Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Faculty Tour: A walk around downtown Savannah

Written by Rosanna Rivero, assistant professor in the College of Environment and Design.

It's 6:00 a.m. Another early rise, tons of coffee and a little boost of energy for our last day of the tour.

Our visit to downtown historic Savannah was hosted by the Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The visit stressed the importance of historic preservation, urban planning and design codes and standards to preserve the unique character of our oldest city, founded by General Oglethorpe in 1733.

What makes downtown Savannah so unique is its pattern or configuration of streets, originally envisioned by its founder on the concept of a central open space or plaza surrounded by four blocks of public buildings (called trust lots) and four residential blocks (called tythings). Although this idea may seem to convey our more contemporary sense of a recreational and social space, it's original conception seems to be driven by military defense needs.

Today, 22 of the original 24 squares remain. From our visit, we could see the very distinct character of each of the squares - the more traditional ones with a deep tree canopy and a central monument that is inviting and refreshing, and the new ones which are less vegetated but also popular with tourists and visitors and well connected with the popular City Market.

Overall, this city has a magic of its own. From personal experience, it is worth losing the GPS and getting lost in the wonderful grid of streets and plazas to see what the city is about. As a new faculty in UGA's College of Environment and Design, I definitely look forward to the opportunity for many more visits to Savannah and Coastal Georgia.

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