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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
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The religious and cosmic symbolism of the city
reaches back to the early stages of human culture. It
seems that in none of the great archaic cultures have
cities been understood simply as settlements, arbitrarily
established at a certain place and in a given form; both
the placing and the shape of cities were conceived as
related, in a hidden or manifested form, to the structure
of the universe. The most common form of this sym-
bolism is the belief that the cities have astral or divine
prototypes, or even descend from heaven; sometimes
they were believed to have a relationship to the under-
world. In both cases, however, they refer to an extra-
terrestrial reality.

Babylonian cities were believed to have their proto
types in the constellations: Sippar in Cancer, Nineveh
in Ursa Major, Assur in Arcturus. Sennacherib had
Nineveh built according to the “form... delineated
from distant ages by the writing of the heaven-of-stars.”
This model, situated in a celestial region, antedates the
terrestrial city. The terrestrial city, usually with the
sanctuary at its center, is a copy of the divine model,
executed according to the command of the gods. This
is still reflected in the Wisdom of Solomon 9:8—“Thou
gavest command to build a sanctuary in thy holy
mountain, and an altar in the city of thy habitation,
a copy of the holy tabernacle which thou preparedst
aforehand from the beginning.”

Similar ideas are found in India. Royal cities are
believed to have been constructed after mythical
models. The relationship between model and copy
sometimes implies an additional meaning: in the age
of gold the Universal Sovereign dwelt in the celestial
city; the earthly king, residing in the terrestrial city
built after the celestial prototype, promises to revive
the golden age.

Somewhat similar ideas are also found in Greek
philosophy. Plato's ideal city also has a celestial proto-
type (Republic 592; cf. 500). The Platonic “Forms” are
not patterned after the planets, but they, too, are
situated in a supra-terrestrial, mythical region, and
at times reference is made to astral bodies (Phaedrus).

In the Western tradition, the best known example
of a city with a celestial prototype is Jerusalem. Ac-
cording to several sources it was created by God before
it was built by men. The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch
(4:2-7) suggests that the celestial Jerusalem, graven
by God's own hands, was shown to Adam before he
sinned. The Heavenly Jerusalem inspired the Hebrew
prophets and poets (e.g., Isaiah 60ff.; Tobit 13:16ff.).
Ezekiel is transported to a high mountain to be shown
by God the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:2). According
to the Apocalypse 21:2ff. the new Jerusalem actually
descends from heaven. “I John saw the holy city, new
Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” In later
Jewish traditions the divine city was actually the start-
ing point of creation. According to Yoma, “the world
was created beginning from Zion,” the holy city. Adam,
too, was created and buried in Jerusalem, and there-
fore, according to well-known Christian traditions, the
blood of the crucified Christ could drip down on him
and redeem him.

The spot on which the city is placed may also have
cosmic significance. In the Near East the city was
sometimes believed to mark the meeting ground of
heaven, earth, and hell. Babylon was a Bab-ilani, a
“gate of the gods,” for it was there that the gods
descended to earth. But it had also been built upon


the “Gate of the Apsu”—Apsu designating the waters
of chaos before Creation. In the Roman world, the
mundus—i.e., the trench dug around the place where
a city was to be founded—constitutes the point where
the lower world and the terrestrial world meet.
Macrobius (Saturnalia I, 16, 18) quotes Varro as saying
that “when the mundus is open it is as if the gates
of the gloomy infernal gods were open.”

Another common form of granting significance to
the city's location is to assume that it marks the center
of the world. In some Indian cities the foundation stone
is said to have been placed above the head of the snake
which supports the world; in other words, it is placed
exactly at the center of the world. The map of Babylon
shows the city at the center of a vast circular territory
bordered by a river, precisely as the Sumerians pic-
tured Paradise. This belief persisted into later periods.
It has rightly been said that the pilgrimages to holy
cities (Mecca, Jerusalem) are implied pilgrimages to
the center of the world (see M. Eliade).

The shape of actual ancient cities (as excavated in
archaeological campaigns) does not always conform to
the vast body of religious symbolism. Some basic con-
cepts of city planning go back to the third millennium
B.C. The earliest pattern of a planned city, the gridiron
scheme (i.e., straight parallel streets crossing other
straight parallel streets at right angles) is found, in a
slightly irregular form, in India (Mohenjo-Daro,
roughly 2500 B.C.). This pattern probably emerged
from the practice of “orientation,” i.e., the establishing
of a connection between man-made structures and
celestial powers. The grid pattern is also found in
Mesopotamia, and in Egypt King Akhnaton followed
it in building his capital (ca. 1370 B.C.).

