IBJOpinion

ROWLAND: Monument Circle is all about traffic

June 12, 2010
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Eric RowlandI’ve always loved Monument Circle. It’s iconic. It’s magical in the wintertime and welcoming on warm summer days. But Monument Circle is not perfect.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard acknowledged that recently when he announced the city will close vehicular traffic around the circle in August to study whether a closure will increase visitors and affect businesses.

Time and again, communities have tried pedestrian plazas in downtown areas and have failed because, without cars, there are few people, and businesses failed. It’s happened in Evansville, Richmond and Muncie, and all over the country. Even Chicago reopened State Street to traffic after finding that reserving it for just pedestrians and buses was killing the legendary retail area.

Several years ago, I received a fellowship to study public plazas throughout Europe and North America. Among the many things I observed, two critical elements were evident in thriving public plazas:

• They have a strong focal point for identity and orientation, whether it was a historic cathedral in Rome, a simple fountain in a Parisian garden, or a statue in a park in New York City.

• There is an availability of critical mass of people, which can come from the sheer population of the city, residential density, or the accessibility of mass transit and vehicular traffic.

What few people realize is that the most successful public plazas allow vehicles either through the core or along the perimeter.

Yes, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is unique, but we’ve got to be honest. Only a fraction of people who go downtown actually go inside the monument. It’s simply not enough to draw masses of people to the Circle.

We must recognize that the monument is a 285-foot-tall obstacle that stands in the way of the Circle’s becoming a successful pedestrian-only plaza. The design of its fountains and steps makes pedestrian navigation challenging. Great plazas are successful—in part—because the cathedrals or gardens are in large, nearly level spaces where people can move freely about. On the Circle, the monument is like a permanent blind spot—you never can see to the other side and you can’t fully experience the space. The monument works great on a city-wide scale, but it’s overwhelming at the pedestrian scale.

What does work well about the monument—the large staircases—is successful in part due to the traffic. People sit and watch the activity around them, some of which is the cars. Vehicles provide a rapidly renewing source of entertainment.

The city of Indianapolis is planning public meetings and asking for input. It’s up to all of us to get involved, be heard and help determine what we really want Monument Circle to be.

While The Indianapolis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects opposes a permanent ban of vehicles on the Circle, we do have some ideas for consideration:

• Renovate the fountains. The walls around the fountain are too high and the water pools are too low. They need to be redesigned to create more interaction.

• Consider reducing traffic to one lane and adding dropoffs at key areas.

• Increase the number of scheduled events year-round, to give people more reasons to visit the Circle. I fondly remember ice skating on the Circle and wish I could share that experience with my kids.

• Improve public transportation to bring in more pedestrians.

Monument Circle is cherished in Indianapolis. We need to understand and appreciate what we do have, and improve on that.•

__________

Rowland is a registered architect specializing in urban design at Rowland Design in Indianapolis and is a board member of the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

ADVERTISEMENT