Piazza delle Erbe | Verona
“One is seldom aware of the great irregularity of this plaza”, Sitte notes about the Piazza delle Erbe in Verona. “That the plaza has a remarkably uneven outline has scarcely ever been noticed. This is quite natural, because nothing is harder than to reconstruct the plan of a plaza from a perspective view of it, or even more from one’s memory – especially when one was not concerned with this particular aspect at that moment, but was only joyfully taking in all the beautiful things which there abound.”
The Piazza delle Erbe was once the town’s forum during the time of the Roman Empire. Now it’s a local market’s square, where at first herbes where traded. The square is a main part of the city’s pedestrian area, so there’s a constance feed of people.
In perspective view and in the mental image the Piazza delle Erbe is experienced as a rectangle shaped space. Therefor – in my opinion – the basic shape of the square is a rectangle. Due of the strong irregularities in the framework of the square – the square diverges from out the short sides – the actual shape on a plan is more oval.
The square is circa 140 meters long. At the short north sides the square is 25 meters wide; 4 meter wider than Alexander claims a square maximum should be. In the middle the square is 40 meters wide. Even at this broadest place the proportion between the width and length is 1:3½. Sitte defines that an overly long plaza (larger than 1:3) loses charm. With a surface of just about 4,500 meters, Alexander claims the square seems to be deserted with less than 50 people.
Consistent with Sitte almost at each point only one street opens the square, and they all enter the square with a slightly different angle. This results in an enclosed facade that makes the square an own entity in the center of Verona. The facade is build up out of single buildings with different widths. The most of them are 4 or 5 stories high.
I like the detail how the statue Piazzetta XIV Novembre – a memorial for the bombardement at the square at 14 november 1915 – is aligned in the long facade. Now, the statue is part of the square and also claims its own space that’s in proportion to the size of the statue.
The main building at the square is the Palazzo Comunale (former Town Hall), with its Torre dei Lamberti. This 84 meters high tower is the highest building at the square and a landmark for the whole centre. The town hall is located at the southwest part of the long side of the square. This makes the square a wide one, yet it’s experienced as a long square. According to Sitte the main building at a wide square should be wide too.
Although the building itself is, its landmark is more than twice as high as the depth in front of it. With a depth of 40 meters, Sitte claims the tower should be 20 to 40 meters high. The space around the statue Piazzetta XIV Novembre opposites the Torre dei Lamberti that makes the depth at that specific spot a little longer.
The Piazza delle Erbe is clustered with a hard break with a the Piazza dei Signori. As it should, the main building is the link to this square laying behind. The Torre dei Lamberti also is the highest building at this square.
The squares main street is Corsa Porta Borsari and enters the square from the northwest at the (short) side. This street leads to the Corsa Cavour and the Ponte Vittoria, the northern bridge over the Adige. At the southside the Via Cappello leads straight to the Ponte delle Navi, the southern bridge.
The square has a lot irregularities and they are of different types. As mentioned above at the level of the plan there is a irregularity in its framework or outline. Basically the square is rectangular, but due the irregularity in the alignment the square actually is more oval. There are also are irregularities at the level of the buildings. At the level of the graininess there is a irregularity between the buildings. Each building has its own width, height and colour. At the level of the separate buildings each one is unique with a own style, type of accents, storey height and amount of storeys. The whole compound the square is pleasant to see en be in.
In my opinion the Piazza delle Erbe basically is a rectangle shaped square, with strong irregularities in the squares framework. The irregularities do not only express in the framework of the square, but also at the level of the compound and single buildings.
The square doesn’t fit in the principles of Alexander and Sitte relating size a proportion. According the principles of Alexander the square is too large. According the principles of Sitte the square is an overly long plaza and either the tower is far to high or it stand on the wrong position.
Although the conclusions above make the square a bit uncommon and rare, it fits naturally in the pedestrian area of Verona’s centre and the square is a pleasant entity to be in. Therefor I think the Piazza delle Erbe is a nice urban square and a good example for how irregularities are experienced.
Secondly, I like the detail how the statue Piazzetta XIV Novembre is aligned in the long facade and claims its own space. Because of this the small statue isn’t lost in the big space of the square, but has an own spot that’s in proportion to the size of the statue.
What do you think?
How do you rate the Piazza delle Erbe as an urban square?