Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S.

New Haven Temple Plaza with Public Art by Felice Varini

Located in the heart of downtown New Haven, CT, Temple Plaza was created in the 1990s by hollowing out the crumbling interior of a large city block. A close neighbor to New Haven's iconic central Green, this new public space is diametrically different in character. Small and irregularly-shaped, the delightful plaza is bordered by formerly hidden rear and side yard structures clad with utilitarian but eclectic architectural materials including metal fire stairs and walkways, brick walls, concrete columns and a dramatic corkscrew exit ramp from the parking garage. Tightly enclosed and with vistas obstructed by long, narrow passageways, the plaza contains outdoor cafes, stairs to perch on, fountains, cascading steps, and a small lawn for picnics or a lunchtime nap. The dramatic sculptural presence of the curving concrete ramp of the parking garage and the Plaza's intriguing spatial characteristics have inspired numerous artist, including world-renowned Swiss artist Felice Varini.


Varini's 'Square with four circles' opened in Temple Plaza in June, 2010. This 110 ft tall, 280 ft long wall painting was commissioned by Site Projects Inc. with support from New Haven Parking Authority. Varini used the elegant and out-sized concrete exit ramp of the Crown Street Garage and the walls of the buildings along a pedestrian passageway as his canvas. The artist's signature murals are based on having viewers find the single vantage point where the fragments coalesce to present a single geometric figure (hence, 'anamorphic'). The artwork presents both a dynamic and a static experience of Temple Plaza. Free, open 24/7 and accessible, the artwork is estimated to have attracted more than 100,000 visitors to the site and is the subject of discussion in more than 45 blogs in four different languages. Gymnasts, ninjas, dancers, musicians, filmmakers and others have been inspired by the artwork since it was installed 15 months ago, responding with their own creative expressions.


Varini's wonderful wall painting in Temple Plaza has brought a new kind of visual excitement to New Haven's downtown -- already chock full of history, a rich architectural mix and Connecticut's most vibrant cultural scene -- and has given Temple Plaza new prominence as a potential setting for future aesthetic ventures in the public realm.



90 votes
Idea No. 190