The Urban Millennium: The City-Building Process from the Early Middle Ages to the Present

The Urban Millennium: The City-Building Process from the Early Middle Ages to the Present

The Urban Millennium: The City-Building Process from the Early Middle Ages to the Present

The Urban Millennium: The City-Building Process from the Early Middle Ages to the Present

Synopsis

The Urban Millenniumfocuses upon the spatial adaptation of cities as a factor in urbanization. Konvitz explores how the evolution of city building strategies has accompanied and facilitated other aspects of urban development. By taking a long historical perspective, he shows that cities were more easily adapted to changing circumstances before and during the industrialization. Konvitz also draws out the implications of his analysis for contemporary urban problems. He challenges many contemporary assumptions of architecture and city planning and suggests that we should learn to appreciate an approach to building which allows for the continual modification of individual structures and districts, and which places more control over the environment in the hands of the users.

Excerpt

This book derives from a series of lectures on European urban history which I presented in 1975 to a faculty seminar at Michigan State University. I structured the seminar around several dynamic, long-term trends in European urban development. What factors, I wanted to know, made possible an increase both in the number of cities and in the size of the largest cities in Europe in nearly every century since the early Middle Ages? Why did efforts to limit city size in both the preindustrial and industrial eras fail, and how have cities coped with the problems of growth and decline in the past?

What impact did preindustrial urban developments have on industrialization and modern urbanization? And, finally, what relevance has urban history to the study of contemporary urban conditions? As I prepared my lectures, the role of the city-building process began to stand out from other variables and factors as a topic for further study. This topic appeared all the more important to me given contemporary concern about such man-environment issues as how people perceive a city and structure it mentally, what needs people try to satisfy through the environment, how environmental choices are made, and who pays for the costs of environmental change. Had I been less aware of modern trends related to design, I might have chosen a different set of historical issues to study. In response to questions and comments from the seminar participants, I committed myself to undertake a more profound analysis of the ways Europeans and Americans built, perceived, exploited, and modified city space.

This study touches upon many topics which are rarely considered . . .

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