The Illusion of Space: St Mark's Square, Venice

Piazza San Marco or St. Mark's Square in Venice is one of the most beautiful public squares in Europe. Described as "the finest drawing room in all of Europe," this framed urban area is an example of ceremonial civic space that celebrates the power of people coming together. It is used for marches, festivals, parades, outdoor dining, pigeon feeding, and more.

Venice carnevale
There is nothing more majestic than when entering the Square. You see the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Basilica and clock tower. The buildings with their continuous colonnades wrap around the square and add a theatricality invites you in. And there are no vehicles or vehicle noise!
plan by Robert Gatje

The fascinating thing about the piazza's design is that it is not a true square.

It is a trapezoid where one side is a little bit longer than the opposite side.  This creates a space that flares out at the entry and narrows at its enclosed end. The result is an optical illusion that makes it feel like a much larger space than it is. When looking into San Marco, it appears as if one is in a massive space.

St Mark's paving adds to the illusion of depth. It was renovated during the 16th and 17th centuries and stones with a geometric pattern replaced the old bricks. The unusual pattern probably was used to mark the location of trader's stalls.

At its end, St. Mark’s Basilica thrusts into the square instead of simply forming a boundary to it. This extension breaks up the shape and imposes itself upon the scene. Very effective indeed.

A great book about this and other wonderful civic spaces is
Robert Gatje's book on Public Squares.



  1. Nice blog about garden accessories....we will wait for your upcoming post...really awesome....thanks for sharing...

  2. This is so amazing that you have posted about the illusion of space in St. Mark's Square, Venice, just as I was wondering about this same thing. I am renovating a very neglected back yard from scratch. After all the trees, vines, brambles (30 ft high) which covered 2/3 of the yard were removed AND a fence went in, I thought - oh, the yard is a lot smaller than I thought it was. I walked to the other side of the yard and when I turned back I was stunned at how large the yard was!!! I asked two other people and they had the same experience. The answer: the yard is a trapezoid!!! Wonder how I can maximize that sense of largeness and also increase the sense of size when at the small end of the trapezoid. You are awesome and fascinating indeed, I learn so much from you.

  3. Barb! You have made my day...I am so glad that my random musings are helpful!

  4. nice work i like this.......


Post a Comment

Hi there! I would love to hear from you....

Popular Posts of all Time

Angelface Blue and Dark Violet Angelonia - a Flower that Keeps Giving

'Purple Smoke' - The best Baptisia

Getting in the 'Flow' by Gardening

No-Fail Tips for Turning Hydrangeas Blue!

Repurposed and Recycled - Creative Ideas for Garden Design

Planting Design for Dry Gardens by Olivier Filippi

The Magnificent Purslane - Edible Landscaping at its best!

My one day Class Wednesday April 16 in NY - Jan Johnsen

The Tradition of Hanami - Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan