastructure as a necessary instrument to pursue maximum collective benefit and access to all points of labor.
Hu, Yun Qing and Wang, Sizhe, "Getting There: The Return of a Public Infrastructure" (2019). Architecture Senior Theses. 502.
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