In his book ‘A Pattern Language’ Christopher Alexander presents a practical language for the build environment. Each element of this language – patterns – describes a problem which occurs over and over again, and afterwards the core of the solution. The language starts with ‘Independent Regions’ (number 1), goes through towns, buildings and constructions and ends with ‘Things From Your Life’ (number 253) for the interior design of a room.
Number 61 called ‘Small Public Squares’: “A town needs public squares; they are the largest, most public rooms, that a town has. But when they are too large, they look and feel deserted.” Christopher Alexander has a core solution of the square-problem:
- It is natural that public streets will swell out to public squares as a social point where there is the most activity.
- Unfortunately, there is a temptation to make these squares too large, that look good at drawings, but end up desolated.
- A place seems to be deserted when it has more than about 300 square feet (about 90 square meters) per person.
- Four people give life to a square of 35 feet (about 10 meters), 12 to a square of 60 feet (about 18 meters) and 33 to a square of 100 feet (about 30 meters).
- It is more likely there’ll be 4 or 12 people in a certain place than 33.
- At about 70 feet (about 21 meters) a person’s face is just recognizable and under urban noise conditions a loud voice can just be heard.
So, therefor: “make a public square much smaller than you would at first imagine; usually no more than 45 (about 14 meters) to 60 feet (about 18 meters) across, never more than 70 feet (about 21 meters) across. This applies only to its width in the short direction. In the long direction it can certainly be longer.”
– C. Alexander: “A Pattern Language, Towns – Buildings – Construction” , Oxford University Press – New York.