The 4D square

A ‘prism’ of public life

It’s no secret that cities worldwide are running out of space – including for the kind of dynamic public places at the heart of civic life. But what if we could create stacked public squares in multiple dimensions – places that are ever-changing, like the city and its people? For a design competition in Australia’s densest city, we proposed this solution for a project with big ambitions for its public program but not enough space to realise them. 

Why go up?

A conventional plaza offers a two-dimensional public realm. Extending it upwards over street level multiplies the outdoor retail area by three to four times, and extends residential and office space into the square. This approach involves thinking about the space in all its dimensions: vertical and horizontal, virtual and physical.

Orchestrating a variety of scales

A simple yet elegant grid is laid across the site. This is the binding structure onto which multiple layers and programmes can be bolted. Then we attach transparent elements that resemble veils and curtains in the way they shimmer, flow and enclose spaces. These can be moved and orchestrated to create a variety of scales, from small and intimate to large and communal.

Flexible social architecture

This form is highly flexible, adapting for greater diversity and allowing experimentation. It can be applied at any scale to various sites of public activity, from large communal dining areas to intimate garden spaces. It's social architecture that offers a multiplicity of sites for individuals and groups to gather in and inhabit. 

The 4D square creates a real and figurative ceiling while extending residential and office space into the square's network of public areas. With moveable and permanent vegetation and furniture, the result is a vibrant, ever-evolving public realm.

Embracing the fourth spatial dimension – time

The 4D square can contract, expand and evolve through programming. It's a place that embraces the fourth spatial dimension – time. Activity can be fleeting or change in rhythm with the seasons and daily life, offering distinct tempos and experiences at different times of the day. Things appear and disappear, creating a sense of illusion, theatrics and discovery as the public stumbles onto the unexpected.

Inspired by the dynamic street life and retail experiences of urban Asia and the bustling spectacle of Chinatown precincts found in many world cities, the 4D square is a place that can enhance culture, create more life per square metre, and offer a unique and immersive experience in the city.

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