In Greece, ideas on town planning do not appear
before the fifth century B.C. The acropolis, the original
nucleus of the Greek town, developed from a fortified
place of refuge, and usually consisted of an accumula-
tion of irregularly shaped and dispersed volumes. Greek
architectural thought was focused, as most scholars
agree, on the individual building rather than on the
town as a whole. Similarly Greek artists were more
deeply interested in the volume and structure of bodies
than in the space surrounding the figures.

The decisive step towards a regular layout of the
city as a whole is traditionally connected with Hip-
podamus of Miletus (active ca. 470-430 B.C.), a half-
legendary “Homer of city planning.” The “Hip-
podamic system” is basically the gridiron scheme with
particular emphasis on space classification, and a ten-
dency towards symmetry. Aristotle contrasts the “Hip-
podamic system” distinctly with the archaic procedure
of building without plan. Originally the system may
have been influenced by the mathematical thought of
the period, and perhaps also by some symbolic religious
traditions; in the diffusion of the system, however,
economic advantages and practical hygienic consid-
erations seem to have played a more important part.
In Greece, no ritual laws seem to have existed for the
foundation and layout of new settlements.

The Romans evinced a deeper concern for the city
as a whole, and made significant and lasting contri-
butions to town planning. Roman towns developed
mainly from the castrum, basically a gridiron pattern
subdivided into four major parts by two main axes, the
cardo and decumanus. A square was placed at the
crossing of the two axes. Both the major buildings and
the square proper had an axial location. In laying out
military settlements with permanent fortifications,
which were established along the expanding frontiers,
the Romans followed the same pattern (the so-called
castra stativa). Another characteristic feature of the
Roman town is that it was set off from the landscape
surrounding it (contrary to the transition from town
to landscape in Greece).

Although functional considerations clearly played an
important part in establishing this pattern, the town
plan and the foundation of cities did not lose their
symbolic significance. The historian Polybius and the
geographer Hyginus Gromaticus (early second century
A.D.) describe the standard layout of the castrum town,
but also discuss in detail the “orientation” of the towns
and the consecration rites of newly established settle-
ments. According to Pliny, measurements and propor-
tions of the castrum were based on “sacred numbers,”
but so far no conclusive archaeological evidence has
supported his statement.

The major Roman contributions to city building, the
feeling for strict regularity, the organization of the city
in large areas, and the firm shaping of space (best
expressed in the patterns of squares), declined with the
decline of the Empire.


The medieval approach to the city, emerging in a
period in which urban culture broke down, is complex
and ambivalent. One of the characteristic features of
the early medieval attitude is a disconnection between
the notions of the celestial and the terrestrial city.
Probably the most explicit expression of this attitude
is to be found in Saint Augustine's famous work, The
City of God.
In this work, the image of the city be-
comes highly metaphorical, the term denoting a com-
munity rather than a material city. Even in his meta-
phors Augustine rarely refers to the city plan, to
architectural elements (walls, gates, squares, etc.), or
to actual cities (with the exception of Rome and
Jerusalem, both of which assume a highly symbolic


significance). The basis of “cities” is moral values or
metaphysical ideas: the foundation of the terrestrial
city is the “love of self” while the celestial city is based
on the “love of God” (XIV, 28; cf. XI, 1 and X, 25).
The two cities, the terrestrial and the celestial, are not
only unrelated to each other, but there is a contra-
diction between them. The City of God “is a pilgrim
on the earth” (XVIII, 54); the citizen of the Heavenly
City is “by grace a stranger below, and by grace a
citizen above” (XV, 1); Cain is described (based on
Genesis 4:17) as the founder of a terrestrial city, while
Abel, who was conceived as a prefiguration of Christ,
“being a sojourner, built none” (XV, 1).

Like the Near Eastern thinkers, Augustine conceived
of a celestial and a terrestrial city. But while in the
Near East the city on earth is believed to be a copy
of the one in heaven, Augustine sees the two as alien
to each other. In moral terms they are even mutually
exclusive: one belongs to either one or the other. Thus
the hostile attitude towards the (terrestrial) city, an
attitude that was to play a major part in medieval
thought, is already clearly articulated at this early

This attitude may be understood as an expression
of a broad historical process which is probably also
reflected in the development of the actual medieval
town, and in the iconography of the city in medieval

It is significant that in a period as permeated by
symbolism as were the Middle Ages not much thought
was given to the symbolism of the city plan, as far
as actual cities are concerned. The organization of the
town as a whole was, as a rule, neither understood nor
desired by medieval builders. This lack of interest led
to the well-known irregular shapes of medieval towns.
Even in cities which developed from Roman towns,
the additions and changes which originated in the
Middle Ages were made without consideration for the
original Roman layout. The medieval town thus pro-
vides an almost perfect example of the city that has
“grown” versus the “planned” city. The narrow, wind-
ing streets (ruelles, Gassen) of medieval towns and
their beautiful but unpredictable vistas could be taken
as an expression of “organic life,” as the writers of the
romantic period, in fact, characterized medieval life.

