Spaces for human communication: The inner life of two urban plazas in Philadelphia: Rittenhouse and Washington Squares

Abdolhosain Tavakolian, University of Pennsylvania


The focus of this dissertation is human communication in urban spaces and its relation to built form. The study endeavors to illustrate that urban form and place are able to promote direct human interaction. Sociable spaces are examined within public open spaces of two of Philadelphia's Squares: Rittenhouse and Washington Square. The study of the forces of spatial appeal and their characteristics in these open spaces points to various participating elements which include: the socio-economic environment of the Squares, perimeter buildings, and landscape layouts. The spatial appeal of these two Squares is primarily an outcome of the positive interaction of physical built form and the social context. Physical form plays a decisive role: although social and economical diversity of a place draw a crowd built form makes for an inviting and sociable environment. The exploration of the architectural significance of the sites pointed to the important aspects of enclosure, landscape layout, physical aspect of location, spatial definition and boundary. The primary issue, however, deals with the concept of enclosure and its relation with boundary and perception of object in space. Various types of enclosure in Rittenhouse Square have bounded the space and with their varied characters created differentiated territories. These territories are connected through circulation paths. The paths and their connection to the city relate the landscape layout to its socio-economic setting. Various types of circulation paths and their configuration with enclosure can also promote different degrees of social interaction. Although variety of physical settings were examined independently, but in the design of an open plaza it is the integrated planning system which becomes more effective.

Subject Area

Architecture|Urban planning|Area planning & development|Welfare

Recommended Citation

Tavakolian, Abdolhosain, "Spaces for human communication: The inner life of two urban plazas in Philadelphia: Rittenhouse and Washington Squares" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026659.