Los Angeles Seems to be Lacking Squares

Pershing Square-2

By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I realized something the other day: LA doesn’t have squares.

I could not think of a single square in LA.  In contrast, I could think of six squares in Boston off the top of my head (Kendall Square, Harvard Square, Central Square, Porter Square, Inman Square, Davis Square).  And actually, technically none of those are even in Boston proper, but are in Cambridge and Somerville areas in the very narrow environs I used to frequent.  Boston probably has even more squares.

I could also think of squares in pretty much every other American city or town I’d lived in, even the small ones.

My friend hypothesized that LA’s lack of squares might have to do with the geography here—LA roads work around hills and valleys and freeways and often lack well-laid-out right angles—and that maybe the lack of places that fit the geometry of a square resulted in us not using the word “square,” even for places which function like squares.  I wondered if it could also have something to do with the sprawl, if LA is so wide and scattered that no place seems central enough to a neighborhood to deserve to be called a square.  Or maybe LA lacks the drive for community the other cities work for, and therefore urban planning has not included as many squares.

Hmm.  It fascinates me, the way we use language.  The different names we call things.

Well, I did just do a Google search and it turns out LA does have a few squares, including Pershing Square which I knew of but had forgotten about.  Still, considering what a huge city this is, LA doesn’t seem to like squares all that much.  I’m tempted to do a square-per-square-mile or square-per-capita study just to see if I’m right about this . . .

(And now I feel this post is getting decidedly silly.  What can I say, sometimes I wonder about things!)

About the author

SL Huang (aka MathPencil)
SL Huang (aka MathPencil)

SL Huang justifies an MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero books. Debut novel: Zero Sum Game, a speculative fiction thriller.
Website: www.slhuang.com
Twitter: @sl_huang


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  • Another map thingie that LA lacks is roundabouts. There is one in Long Beach, and the last time I got into accident was when I was there. There you go, no squares, no circles. Sorta. Do we have triangles?

  • There are roundabouts! There’s one in the Santa Monica area, around 26th street I think?, that I run into all the time.

    Hmm. I guess there aren’t many. But I guess I’m not used to running into more than the occasional roundabout…. 😉

    (Also not used to calling them roundabouts! I grew up saying traffic circle. :D)

  • I don’t think Seattle is a big square city, either. Unless you count all the Starbucks. They’re usually squares full of people.

    We also lack roundabouts…we have some, but mostly we have little planter circles in the middle of intersections to eff with us. Maybe it’s a west coast thing, this lack of proper shapes. We’re too free-spirited out here to be restricted by geometry.

  • Let’s see: Boston has Kenmore Square, Copley Square, Government Center which is kind of like a square, Park Square…

    What do we have in New York…? Times Square, Gramercy, Herald, Union, Lincoln, Pershing, Washington, Duffy, Tompkins. We probably have some out in the boroughs, too, but all of those are in Manhattan.

    • Weren’t squares historically for people to gather for public events? The East has older cities. Maybe the West Coast has fewer squares because modernity has decreased the need or motivation for the community to physically gather. It’s gotten to a point we just all meet each other online (like now). Dunno. Just speculating …

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