“Organic growth” as an overall characterization of
the medieval town is not radically challenged by the
fact that, especially in the thirteenth century, some
new cities (villes neuves) were built according to a
preconceived plan, and do in fact display some regular
features (e.g., Aigues-Mortes, founded in 1240 by Saint
Louis; Montpazier, established in 1284 by Edward I
of England). These “new cities” remained exceptions.

In contrast to the irregularity of actual medieval
towns, the innumerable representations of the
“Heavenly Jerusalem” and of other holy cities in the
art of the Middle Ages frequently show a regularity
and symmetrical arrangement which strongly suggest
the image of a “planned” city. In early Christian rep-
resentations (e.g., the fifth-century mosaics in Santa
Maria Maggiore and in SS. Pudenziana), the Heavenly
Jerusalem is reduced to a simple round wall, but in
later renderings (see Santa Cecilia) it becomes more
elaborate, sometimes adorned with towers, gables, and
columns. However, in spite of the inclusion of such
actual architectural elements, the overall shape of the
sacred city retains a remarkable regularity. Thus, in
a ninth-century mosaic in San Marco in Venice, the
city of Bethlehem has a clear oval shape. Even when
representing the earthly Jerusalem (representations
which are certainly symbolic rather than documentary
records), the medieval artists tended towards clearly
laid out, regular forms.

The iconography of the city in medieval art has not
yet been systematically studied, but a review of the
rich material pertinent to this theme suggests that the
hostile attitude towards the city has had a formative
influence on artistic imagery. Since the eleventh or
twelfth centuries the city is symbolically portrayed not
only by architectural motifs (walls, gates, towers) but
also by secular, inherently vicious figures and scenes,
considered typical of urban life. The view of the city
as a place of carnal temptation, debased entertainment,
and avarice is visually portrayed by figures of jugglers
and acrobats, loose women, misers, and, in the late
Middle Ages, by scenes of gambling seen against an
urban background. In medieval art, cities are often
inhabited by demonic creatures. Such figures and
scenes, sometimes appearing in the margins of sacred
texts, frequently anticipate the specific realism of a
burgher art.


The city, both as a social reality and as an architec-
tural environment, played an important part in
Renaissance thought and art. This may be partly ex-
plained by the fact that Renaissance culture developed
in cities, and was an almost completely urban phe-
nomenon (even the newly discovered affection for the
rustic life of the villa attests to its basically urban
character). The acquaintance with ancient literary
sources further intensified the interest in the city; the
polis became an object of study and imitation. But
although Renaissance authors often referred to the
polis, they usually attributed its characteristics to the
Italian city-states of their own period. Thus Leonardo
Bruni, in his Laudatio Florentiae urbis as well as in
other writings, describes Florence as a model of an


ideal city of justice, a city well-ordered, harmonious,
beautiful, governed by taksis and kosmos. Bruni pro-
claims that Florence is rational and functional in her
institutions as well as in her architecture: “Nothing in
her [Florence] is confused, nothing inconvenient,
nothing without reason, nothing without foundation;
all things have their place, not only definite but conve-
nient and where they ought to be. Distinguished are
the offices, distinguished the judgements, distinguished
the orders.” The architectural structure corresponds to
the rationality of the social and political structure. The
city is built along a river, a module of urbanism is
consistently applied in her architecture. As in a polis,
in the center of Florence are the Palazzo dei Signori
and the “Temple,” i.e., the Duomo.

In this early stage we encounter already a character-
istic feature of Renaissance urbanistic thought: the
ideal city can, at least in part, be identified with a real
one. Historians have remarked that the fifteenth cen-
tury, instead of producing utopias, gave rise to many
laudationes of actual cities, investing them with all
the virtues of utopian settlements. Venice and Florence
were described as embodiments of the political thought
of the ancients.

