[Tagging] Updating definition and description of place=square

Greg Troxel gdt at lexort.com
Sat Mar 28 00:07:01 UTC 2020

Martin Koppenhoefer <dieterdreist at gmail.com> writes:

> Am Di., 24. März 2020 um 18:23 Uhr schrieb Greg Troxel <gdt at lexort.com>:
>> So one definition is
>>   a square is an area with an indistinct boundary that is known by a
>>   placename by most locals.
> I would rather say "distinct" boundaries".

This leads me to understand how we are not understanding each other!

I think you are saying that the open, typically hard-surfaced, typically
square area that is typically contained within roadways, is exactly the
square.  That one should draw a way around that area, such that no roads
are in the way, and typically no buildings, and then place=square should
be tagged on the way.  In other words, the square is only that area, not
the nearby roads, not the buildings that are across streets from the
square, and not buildings that are 50m down a side street from the

For a US(New England) square, taking "Harvard Square" as an example,
that refers to an area around the road junctions.  It includes the
sidewalks, and it includes the businesses and buildings that are on the
roads that border the center, and even includes things that are perhaps
50-100m down side roads, as long as they are sort of part of the same
logical larger place.  This is what I mean by indistinct, as each shop
farther way is somewhat less "in Harvard Square" (and eventually
somewhat more "in Central Square" as you head towards Boston), but there
is no shop you can point to and say "this is the last shop in Harvard
Square on this side of Mass. Ave."  One would say that a store on one of
those streets is "in Harvard Square".  No one would use the phrase "on
Harvard Square".

So our square is a place, grown up around an intersection, and grounded
by name in that intersection.  Which i think amounts to "Things called
squares in New England are very rarely place=square in OSM, and
certainly having square in the name is not a presumption that it is

>> Almost always there are multiple roads intersecting, and typically it
>> has some degree of importance (commerce, cultural, historical, or
>> other) that is locally notable.

> question of size. Small square will typically have less importance than
> bigger ones.

Agreed - just that there is some local in the math sense max of
notability, not that they are equal.

>>   There may or may not be an open area where people can gather.
> there must be an open area (a square _is_ an open area), but it may not
> always be possible for people to gather (in particular while the space is
> occupied by traffic, parked vehicles, lawn that is not accessible, a bus
> station, etc.), although in extreme situations (think riots, political
> demonstrations, ...) these spaces could probably be used to gather even if
> it wasn't possible under normal conditions.

I find the notion of an open area to gather being necessary, while it
being ok that they perhaps cannot gather to be very strange.   I think
you don't mean "people could stand in the middle of the street", in
which case every intersection is a square.

>> Typically the name is not primarily associated with the location as
>> a settlement, although almost always people live there.
> people will not live on a square, they might be living around the square,
> but you can also find squares in business districts where nobody lives. The
> definition is not about usage, but about spatial configuration.

See above about the polygon on the open space, vs the region.  I
understand you now.

>> To have this make sense, we really need a definition that one can read
>> while standing someplace and declare it to be a square or not a square.
>> I remain quite skeptical.
> squares are like streets, but unlike streets which are made to move,
> squares are made to stay.

I don't find that clear enough.  Streets were made for walking and for
horses, and now they are used by cars.

What about a grassy area surrounded by streets.  We call that "town
common" usually (even though people may not bring their animals to graze
on it), but we would not call it a square, almost always.  

I have concluded that we have very few squares in the US, so I am pretty
unconcerned, as long as it's clear that there is no basis for "Foo
Square" to be presumed to be an osm square.

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