Landscapes of Pre-Industrial Cities

The use of the word “landscape” to describe the formation and infrastructure of cities largely seems to express contemporary preoccupations with the post-industrial urban condition. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution is often seen as a turning point in the emergence of the urban landscape of the modern metropolis. The large city as commonly experienced today in the world is certainly dependent on a range of recent breakthroughs in construction technology, climate control, communication, and transportation. In this view, urban landscapes appear as a historically late development and are therefore seen to embody an essentially modern and Western concept.

Yet, features associated with contemporary urban landscapes can also be found in pre-industrial contexts in different time periods and across the globe. Pre-industrial urban settlements generally occupied land that had been used for other, mostly productive, purposes, and their development involved complex and dynamic relationships with the management of natural resources, especially food and water. While ancient cities are traditionally studied as the centers of commerce, trade, and artisan production as well as the seats of secular and religious authorities, questions of how the original clusters of agrarian communities evolved into urban formations, how they were spatially organized, and what their specific landscape characteristics were deserve further analysis and discussion. Another closely related question concerns the role of environmental factors and the presence or lack of particular natural resources in enabling this process of urbanization.

Submission deadline: 150916