I'm in the midst of what seems like a never ending research project on some of the great Georgian squares in London. I am trying hard to understand as much as I can about the design of squares, and the Georgian squares of London are more of a vehicle as opposed to an endorsement. I am working on several actual projects currently that include “squares” and so my interest is particularly keen with regard to dimensions that work and those that do not. But the other issue I am exploring is the connectedness of squares in predominately mixed use districts, and that too makes the London squares in Belgravia, etc. potentially helpful since you can “kick the tire” on twenty differently shaped squares in roughy a half mile radius. Plus, the average walking distance between the London squares surveyed is only 586 feet - I think a very remarkable frequency for an area very much developed by thoughtful speculators. Noteworthy.
My primary focus is to create a little notebook that would inventory and comment upon the dimensions and arrangements of the squares that are within a walk distance of Harrods – a notebook that a member of CNU could take with them on a walk through the series of small and large squares. there are over 20 squares in a very short walking distance and I am slowly analyzing each one, determining the developmental history, closure raios, etc. But Chuck Bohl thought the study could be much more useful if it also included some statistical analysis (closure ratio, width, breath and the nature of the architectural treatment of the enclosed space) of a few other squares from other places picked by trustworthy designers from around the world.
My hope has been to include two specific choices from Andreas Duany, Lizz Plater-Zyberk, Leon Krier, Victor Dover, Robert Davis, Jacqueline Robertson, Stephanos Polyzoides and Joe Molinaro - one recent and one antique. I have in hand special places chosen by both Lizz, Andreas, Victor and Stephanos, and Joe - half of which are in the States and half in Europe. Leon Krier has sent some preliminary thoughts, and I hope for his final picks soon. To get everyone to actually do this, i.e. make a pick, Lizz suggested a slight twist: Don’t place so much emphasis on the very best and beloved square of all time done or experienced by the designer, but the square that comes to mind today when the question is asked. This means that one might have a different pick on another day. That attitude relaxes the tension one might feel when asked to identify a favorite; it gives one permission to be a little lighter with the answer. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have gotten many picks!
Lizz picked the DPZ designed very small public space that was near where the CNU soiree was held in Providence. She couldn’t remember the name of the little space on the corner of two streets. I am researching that now. For an “antique” square (older than a century), she picked Place Furstenberg in Paris. My friend Lewis Nix has measured it for me on a recent trip.
Andreas and Robert Davis picked Ruskin Place in Seaside for their DPZ favorite, and Andreas picked Place des Vosges in Paris for his “antique” favorite. The latter is helpful to me partially because it violates some of Andreas’ rules-of-thumb (the closure ratio is very low), and thus is interesting to include. I imagine most CNU members have visited Ruskin Place. It is quite complex, and I am looking forward to completing a section that focuses on Ruskin.
Stephanos picked their new plaza at Aldea outside of Santa Fe, and plus two interconnected squares in Cortona and one in San Giminiano.
Victor Dover picked a Dover-Kohl planned (together with many hands, include Andres’ and Xavier Iglesias’ and Vince Graham’s) an elongated square in a quiet part of I’On that is intriguing. It is called Perseverance Square. His antique picks were an incrediably beautiful square in Bruges, Belgium plus a square in Damme. I still need dimensions on all three of these. I have good Google earth data on I'On but so far nothing measurable for the Belgium squares. The fine photo of the square aside the Beguine Convent of the Vine (Begijnhof)was taken by Brian james McMorro.
With regard to the London Squares. the following are included in the effort: Wilton Crescent, Belgrave Square, Eaton, Chesham, Cadogan Gardens, Lowndes, Hans Place, Cadogan Square, Lennox Gardens, Ovington, Beaufort Gardens, Brompton, Egerton Place, Egerton Crescent, Thurloe, Pelham Crescent, Brompton, Ennismore, Rutland Gate, Trevor, and Montpelier.
I have been measuring the ones I could get to using multiple techniques. Rick Hall was kind to lend me his "Road Runner" to measure Ruskin Place. I have used a laser on some and a tape on others. Some I have just "google earthed" which has actually proved fairly reliable. It is the vertical height that is often difficult to obtain. If anyone happens to have any independent measurements of any of the squares or a comment or two concerning your thoughts about any of these, please do not hesitate to forward them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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