Probably the earliest expression of the Renaissance
spirit in actual town planning is to be found in Leon
Battista Alberti's De re aedificatoria, written between
1450 and 1472. Alberti's civic convictions as well as
his aesthetic and moral values are clearly reflected in
his treatise. The novelty of Alberti's method is that
he proposes a scheme for the building of an entire
town. Although he carefully considers the problems of
architecture for private and for ecclesiastical purposes,
in his city plan every detail is subordinated to the
design of the town as a whole. He strongly criticizes
the medieval habit of each family's building a palace
and a tower of its own without any consideration of
its neighbors, except that of rivalry (VIII, 5).

Alberti stresses rational and “functional” elements.
The site of the town must be healthful, in temperate
climate, conveniently placed for water supply, and easy
to defend. Convenience and clarity are the ruling prin-
ciples of his city plan. The town should be clearly laid
out, and the main streets conveniently connected with
the bridges and gates; the streets should be wide
enough not to be congested but not so wide as to be
too hot (IV, 5). The predominant aesthetic principle
is that of symmetry, particularly visible in the relation
of the shapes of the two rows of houses on both sides
of the street (VIII, 6).

Although Alberti probably was the first modern
author to articulate this attitude, similar tendencies can
be discerned in actual Italian architecture of his period.
In the Piazza San Marco in Venice, a standard design
had been repeated around a square, and a similar
procedure can be found in the square in front of the
SS. Annunziata in Florence. The same spirit also
governs Pius II's plans for Pienza, and Nicholas V's
idea for linking Saint Peter's with the Castel Sant'
Angelo in Rome (but in the latter project Alberti was
personally involved).

Closely related to Alberti, and probably influenced
by him, is Filarete, whose Trattato di architettura was
composed in 1460-64. It is written in a somewhat
romantic form which, as scholars have noted, brings
it into close relation to the Hypnerotomachia polifili
(written a few years later), and on ground of which
the author has sometimes been called a “romantic.”
Part of the treatise describes an imaginary city,
Sforzinda. Filarete depicts the pageantry accompany-
ing the founding of the city, the time of which is chosen
according to astrological observation. But behind these
“romantic” details there is a rational spirit which
reaches its clearest expression in the outlining of the
town plan.

Filarete's ideal city has the overall shape of an
octagonal star with a round piazza at its center from
which a radial system of streets emerges. Filarete is
wholeheartedly antimedieval, i.e., he is a radical critic
of the city that has merely “grown.” In his treatise
great emphasis is placed on regularity and on the
importance of having large squares. To the author's
mind, however, the proposed city is no artificial struc-
ture; Filarete believes that Sforzinda, the ville radieuse
of the Renaissance, is “beautiful and good and perfectly
in accord with the natural order.” At the same time,
Sforzinda is designed to meet the economic and social
needs of the community. Moreover, the town plan of
Sforzinda, although “perfectly in accord with the nat-
ural order,” translates into stone the political and social
order of the Italian city-states of the fifteenth century.
Cosmic and religious symbolism appears in the central
buildings of Sforzinda. The dome of the Cathedral is
covered by a mosaic representation of God in the form
of a “resplendent sun that lights all the dome with its
rays of gold,” surrounded by a hierarchy of angels and
saints. On the pavement beneath the dome there is a
map of “the lands and waters,” surrounded by the
symbols of the seasons and the elements (Book IX).

In several of his notes Leonardo da Vinci (who in
this case was interested mainly in problems of engi-
neering) sketches an interesting model of an ideal town:
the healthful city is built near the seashore or along a
river (so that the dirt may be carried away by the
water), and is constructed on two planes connected to
one another by stairs. On the upper level live the
“gentlemen” (gli uomini gentili), on the lower level
the poor (la poveraglia). Traffic and services are con-


centrated on the lower plane. The aesthetic principles
governing the town plan are largely functional. The
beauty of the city follows from its functional form and
its mathematical foundations. Thus, a given proportion
should dictate the height of the houses and the width
of the streets. At the same time, the city should be
built “according to human measure,” a well-known
concept in the Renaissance which, in the context of
urban planning, is already found in Filarete's treatise,
and was later fully expressed by Francesco di Giorgio.

In sum, then, in fifteenth-century thought the ideal
city is, first of all, a rational structure (and even in
studying ancient models the rational elements are
emphasized). Further, Quattrocento thought of the
model city, although containing some elements of cos-
mic symbolism, is mainly concerned with problems of
civil life, of how to make justice and wisdom work
effectively in the community and be clearly expressed
by urban architecture. Finally, the ideal city of the
fifteenth century is altogether on earth; it is neither
merged with, nor juxtaposed to, a “heavenly” city.

