Saturday, September 3

Placing a Square in a Circle

Roaming around London with my handy Roman, always provokes amazing conversations and ultimately, cross-cultural comparisons.  To think that underneath Londontown and much of the UK are hidden ancient Roman settlements, well, one tends to wonder how the Brits got their over-the-top perfect public gardens and walkways to be so entirely litter-free, especially considering that garbage cans are few and far between.
But then we got on the subject of Piazzas.  A piazza, as an Italy traveler or resident will know, is a lovely plaza - which for translation's sake, is probably the best word choice around. Most of us, however, use the more vernacular, square.  But, take a look at the lovely piazzas of Italy, and usually, they're quite round.  So, how did the piazza get squared?  Maybe it's the English love of orderly things (except their wild and wildly lovely gardens) that did it.  But, one look into the etymology of our lovely word piazza, and we find it's all Greek to me:  it actually derives the Latin or Greek word for place (platea or plateia).  So our Monopoly boards were infinitely correct all along...
picture from Getaway in London Blog
In fact, one step into the chaos and curved buildings surrounding Piccadilly Circus, and we find that the English did leave room for that circular piazza formation after all.  Filled with people, bustling with activity, shops and billboards, close your eyes so you don't see the double-decker buses and you could be in the heart of Rome.  Open them again, and you might feel you're in Times Square. Except that's triangular in shape.
Sigh.  We think it may be high time for coining some new architectural terminology...

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