I was sitting across from the Avia Hotel on one of the wooden benches on Ellis Square. The sunlight was strong and reflected off the many different types of tiling on the square. There was a strong wind that had been blowing over Savannah for a couple of days now. Nonetheless, it was nice sitting there.
Ellis Square has a curious history, being one of the six original squares around which Savannah was built back in the early 18th century. In 1954 the entire square was razed and a parking garage with a 50-year lease was built on the property. When, in 2004, that lease expired, the historic preservation movement made plans to turn it into a square once again.
The result is a refreshing new place in Savannah. An open square, not yet covered by enormous live oak trees like the other squares, it offers a more urban and cosmopolitan alternative to the other seemingly conservative squares in the rest of the Historic District.
The square itself is centered around a lower plateau with patches of grass and a fountain. Around this plateau are steps that are ideal for lounging around and just enjoying the liveliness of this place.
The fountain is the main attraction of this square, though. Comprised out of a series of spouts that irregularly squirt water up in the air, it attracts a lot of kids. Others seem not to care so much about it, like a man I saw trying to dodge the water while cleaning up some litter.
Unlike the other squares, Ellis Square is a modern, contemporary retreat in the middle of the business district, between Broughton and Bay streets, offering peace and entertainment at the same time for the young and old. Businessmen eat their lunch in the shade and kids play in the fountain.
The downside of this is that within a few decades this square will actually transform itself into something totally different, from the double-sided combination of the layout of contemporary design on the one side and the looks of a traditional Savannah square on the other side.
The square itself will of course still be there, but the atmosphere is going to change entirely. Sunlight is partially going to be obstructed, the square is going to close itself off from the neighboring buildings and the overall urbanity is going to change too.
After that metamorphosis Ellis Square is definitely not going to be the same anymore. In fact, even as the years move on you will see a gradual change in atmosphere, popularity and activity and this, to me, is what architecture, and even urban planning should be.
A bunch of young women, probably college students, suddenly came running up to the fountain, flipping off their shoes and rolling up their sleeves to jump around in the fountain. Tourists briefly paused to look at the exciting scene, and I did too.
In two or three decades, these students will still jump into the fountain, but it is never going to feel the same as it felt today.
Ever since I came to Savannah, it has amazed me each day. This city is so full of life and excitement and this is due to the fact that it keeps reinventing itself.
Life never seems to take a halt and Savannah never seems to get stuck in time. No, it keeps reweaving its urban fabric and this is exactly why this town keeps attracting so many people from all over the world, from visitors to students.
I am glad I get to be part of this.Contact Olivier Maene.