Monumental Suburbia – Just What Is It That Makes A Circle So Appealing?
By Elly Ward
The street layout and arrangement of public spaces in Monkston suggest a beaux arts style, ‘City Beautiful’ approach to its planning. The most notable feature is Monkston Circle – a huge, flat, public green with a diameter of 200 metres located right in the middle of the grid square and presumably intended as the prescribed ‘centre’ for the neighbourhood.
The scale, absence of activity and sense of enclosure are quite overwhelming. The houses surrounding the circle form a neat, discreet and civilised horizon line between the immense blue sky above and the green fields below – the suburban idyll? Or a waste of (public) space?
Does a neighbourhood of 927 households really need such a big public space? And what’s so appealing about a circle?
The following comparative study examines the scale of Monkston Circle.
The next study compares other well known circles and circles in scale, use, arrangement and ambience.
These locations are all far more successful examples of public space which is likely to be attributable to the level of resident activity, the scale and proximity of surrounding buildings and by the more considered use of hard and soft landscaping.
The overt scale and central dominance of Monkston Circle suggest heroic aspirations, but the vastness of the space and yet unyielding density of the surrounding houses generate a peculiar and uncomfortable combination of both agoraphobia and claustrophobia and the level of resident use and activity is practically non-existent.
Monkston Circle exists purely as a monumental, token centre and feels totally out of place in this suburban setting.