Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
BRASILIA AND ITS KIND

IN MANY places between New York, Diisseldorf, and Milan monumental buildings -- functional ones -- are still going up, thanks mainly to the large industrial concerns and the insurance companies. (They prove, incidentally, that not everything monumental is beautiful.) In New York the immense concentration of such buildings, with their exaggerated ostentation -- in a free competition of conceit, as it were -- has nevertheless created a vital and impressive city.

Even in antiquity it sometimes happened that cities were built according to carefully worked-out plans, although compared with the labyrinthine cities they seldom endured. Planning consisted mainly of establishing a pattern of streets which, if need be, could be extended in all directions. This was, of course, a rather basic decision, because there is hardly anything more permanent in a city than the course of its streets, which generally outlives all architectural changes by hundreds and often thousands of years. During the reconstruction efforts in the large German cities after the Second World War, changes in the course of streets were only very rarely made. The Hohe Strasse in Cologne still follows exactly the same route it took in Roman days.

The checkerboard pattern -- straight streets with right-angle intersections and, consequently, rectangular building areas -- has always been highly favoured. About 3000 B.C., Mohenjo-Daro was built in this pattern. The geometrically fixed limits of the barracks cities which in the Soviet Union always sprout when a new industrial site is being developed have as their oldest model the quadratically arranged streets of Kahun, the town built by Pharaoh Sesostris II about 1890 B.C. to house the labourers who were building the Pyramid of Illahun. Even in Babylon all streets outside the temple area were intersected at right angles.

Along strictly geometric lines and for the first time completely planned in all its functions was Miletus, which was built by the architect Hippodamus. Against strong resistance from the representatives of agrarian reform, he turned the checkerboard pattern, which he insisted upon, and which often necessitated tremendous

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