Piazza Collegiata | Bellinzona
Bellinzona is the capitol of the canton Ticino in Switzerland. It has always been an important geographic location in the Alps. The site of the Castelgrande forms the main fortification of the city. In the center of the old town, near the Castelgrande, lies the Piazza Collegiata.
The church Collegiata dei Santi Pietro i Stefano is the main building at the square. It is called after two former churches and gives the name to the piazza (collegiate). The facade of the church is divided into three bands and is Renaissance. The relatively small area in front of the Church was once occupied by the cemetery and the forecourt. Initial the piazza was also closed next to the church. In the 1870 the Viale Stazione was built with the advent of the railway. Nowadays this is the main street at the square. Oddly enough the main street lies direct in front of the main building. Now there isn’t a good view from the main street at the main building.
Shape, size and enclosure
The Piazza Collegiata has a rare shape and basically is triangle. Sitte claims triangle plazas always are unattractive. The main building stands on the diagonal side of the triangle. Due to this shape it is neither a deep or a wide square. The length – facing the church – is about 30 meters (about 100 feet), the width is 35 meters (115 feet) and the diagonal is 45 meters (150 feet). The area is 525 square meters. Christopher Alexander mentioned a place seems to be deserted when it has more than about 90 square meters per person. So, with at least 6 persons the square is pleasant to be on.
There are small openings in the façades. At each opening only one street opens the square. This makes the square a closed entity. The enclosing facades have three storeys with a small roof. The houses are between half and once the height of the facing length of the square.
The church is the square’s original utilitas. So, the church is the main building and therefor the piazza is a church-square. The piazza is part of the main routes of the old town. There are shops and pubs in the streets that lead to the square and also at the square itself. This leads to a natural feeding of people from the streets to the square. It is used for various events and in the summer it becomes a kind of open-air living room for the local residents and tourists alike.
The main irregularity at the Piazza Collegiate is in the rare shape: the triangle. There are only a few buildings at the square. Each building is different, but they all have a human size and are all easy to oversee, with less irregularities. Normally, a triangle shape square brings too much irregularity to a square to become a pleasant urban square. But, at the Piazza Collegiata, the uncomplicated buildings compensate.
Is the Piazza Collegiata a good example of an urban square?
At first glance you would say “no”. Triangle plazas always are unattractive, and unattractive plazas can’t function as an urban square. The Piazza Collegiata is an exception. Everything else fits in place. The functions, the size, the bustle and the height are ideal to be used as urban square. The uncomplicated buildings compensate the too irregular shape.
So, yes, I think the Piazza Collegiate is an urban square, and functioning as such.
What do you think?
How do you rate the Piazza Collegiata as an urban square?