In the sixteenth century urbanistic thought under-
goes a significant transformation: different types of
symbolism acquire a greater significance in the outlin-
ing of the town plan than they had in the fifteenth
century, and the ties between the ideal and the real
city are less close. Although this process takes place
under the impact of the Counter-Reformation, there
is no return to medieval attitudes or models. Human-
istic symbols prevail, but they are often transformed,
given a new meaning and transplanted into a new
realm. The most original contribution of this period
is found in utopian town planning. The cities described
in the utopias are separated from real cities; they are
not placed in heaven, but are located in distant regions.
Geographical isolation is a persistent characteristic of
utopian descriptions. Civic functions, although de-
scribed in detail, are usually less important than sym-
bolic aspects in the outlining of the overall shape of
the utopian town plan. The architecture usually is of
an abstract regularity.

Utopian literature abounds in references to the ideal
town, but the most detailed description of the town
plan is given in Tommaso Campanella's City of the
written in 1602 and first published, in a Latin
version, in 1623. Although Campanella was a monk
trained in the Dominican convent of Naples, his
utopian city (which he locates in a distant isle) is
governed by a solar religion, and an astral cult performs
in it. For both the town as a whole and the central
building Campanella accepts the round form as the
most perfect. The overall shape of the City of the Sun
is round. The houses are arranged as circular walls,
or giri, concentric with the central circle in which the
temple is located. The temple itself, Campanella says,
“is perfectly round, free on all sides, but supported
by massive and elegant columns. This dome, an
admirable work, in the center or 'pole' of the temple
... has an opening in the middle directly above the
single altar in the center.... On the altar is nothing
but two globes, of which the larger is a celestial, the
smaller a terrestrial one.”

The round form, an old symbol of perfection, has
an interesting history in utopian town planning, and
frequently occurs both in the form of a radiating center
and as a concentric arrangement. Its immediate source
in Renaissance and baroque periods is the central plan
in religious architecture.

Campanella's City of the Sun is an encyclopedic
system with a “celestial” principle of organization. On
the walls of the temple are depicted all the stars of
heaven with their relation to things below. The walls
of the houses bear depictions of mathematical figures,
animals, and the different occupations of man; on the
outermost circle or wall are exhibited statues of great
men, moral leaders, and founders of religions. The City
of the Sun has indeed been understood (in accordance
with Campanella's intentions) as a “book” and has had
a significant influence on pedagogic thought. Comen-
ius' Orbis pictus is clearly patterned after Campanel-
la's City of the Sun.

Utopian thought in general has frequently been in-
terpreted as implying a criticism of the society in
which the utopia was written; what the author feels
as bad, or as missing, in his own social environment
is corrected, or supplied, in his utopia. This may also
hold true of the utopian town plan. The rigidly planned
and perfectly regular utopian town constitutes a criti-
cism of the “naturally grown” cities in which the
authors lived. The narrow streets and confused ar-
rangement of most medieval cities are criticized by
depicting their opposite as ideal and perfect. In this
respect, utopian town planning represents another
chapter in the history of the debate between the
planned and the grown city.

The rational and easily comprehended plan of the
imaginary town is also related to the authors' views
on the desirable structure of society as a whole. Partic-
ularly in the case of Campanella, the city plan seems
to express the perfectly regulated and completely
centralized structure of society which he envisaged.
The utopian town plan thus becomes a mirror image
of the utopian society.


The hectic social transformations and the rapid in-
crease in urban population in modern times led to a
heightened awareness of the social and economic


problems of the city. There also emerged moral atti-
tudes towards the urban settlement; it was criticized as
a place of vice or hailed as the promise of a radiant
future. Such thoughts and attitudes were expressed, and
modified, in actual town planning.

The Enlightenment conceived of the city as a place
of virtue. Voltaire considered London, the typical
modern city of his time, as the fostering mother of
social freedom and mobility as against the fixed hierar-
chy in rural society. He noticed that even the aristoc-
racy, traditionally connected with land, moved into the
cities, bringing culture to the hitherto uncouth towns-
men. Adam Smith, whose attitude to the city was more
ambivalent than Voltaire's, also defended the city in
relationship to the country. But he did see some of
the moral deficiencies of town life, particularly its
“unnaturalness and dependence.” The nostalgia for
rural life that was to characterize significant parts of
English social thought of the nineteenth century is
already expressed by Adam Smith. In Germany, where
no large cities existed, the radical humanists exalted
the communitarian ideal of the Greek city-state; but
also the medieval town appeared to the early romantics
as a culture-forming agent, and as the seat of virtues
like loyalty, honor, and simplicity. German thinkers
of the early nineteenth century (Schiller, Fichte,
Hölderlin) fused the characteristics of the Greek polis
and the medieval town into the image of a burgher-city
as a model of an ethical community.

