For thousands of years important cities around the world have asked their most respected artists to design monumental works of art for their major public squares.
We know this because of history books and the fact that much of this magnificent art can still be seen in the heart of these cities.
In Stratford we have one of the most beautiful war memorials in the world, designed by an artist. It is a masterpiece, and hundreds of people congregate in front of this sculpture every year. It helps define who we are as a people and how we feel as we remember the sacrifices of our young men and women in times of war.
As we all know, public squares can also have monumental sculptures for other reasons – those of happiness and celebration.
In her seventh in a series of articles about Market Square in the Gazette (July 26), Marianne Brandis mentions tree planters, brick layers, plumbers and the like.
Where, you might ask, is it mentioned the artist with the “vision?” We hope the artist is waiting in the wings, because although the Market Square committee has finally realized that the winning design is not a design at all, but merely a “concept,” it is clear to me the randomness of this “concept.”
A little of this, a little of that, something here and over there.
A “Random Square” and not “Market Square?” Trees in rows? All major historic public squares were art focused – a magnificent visual element at the centre of the design – a happy, visual focus that tells people of all ages that they have arrived at their “destination,” not just an address.
Let us begin with some of the practical aspects expressed by Ms. Brandis, and also by Ms. Dent.
Firstly, loud running water that can be heard “at the other end of the square” is not a practical idea, and cannot and would not contribute “peacefulness” as they imply.
A beautiful body of quiet water is needed with gentle bubbling near the surface to keep it moving and visually interesting. Loud water is competitive to the multi-use square – playing children, conversation, public speakers, many types of musicians, markets and traffic noise.
We have to respect all ages and their desire to participate in Market Square without the “stress” of a loud water element.
Secondly, how dirty are our Stratford bricks so lovingly laid down in Stratford years ago? If no one has noticed, very dirty!
A better idea would be beautifully designed tiles with colour and, excuse the expression, artistic design. We see them in major European cities, years later still in full colour, and practical.
Thirdly, trees in rows? Trees and flowering shrubbery should be grouped around areas where shade is required and sightlines unimpeded, where people are likely to sit, enjoy lunch and intimate conversation or, just take a break and listen to music.
Fourthly, the slope of the land behind City Hall in the “concept” should be eliminated – many artistic elements can render the slope “practical” for those using Market Square. Have you ever been in a major public square, anywhere in the world, that was sloped?
It is inconceivable to me that it has taken all these years for the Market Square committee to come up with these “random” design possibilities.
I hope that the citizens of Stratford who have travelled and who are aware of the potential and the reality of some of the public squares around the world, will also ask, “Why hasn’t an artist been asked for their vision of what Market Square could be?”
Another question to ask is, what role is the Market Square committee actually playing, in the final, random, choice of design for Market Square?
Susan Murar, Stratford