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.
H.G. Fenton Company