In the town planning of the period the ideal of the
“planned” city clearly prevailed, although in actual
fact most cities were not built, or expanded, according
to an overall plan. The emerging science of city plan-
ning was challenged to provide rationally for the
necessities of a progressively more industrialized and
mechanized society. This led to the conception that
the city as a whole is “architecture.” Its spatial rela-
tionships, its organization, and the forms and levels of
activity in it require that a city be “built.”

At a very early stage of the modern period the
visionary architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806)
drew an elaborate plan for a “built” city. A project,
begun in 1773 when he was asked to propose some
improvements in the residential quarters of a small,
salt-producing town, continued all his life and resulted
in the publication of L'Architecture considérée sous le
rapport de l'art, des moeurs, et de la législation
Ledoux planned five volumes, but completed only one.
Filled with enthusiasm for J. J. Rousseau and the hope
for an improved social order, Ledoux envisioned his
ideal city and drew plans for it, thereby boldly com-
bining traditional patterns with original motifs. The
shape of his ideal town is a semicircle, with the factory
at its center and the important buildings on the rings.
He thus anticipated both Ebenezer Howard's “garden
city” and Le Corbusier's cité radieuse. Ledoux's poetic
gifts become particularly evident in his plans for indi-
vidual buildings which, although designed in the form
of simple geometric shapes, are permeated by a per-
sonal, subjective symbolism.

Ledoux's starting point was comparatively modern
(the salt-producing plant of Chaux) but the solutions
he proposed place him within the tradition of utopian
town planning. Like Campanella and other authors of
utopias he emphasized the principle of the “planned
city” and like them he preferred the round form.

The vision of an ideal city continued to exercise its
fascination in the later nineteenth century, but more
attention had now to be paid to problems arising from
economic and technical conditions. One specific type
of “built” city was proposed by Ebenezer Howard
(1850-1928), a London architect who was deeply in-
fluenced by an extended visit to the United States. In
order to counteract the industrial congestion of modern
cities (mainly in England), Howard evolved the con-
cept of the garden city. He published his proposals
in his work Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Reform
(1892), reprinted as Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1902).

Howard envisaged a self-contained town of strictly
predetermined size (approximately 35,000 inhabitants)
and plan. A well-balanced proportion between the
urban area and agricultural land is essential. Any in-
crease in population would be met by the creation of
satellites, none nearer than four miles to the original
city. The town plan of the garden city owes much to
Ledoux, and through him to the utopian tradition.
Howard's imagined city is round; factories and houses
are placed on belts of open land to combine town and
country advantages. (In this particular feature Howard
is perhaps preceded by some English and American
industrialists who moved their factories into the coun-
try and established villages around them.) Of particular
interest in Howard's plan is the fact that he paid atten-
tion to, and made provisions for, the specific joys of
urban life. Thus, in a wide glass arcade (significantly
called “Crystal Palace”) near a large park, that kind
of shopping is done “which requires the joy of deliber-
ation and selection.” Howard's garden city allows large
space for nature (not more than one sixth of the general
area should be covered by buildings), but it is a “built”
town, with rigidly prescribed boulevards, distribution
of buildings, etc. Even nature is planned, being funda-
mentally recreation ground. Howard's close relation
to what is known as the “English garden” is obvious.

Town planning in the twentieth century, although
it largely remains on paper, shows the profound
changes in urbanistic thought. Most of the problems
of contemporary town planning were anticipated by


Tony Garnier (1869-1914) in his first project for an
industrial town, designed in 1901-04. In his further
projects and commissions, and in his book Une cité
(1917) he discusses his plans in great detail.
Clearly distinguishing between the different functions
of the city (living, work, leisure, education, traffic),
Garnier undertakes to design a town which will fully
serve the needs of man in an industrial age. A bold
innovator in the use of materials and in the shape of
individual buildings (preferring an ascetic geometry),
he is also highly original in the disposition of the town
as a whole: he separates vehicular and pedestrian
traffic, designs a residential district without enclosed
courtyards but featuring continuous green areas, and
plans a community center that anticipates contem-
porary social centers.

Another architect and town planner who anticipated
the problems and shapes of the modern city, Antonio
Sant' Elia (1880-1916), was sometimes associated with
the Futurists. Sant' Elia was greatly attracted by some
features of North American civilization, particularly
by the romantic aspects of its technical development
and by the progressive expansion of an industrial me-
tropolis. His grandiose project for a Città Nuova was
shown in Milan in 1914. In the catalogue to the exhibi-
tion Sant' Elia published a manifesto on the need of
breaking with the past. The “New City” should corre-
spond to the mentality of men freed from the bonds
of tradition and conventions. In his many drawings a
major theme is the architecture of a metropolis which
is the result of a technological and industrialized soci-
ety. In designing towering buildings with exterior ele-
vators, multi-level road bridges, and imaginary fac-
tories (“monuments of the city of the future”), Sant'
Elia raised these modern forms to the level of symbols.

