der Städtebau nach seinen künstlerische Grundsätze

Camillo Sitte

In the late nineteenth century Camillo Sitte critiziced the pragmatic planning. In 1889 Sitte published ‘Der Städtebau nach seinen künstlerischen Grundsätzen’ (‘City Planning According to Artistic Principles’). In this book he analyses the spatial structures of historical cities and aesthetic criticized urbanism of his time: “We are well aware of the effect of an old plaza, but how to produce it under modern conditions is not understood because we are no longer cognizant of the relation between cause and effect in these matters.”

Out of his analyses of squares I abstracted some rules, because a “merely unbuild piece of ground is not yet a city plaza”.

  • There are two categories of city squares: the deep type and the wide type. Whether a plaza is deep or wide usually becomes apparent when the observer stands opposite the major building that dominates the whole layout.
  • The minimum dimension of a plaza equals roughly the height of the principle building. The maximum is the double of that size.
  • The maximum length is 143 meters (470 feet); the maximum width is 58 meters (190 feet).
  • Square plazas (1:1) do not look very good, and overly long plazas (1:3) begin to lose charm. Triangle shaped plazas are always unattractive.
  • Public squares should be enclosed entities. When we transform an open space within a city into a plaza in essential it is closed off from the outside.
  • If possible, only one street should open each point, and each street should enter the plaza at a different angle.
  • Irregularities do not have an unpleasant effect at all. It is strange that really widely irregular squares of old towns often do not look bad at all.
  • A clustering of plazas in and about the main building of a town is such a frequent phenomenon, that a single public square is the exception
  • The center of plazas should be kept free.
  • Fountains are unsymmetrically situated, usually next to the opening of a mayor street.




– C. Sitte: “Der Städtebau nach seinen künstlerische Grundsätze” [1909], Brikhäuser – Basel.

– G.R. Collins & C. Crasmann Collins: “Camillo Sitte: the birth of modern city planning” [2006], Dover Publications, Inc. – New York.



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