Classical and Medieval Europe

The Greek Hippodamus (c. 407 BC) has been dubbed the "Father of City Planning" for his design of Miletus; Alexander commissioned him to lay out his new city of Alexandria, the grandest example of idealized urban planning of the ancient Mediterranean world, where the city's regularity was facilitated by its level site near a mouth of the Nile. The Hippodamian, or grid plan, was the basis for subsequent Greek and Roman cities.[5] Aristotle's critique and indeed ridicule of Hippodamus, which appears in Politics 2. 8, is perhaps the first known example of a criticism of urban planning. The ancient Romans used a consolidated scheme for city planning, developed for military defense and civil convenience. The basic plan consisted of a central forum with city services, surrounded by a compact, rectilinear grid of streets, and wrapped in a wall for defense. To reduce travel times, two diagonal streets crossed the square grid, passing through the central square. A river usually flowed through the city, providing water, transport, and sewage disposal.[6] Many European towns, such as Turin, preserve the remains of these schemes, which show the very logical way the Romans designed their cities. They would lay out the streets at right angles, in the form of a square grid. All roads were equal in width and length, except for two, which were slightly wider than the others. One of these ran eastwest, the other, northsouth, and intersected in the middle to form the center of the grid. All roads were made of carefully fitted flag stones and filled in with smaller, hard-packed rocks and pebbles. Bridges were constructed where needed. Each square marked by four roads was called an insula, the Roman equivalent of a modern city block. Each insula was 80 yards (73 m) square, with the land within it divided. As the ity developed, each insula would eventually be filled with buildings of various shapes and sizes and crisscrossed with back roads and alleys. Most insulae were given to the first settlers of a Roman city, but each person had to pay to construct his own house. The city was surrounded by a wall to protect it from invaders and to mark the city limits. Areas outside city limits were left open as farmland. At the end of each main road was a large gateway with watchtowers. A portcullis covered the opening when the city was under siege, and additional watchtowers were constructed along the city walls. An aqueduct was built outside the city walls. The collapse of Roman civilization saw the end of Roman urban planning, among other arts. Urban development in the Middle Ages, characteristically focused on a fortress, a fortified abbey, or a (sometimes abandoned) Roman nucleus, occurred "like the annular rings of a tree",[7] whether in an extended village or the center of a larger city. Since the new center was often on high, defensible ground, the city plan took on an organic character, following the irregularities of elevation contours like the shapes that result from agricultural terracing. The ideal of wide streets and orderly cities was not lost, however. A few medieval cities were admired for their wide thoroughfares and orderly arrangements, but the juridical chaos of medieval cities (where the administration of streets was sometimes passed down through noble families), and the characteristic tenacity of medieval Europeans in legal matters prevented frequent or large-scale urban planning until the Renaissance and the early-modern strengthening of central government administration, as European society transited from city-states to what we would recognize as a more modern concept of a nation-state.