Garnier and Sant' Elia influenced Le Corbusier. Le
Corbusier's work in urbanism consists of a large
number of articles and books, and an impressive num-
ber of projects for town planning. Only a small part
of these projects has materialized (of particular
importance is the so-called Marseille Block of 1952).
Le Corbusier took a decisive step beyond Garnier and
Sant' Elia. While Garnier still thought of small towns,
limited to 35,000 inhabitants who are all engaged in
industry, and Sant' Elia's visions remained in bare
outline, Le Corbusier planned in detail for a city of
3,000,000 inhabitants. From the outset he steered to-
wards the problems of the “change-over town” (as he
later called it), a metropolis with diverse functions
which must be disentangled.

A significant part of Le Corbusier's theoretical
inquiry into the urban problem is a critical apprecia-
tion of cities of the past, particularly of the recent past,
and of the solutions that have been proposed to this
problem. Without ever allowing himself to be moved
by “local color” or aestheticism, he denounced the
blemishes of modern cities, that is, those aspects of the
city not well enough adapted to their various functions.
He also rejected the utopian ideas of limiting the size
of cities, and contrary to Frank Lloyd Wright, who
advocated the diffusion of urban communities, was
opposed to horizontal spreading of the urban complex.

Le Corbusier's work in urbanism bears the mark of
both rationalism and a philosophical image of man.
His rationalism leads to an analysis of the city's differ-
ent functions, and to an allocation of distinct spaces
to each function. The establishing of an orderly rela-
tionship between traffic lanes, on the one hand, and
living and working zones, on the other, is of primary
importance in this context. A famous result of this
approach is Le Corbusier's famous hierarchy of roads
(the 7 V system), starting with 1 V, an artery carrying
international and inter-urban traffic, and ending with
7 V, a fine capillary system in the zone reserved for
children and schools. The analytical character is
expressed even in small details. “So great is Le Cor-
busier's need for logical organization that, having to
lay out the vast capital of Candigarh, he divides the
vegetation to be used into six categories, each of which
receives a precise function” (F. Choay, p. 16).

Le Corbusier combines the analysis of the city's
functions with a philosophical image of man, for whom
the city is built. Although he emphasizes the specific-
ally modern conditions of urban life (millions of inhab-
itants in one metropolis, the decisive role of traffic)
and proposes specifically modern solutions (the
“Cartesian skyscraper,” the zoning of traffic), he is
deeply indebted to the humanistic tradition. The
thought of the utopians (especially of Charles Fourier)
was of particularly great importance for his work.
This is reflected even in his language: terms such as
“radiant city,” “architecture of happiness” are both
frequent in his writings and characteristic of his ideas
and attitudes.

In his work, both in individual buildings and in town
planning, he tries to achieve an “adaptation to the
human scale”: in individual buildings by applying the
“Modulor” (his own invention of a scale of architec-
tural proportions related to the proportions of the
human body), in the designing of the city as a whole
by assuming an hour of walking as the basic unit of
town planning. In his town planning he emphasizes
the city's center: on a small scale it is a community
center (as in St. Dié, 1945-46), on a monumental scale
it is a capitol (as in Candigarh, the metropolis of
Punjab, begun in 1950). Under Le Corbusier's influence
the “Athens Charter” was published by the interna-
tional architectural organization (CIAM) in 1933, set-


ting out data and requirements connected with the
planning of modern cities under five headings (Dwell-
ings, Recreation, Work, Transportation, Historic

Le Corbusier's work makes it evident that in the
twentieth century, as in former periods, town planning
is not only a highly complex technical task but involves
philosophical ideas and the creation, or application,
of traditional, symbolic forms.


1. General. Sir Patrick Abercrombie, Town and City
(London, 1944). Joseph Gantner, Grundformen der
europäischen Stadt
(Vienna, 1928). Pierre Lavedan, Histoire
de l'urbanisme,
2 vols. (Paris, 1926, 1941). Lewis Mumford,
The Culture of Cities (New York, 1938); idem, The City in
History: Its Origin, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects

(New York, 1961). Camillo Sitte, The Art of Building Cities
(New York, 1945). Paul Zucker, Town and Square: From the
Agora to the Village Green
(New York, 1959). For bibliogra-
phies, see: George C. Bestor and Holway R. Jones, City
Planning: A Basic Bibliography of Sources and Trends

(Sacramento, 1962); Philip Dawson and Sam B. Warner, Jr.,
“A Selection of Works Relating to the History of Cities,”
in Oscar Handlin and John Burchard, The Historian and
the City
(Cambridge, Mass., 1963), pp. 270-90.

