Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-x2fsp Total loading time: 0.292 Render date: 2022-11-29T05:36:24.380Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Were Cities Built as Images?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2001

Peter Carl
Affiliation:
Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Architecture and History of Art, 1–5 Scroope Terrace, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1PX UKpwc21@cam.ac.uk.
Barry Kemp
Affiliation:
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UKbjk2@cus.cam.ac.uk.
Ray Laurence
Affiliation:
Department of Classics, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 218, Reading, RG6 6AA, UK.
Robin Coningham
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD7 1DP, UK.
Charles Higham
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.
George L. Cowgill
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402, USA.

Abstract

Many ancient city sites display a remarkable regularity in their plan which has led to considerable debate on the symbolism and intentionality which may lie behind these arrangements. Grid plan cities of the Greek and Roman world were discussed by Haverfield almost a century ago, but it was above all the cities of South and East Asia analyzed by Wheatley in his influential Pivot of the Four Quarters (1971) which has given new emphasis to the potential of meaning and significance. Such planned cities necessarily incorporate an essential tension between praxis — the practical day-to-day needs of the urban community — and idealism, the desire to impose on those practical concerns a city-plan which expresses a symbolic or cosmological image. Contemporary texts, where they exist, may help towards an answer, but the physicality of the city plan itself provides the crucial ground for argument as to whether symbolic or ideological imperatives governed the actual outcome. Cities may be conceptualized in ideal terms without ever taking on the physical attributes of any ideal form. The contributors to this Viewpoint approach the issue from a diversity of standpoints and with reference to different geographical areas. Were cities built as images? Did powerful belief systems combined with strong centralized control give rise to cities where the moat represented the encircling sea and the raised cathedral the mountain-dwelling of the gods? Or are such readings more the product of Western analysis and wishful thinking than the original intentions of their builders? The discussion here is opened by an architectural historian, who places city-planning firmly within the Western intellectual tradition, and considers it in particular as a product of Greek geometry. A series of regional specialists then take up the baton and assess the evidence for symbolic city planning in Egypt, the Roman world, South and Southeast Asia, and Mesoamerica. How far did cities of the Classical world conform to ideas set out by Aristotle and Vitruvius? Were the regulations of the Artashastra really adopted as a practical guide for city lay-out in South Asia? The balance of evidence — of what may have been intended, against what was actually laid out on the ground — provides fertile ground for a stimulating diversity of opinions.

Type
VIEWPOINT
Copyright
2000 The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
15
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Were Cities Built as Images?
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Were Cities Built as Images?
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Were Cities Built as Images?
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *