Praças, Place, and Public Life in Urban Brazil

James R. Curtis

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Curtis, J. R. (1). Pracas, Place, and Public Life in Urban Brazil. Geographical Review, 90(4), 475.

Brazil , Latin America , plazas , urban squares

This study interprets critical stages in the changing design and landscape of urban squares, or praças, in Brazil and assesses the circumstances of their cultural-historical production. Urban squares were shaped by, and in the process contributed to and shed light on, several of the country's major social and artistic movements. The history of the square illustrates a theme of European cultural dominance, especially French, that was a product of the colonial experience and neocolonial influences which were overcome only in the twentieth century through spontaneous creative fusion with indigenous Brazilian elements.

Main finding
Brazilian urban squares are indicative of the evolution of Brazilian cities. These public spaces are characterized by a diversity of functions and forms that reflects the diversity among Brazilian urban places today. Squares were influenced by and molded by the evolution of economic, political, social, and artistic movements, like cities themselves. Paul Zucker (1959) in Town and Square from the Agora to the Village Green, argues that a “square is never completed” (p. 5). Additionally, Zucker could have suggested that the city itself is never completed. To appreciate the square, including the forms it assumes, the functions it serves, and the forces that shape it, is to appreciate the city that frames it.

Description of method used in the article
The author reviews existing literature to explore the history of Brazilian town squares.

Theoretically interesting

Organising categories

Gathering/Socializing Sitting/Relaxing
Theoretical (Delete me)
Physical types
Parks/Gardens Squares
Geographic locations