What do the Village Square in Whistler, the Piazza Navona in Rome, Marienplatz in Munich, and Paris’ Place de L’Hotel de Ville and Palais Royal all have in common? They are all successful urban plazas. Gordon Price, a Canadian transportation and urban planning expert, notes in his blog that they all also share another particular: their widths are about 50 meters.
So what’s so special about 50 metres, plus or minus a metre or so? Obviously, it creates a comfortable sense of enclosure, while both working at the individual scale and still accommodating large crowds.
What about Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, which Price considers perhaps the best urban square in North America?
Yep. Even though the square fills in one of the city’s famous 200-foot-square blocks, the actual space used for performance and display occupies just over 50 metres on the diagonal.