The idea of the Victorian market building being situated in the middle of a square has definitely been eroded somewhat in the latest proposal by new buildings.[/HTML]
I agree with you there Devin.
Whatever about the architectural quality of the first plan, and you'd have to worry about a square that conforms so closely to the johnglas ideal, at least you would have known that you were in a 'square'. Furthermore, in the original scheme, the existing markets building was, quite rightly, the focus of the square. I'm not too sure that those seemingly simple objectives are achieved so well in the new scheme.
On the other side of the equation, I quite like the less formal arrangement, simply because most great squares that I can think of, the ones that work really well as great urban spaces, are nearly always the ones that are less obviously planned. (exceptions : St. Marks Sq. Piazza Navona, anything baroque from Italy).
A surprising number of the great European squares are semi-accidental in that they came about after fires destroyed existing city blocks. The great square at Nurnberg, where they hold the christmas markets now, was apparently only created after the citizens of the city burned down the original Jewish quarter (which shows how far back those particular tendencies go), and the huge square at Erfurt was only created in the early 19th century, when a fire destroyed the blocks separating two smaller medieval squares.
Quite a lot of the great formal squares of northern Europen are actually only great architecturally, they're not great urban spaces, if you you include 'hubs of activity' in the criteria. You'd find more life in the courtyard of a nursing home than you'll find in Robert Adam's Charlott Square, and Place des Vosges, for all it's sublime beauty, isn't all that much livlier. The square in front of the Neu Residenz in Wurzburg is so vast and so formal (on three sides) and so dead, that it can only be used as a giant surface car park.
O.K. Fruit Market Square was never going to be in that league, but it is still, potentially, an important urban space and, as such, it still has to decide what it's trying to be. Is it trying to be a formal square, as originally envisaged, or a fluid organic space?
If the answer now is the latter, then straight away you're into a dilemma, how do you design an undesigned space? Do you just contrive it crooked and to hell with issues of logic? Do you try and pick up clues from the surrounding urban patterns and then contrive it, but with answers (Libeskind style) if anyone asks why bits are slanty? Do you divide the development up into parcels and let the contrived result be a 'Making a Modern Square' by Group 91 - 08? This would get my vote, if I had one.
Whatever way you go about creating a new fluid informal space, what you don't do, surely, is go around all the architecture that you've carefully contrived not to be formal, and stamp it all with the heaviest square pattern template you can find.