Geometry riddle: When is a square not a square?
Answer: When it’s in New England.
Above (click for greater bigness) with the stupid title is a series of minimal street maps I traced to show the varied actual shapes of a selection of so-called “squares” in the central Boston area. Urban spaces come in all shapes, as you can discover with this nifty tool, and a city square in any part of the world is by no means guaranteed to be a literal square, but New England’s style of square is peculiar (at least in this country) in its especially confused geometry. Unlike many places where a square is most often defined by a public open space or civic structure, here a square is typically defined by an intersection of two or more—usually closer to 4 gazillion—thoroughfares and/or other streets. The square’s name further applies to a business district around that intersection, and sometimes to an entire neighborhood. Thus the squares strongly define much of the local geography and organization of Boston and its close surroundings, as you can see in the diagrammatic Unmapped Boston poster. They are many things, but rarely are they square. You’ll also find some Circles and Corners around town, but they tend to be a bit more true to their names.
Any locals out there can probably find fault with my selection here or with the extent of the individual square maps, but I’ve tried to capture the central intersections of many of the major players. The collection can always grow! Entertain yourself by trying to identify each square before consulting the list under the title. (Squares from Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline are included.)
To everyone else: Sorry, I know you don’t care. But this city is just so mappable! (And in a way, undermapped.) You should come visit.
Edit: don’t hate me for this, but I’m in experimental stages of posting junk like this for sale at Zazzle, just in case anybody takes pride enough in their squares to put this on a t-shirt or poster. Something more professional and less desperate-looking will occur over time!