Henri IV

Length Closure Ratio (B): 8.6 to 1

Width Closure Ratio (B): 8.6 to 1

Green: 368 ft by 368 ft (112.2 m to 112.2 m)

Ratio Width to Length (Face to Face): 1 to 1

Width Face to Face: 468 ft (142.6 m)

Length Face to Face: 468 ft (142.6 m)

Height A: 42 ft (12.8 m)

Height B: 54 ft (16.5 m)

36 to 39 houses

Place de Vosges, Paris

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk’s husband, the architect and town planner, Andréas Duany, picked a Parisian square as his favorite antique assemblage – the famous and pivotal  Place de Vosges. This too is one of my favorite squares, with pleasant memories from numerous trips to the Marais district over the years. What is especially important is that the Place de Vosges (originally the Place Royale) was the earliest Parisian public square surrounded by speculative development. It burst on the medieval Parisian scene in 1605, and informed future English designers in a powerful way. Additionally, the vertical to horizontal proportions of the square are strikingly out of bounds – greatly exceeding Andreas’ often stated limit of 1:6. The Place de Vosges is actually  1:8.6. The scale is also out of bounds (at least from a human recognition point of view) being 468 feet (142.6 m) square – face of building to face of building. But four mitigating features make the square one of the most memorable in the world.

First, the composition is architecturally rich with a facade solution that encompasses careful proportion, articulation, differentiation and coloration. Second, the scale of the square is broken up today by two physical objects: the towering decorative street lamps with their curling heads and the mature trees that flank the green that is a broad 368 feet (112.2 m) square and which focuses on a wonderful fountain and statue. Third, the deep 12.5 feet wide arcade that runs around the entire perimeter is accentuated by groin vaults and sheltered views. Fourth, the square represents a bold speculative real estate play by King Henri IV where the facades were designed with a common theme but sold without design control of each individual home behind.

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