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Plaza Ricard Viñes in Lleida, Spain by Benedetta Tagliabue, EMBT

Vinyes 01

Swirling with labyrinthine-patterned paving, this curvaceous PoMo square is a rich environment

The public square’s defining quality is its emptiness, but at the same time it is replete with objects – benches, trees, lamps, statues, fountains and hot-dog stands. These may pose as simple functional or decorative objects, but in many cases they fulfil ulterior purposes – statues represent the ideology of the state, the fountains on Trafalgar Square were intended to deter protests, however unsuccessful they may have been in this regard – and the hefty benches that increasingly populate our cities double as security balustrades to deflect car bombers.

Benedetta Tagliabue’s square for the Catalonian city of Lleida makes no pretence to vacancy. Instead it swirls with labyrinthine-patterned paving, benches and planting. The curvaceousness of the design inevitably recalls the master of 20th-century landscaping, Roberto Burle Marx, but Tagliabue adds a PoMo twist, shattering the confident holism of the Modernists into a more fragmentary and rather richer environment.