Aerodynamic interference between two cylinders involves most of the generic flow features associated with multiple structures, thus providing an excellent model for gaining physical insight into the wake of multiple cylindrical structures. This work aims to provide an experimental systematic study of the flow behind two side-by-side square cylinders. The square cylinder is a representative model for bluff bodies with sharp corners, characterized by a fixed flow separation point, which are distinct from those of continuous curvature with oscillating separation points, typically represented by the circular cylinder. Experiments were performed at a Reynolds number Re
of 4.7×104 and a cylinder centre-to-centre spacing ratio T/d (d is the cylinder height) of 1.02–6.00. The flow was measured using different techniques, including hot wires, load cell, particle imaging velocimetry and laser-induced fluorescence flow visualization. Four distinct flow regimes and their corresponding T/d ranges are identified for the first time on the basis of the flow structure and the Strouhal number. Physical aspects in each regime, such as interference between shear layers, gap flow deflection and changeover, multiple flow modes, entrainment, recirculation bubble, vortex interactions and formation lengths, are investigated in detail and are connected to the characteristics of the time-averaged and fluctuating fluid forces. The flow displays a marked difference in many facets from that behind two side-by-side circular cylinders, which is linked to their distinct flow separation natures. A crucial role played by the gap flow and its passage geometry in contributing to the observed
difference is also unveiled.