Roger Lewis, architect and Washington Post columnist, discussed urban public spaces on the Kojo Nnamadi show on WAMU today. (Cleverly, in the membership drive appeal during the show, the WAMU staff referred to the public square-like nature of public radio).

Lewis talked about many interesting topics, like the evils of single-use zoning, and about Rockville Town Center, which he compared to the Campo de’ Fiore in Rome. In addition to the great use of mixed-use development, stores and a library, he pointed to the size of the plaza as important for not being oversized, unlike Boston’s awful and much-maligned City Hall Plaza. Programming the space with activity is also key, said Lewis.

Public spaces have been moving to private spaces like shopping malls, Lewis explained. In Houston, as with many other cities, the main place to see other people is the mall. Columbia, Maryland was built around a shopping mall in the 1960s, but wouldn’t be today (and, in fact, the developers want to change that). A caller brought up the way our grocery buying behavior, of purchasing large amounts of bulk groceries, fosters less public space and street interaction than the Europeans who buy at local markets.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.