2. Antiquity. India and the Near East: B. B. Dutt, Town
Planning in Ancient India
(Calcutta and Simla, 1925); Mir-
cea Eliade, “Centre du monde, temple, maison,” Le sym-
bolisme cosmique des monuments religieux
(Rome, 1957),
pp. 57-82; Henri Frankfort, The Art and Architecture of
the Ancient Orient
(Baltimore, 1959), with a good bibliogra-
phy; Francis John Haverfield, Ancient Town Planning
(Oxford, 1913); Stuart Piggott, Some Ancient Cities of India
(London, 1945); Earl Baldwin Smith, Egyptian Architecture
as Cultural Expression
(London, 1933). Greece: Fustel de
Coulanges, Numa Denis: The Ancient City (New York, 1955);
M. Erdmann, Zur Kunde der Hellenistischen Städtegrun-
(Strasbourg, 1879); Knud Fabricius, “Städtebau der
Briechen,” in Pauly, Realencyclopädie der classischen
revised by Georg Wissowa (1929);
A. H. M. Jones, The Greek City from Alexander to Justinian
(Oxford, 1940); Roland Martin, L'urbanisme dans la Grèce
(Paris, 1956). Rome: R. C. Bosanquet, “Greek and Roman
Towns,” Town Planning Review (1914); William Warde
Fowler, Social Life in Rome at the Age of Cicero (London,
1908); Léon Homo, Rome impériale et l'urbanisme dans
(Paris, 1951); Guido Kaschnitz-Weinberg, Über
die Grundformen der Italisch-Römischen Struktur,
2 vols.
(Munich, 1944, 1950).

3. The Middle Ages. R. Borrmann, “Vom Städtebau im
islamischen Osten,” Städtebauliche Vorträge (1914). A. E.
Brinckmann, Spätmittelalterliche Stadtanlagen in Süd-
(Berlin, 1910). Edith Ennen, Frühgeschichte der
europäischen Stadt
(Bonn, 1953). Karl Gruber, Die Gestalt
der deutschen Stadt: Ihr Wandel aus der geistigen Ordnung
der Zeiten
(Munich, 1952). Christoph Klaiber, Die Grund
rissbildung der deutschen Stadt im Mittelalter (Berlin, 1912).
Achille Luchaire, Les communes françaises, 2nd ed. (Paris,
1911). Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities (Princeton, 1925). Earl
Baldwin Smith, Architectural Symbolism of Imperial Rome
and the Middle Ages
(Princeton, 1956); idem, La città
nell'alto medioèvo
(Spoleto, 1959).

4. Renaissance and Utopian Town Planning. Wolfgang
Braunfels, Italienische Städtebaukunst (Berlin, 1950). André
Chastel, “Cités idéales: Marqueteurs italiens du XVe siècle,”
L'oeil (Dec. 1957). Horst de la Croix, “Military Architecture
and the Radial City Plan in Sixteenth Century Italy,” The
Art Bulletin,
42 (1960), 263-90. S. Lang, “The Ideal City
from Plato to Howard,” Architectural Review, 112 (1952).
Robert Klein, “L'urbanisme utopique de Filarete à Valentin
Andreae,” Actes du Colloque international sur les utopies
à la Renaissance
(Brussels, 1963), pp. 209-30. Georg Münter,
Idealstädte: Ihre Geschichte vom 15.-17. Jahrhundert (Berlin,
1957). Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age
of Humanism
(London, 1949).

5. Modern. Giulio C. Argan, “Il pensiero critico di
Antonio Sant' Elia,” L'arte (Sept. 1930). Jean Badovici and
Albert Morance, L'oeuvre de Tony Garnier (Paris, 1938).
Françoise Choay, Le Corbusier (New York, 1960). Yvan
Christ, Projets et divagations de Claude-Nicolas Ledoux
(Paris, 1961). Gordon Cullen, Townscape (London, 1962).
Frederick Gibberd, Town Design (London, 1953). Roland
Rainer, Städtebau und Wohnkultur (Tübingen, 1948).


[See also Astrology; Enlightenment; Iconography; Organ-
icism; Renaissance;
Romanticism in Literature; Technology;