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Piazza della Famiglia – Little Italy

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Despite its name, Piazza Famiglia is not a piazza at all. A piazza is an urban space at the intersection of two or more roads, enclosed on three or four sides; Piazza Famiglia is a pedestrian street with tables and a fountain. The fact that the architects called this a piazza when they should have known better is disconcerting.

The fact that this is happened in Little Italy – which is supposed to give a taste of the Italian experience – is irresponsible.  We are witnessing the mallification of the city: it is not malls that mimic city centers but the opposite-since malls have become the locus of the communal experience.

The improper naming of Piazza Famiglia will give visitors (and future architects) the wrong idea of what a piazza is. This perpetuates the fallacy and the misunderstanding of what public spaces are, and how to design successful ones.

Secondly, lets talk about the design. If Italy had a nightmare, it would be Piazza Famiglia. The scale of the streetlights (on stereoids), the maximum security prison lighting levels, the grotesque plastic fountain. Piazzas have stately benches, not cheap tables. I will not even mention the design of the two buildings that overlook Street Famiglia. Everything is wrong here except for the paving, which is acceptable. The rest feels fake, oversized and cheap.

If I were Italian I would sue the architect for misrepresentation of the homeland. This caricature belongs to a set of The Sopranos or Desperate Housewives of New Jersey, not in Little Italy or any part of San Diego – not even Mission Valley.

If Jersey Shore were urban design it would be “Piazza” Famiglia. Stay classy, Little Italy.

Little Italy

Project Owner/Developer:
H.G. Fenton Company

nomination photo


  1. wo isme

    There needs to be actual photos of this to more accurately depict the horror. I have no qualms with the density, or the size of the building, but the colors, the massing, the materials the proportions are all just wrong in so many ways. The complete cheapness of the construction is abhorrent. Everyone who worked on the design, funding, and construction of this needs to step back and take a sabbatical, or consider retiring altogether. Please! find a new line of work where your mark goes unseen to the public eye. We so hope you satisfied your bank roll, because you’ve ruined the neighborhood. Additionally this should be an indictment of the futility of San Diego’s city planning (where were you!). This thing looks like a Tijuana spec home built from Home Depot leftovers! wowza. This is the Grandest of Onions.

  2. Kevin

    Why the need to insult Mission Valley? Can pride in your neighborhood exist without an “other” to degrade?

  3. SmilesandSunshine

    Dang, harsh much? A little irrationally upset about this… Also, spell check.

  4. Martin M

    I hate to harp on the technical definition of the word “Piazza” but according to Merriam-Webster: 1: an open square especially in an Italian town, additional definition states “an open public area in a town or city (especially in Italy) that is usually surrounded by buildings. The definition doesn’t say “always surrounded by buildings”. My personal experience is that it is an public open area that is functioning well as a community gathering space.


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