The Influence of Antiquity on Town Planning
Keywords:architecture, antiquity, urbanism, towns
In planning towns, no less than in other fields of human activity, antiquity set an example, which was followed in later periods. Two urban types prevailed in the ancient times: one with the town plan adapted to the configuration of the ground and the other geometrically designed. The latter type is considered to be a higher form of urban arrangement. Both types, which stem from the town layouts of the Near East, had their rise, their climax (the ideal form) and decline within the ancient period. The tendency to achieve an adequate arrangement is brought to light in this article on three levels; ancient models are shown to have been used to the present times, although subjected to modifications and variations. The first level is represented by a »gridiron« of streets meeting at right angles, which are characterised by evident geometrical regularity (later instances may also contain diagonals), whereas the town walls follow the configuration of the ground. Ancient instances are the towns of Miletus and Alexandria, modern instances are Washington, New York - Manhattan and Barcelona.
The second level is to be seen in towns where both the town walls and the network of streets display a rectangular design. The highest achievement of Roman designers on this level was the so-called urbs quadrata. Many later towns were designed on the same rectangular model, but they soon outgrew the original limits. Ancient examples are the town of Birs - Nimrud in Mesopotamia and the Roman castra (military camp), while medieval examples are Aigues-Mortes and St. Gallen. The third level is to be found in distinguished town quarters, normally those containing public squares. Their originally irregular form gave way to the rectangular Greek agora, which was followed by the even more consistent geometricity of the Roman forum. The rectangular square with an addition of circular segments lined along the longitudinal axis was favoured during the Baroque period. The ancient instances of the agora at Prienna, the Trajan forum in Rome and the forum at Zadar have obviously served as models for the present-day town quarter of Antigone at Montpellier, designed by the architect R. Bofill and completed in 1979 (shown in the article).
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