Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Ancient Urban Planning

Michael E. Smith

This article describes a new model for urban planning in ancient and preindustrial cities that moves beyond the traditional simplistic dichotomy of planned versus organic cities. The model has two components: coordination of buildings and spaces, and standardization among cities. A variety of coordinated arrangements of buildings reflect urban planning, including simple coordination, formality and monumentality, orthogonal layouts, other forms of geometric order, and access and visibility (viewshed). Standardization among cities is analyzed in terms of architectural inventories, spatial patterns, orientation, and metrology. The political and social significance of ancient urban planning is then discussed using Amos Rapoport’s model of levels of meaning in the built environment.

Cuzco, Peru, photo by Pedro Z Malavolta
More about the history of urban planning:

Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City

Towards garden city wonderlands: new town planning in 1950s Taiwan

Heidelberg and its first Roman constructions

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