note: basic shape

Sitte claims that an urban square with a triangle shape is unbearable. At such a square the irregularity becomes awkward and people feel unpleasant, because they won’t have a good overview. At a shape of a geometric square people will get disoriented.

ShapeThe absolute minimum proportion between a squares width and length is 1:1¼. The maximum proportion which still will be experienced as a enclosed spot is 1:3. Basically, this forms a rectangular square. Sitte abominates the ‘perfectly rectangular modern plaza that’s laid out with a ruler and is only ever-so-many square yards of empty surface’. So, it’s case to make its basic shape as well as its edges irregular.

He encourages the clustering of plazas above one big square.




– Out off the theories and analyses from this site I formed some notes with my own perspective on urban squares to help making choices at designing them.




  • Can’t agree with your reading of Sitte saying that squares are basically rectangles. That would work for Vitruvius, which differentiates the Greek agora from the Roman square on shape and use. However, Sitte is very interested in squares that are not rectangular, though you correctly point to his view that the triangle will be a difficult shape for a piazza.

    As examples to my point, he considers squares such as the Signoria in Firenze and San Marco, Venezia as great places that are not square. In the case of San Marco we might argue that there are three squares combined. But that objection will be harder to raise in the Signoria.

    He does mention in discussing Piazza del Erbe in Verona that the lozenge-shaped space appears to us as a rectangle. We ‘correct’ places and read them most often as rectangles. A quick run through all his diagrams will soon convince you that the piazze are not square. In fact much the opposite. However, we do perceive most of these spaces as ‘rectangular’.

    Then, in describing the proportions of the space it is more useful to provide all three dimensions at the same time: length, width and height. The ancients were very particular about getting these things to resonate together.

  • mauritsvoorhorst

    Lewis, thank you for your comment.

    I agree my reference of Sitte was written down a little simplistic. Sitte wrote down the relationship between the width of a plaza and its length. He doesn’t want to set a norm, but claims the proportion should be smaller than 1:3 and neither should be 1:1. Basically this forms a rectangle. He abominates the perfectly rectangular modern plaza, that’s laid out with a ruler. So, it’s case to make its basic shape as well as its edges irregular.

    I also agree the importance of the relation with the third dimension. Without the height there isn’t an enclosed entity. This will be one of my future notes.


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