Discus the early development of urban architecture in the ancient Near East, with specific reference to one or two cities in the ‘Fertile Crescent. ‘ The history of civilization has been one of the most significant fields of study for a very long time. After the agriculture revolution the number of population grow rapidly, civilizations were formed and cities were being built to accommodate the growing populations of the ancient civilization. Architecture has always been a vital part of the civilizations throughout the history of mankind.
As Nations become powerful and prosperous their Architecture becomes more dominant by building rater cities, public splendor and religious monuments. From the birth of civilizations until now many civilizations have appeared and disappeared from the face of the earth for various reasons. The ones that have survived and claim their existence have carried out their identity, culture and Architecture from their ancestors. Those civilizations that have vanished due to foreign invasions or other unknown reasons have left us their ancient cities and Architecture that need to be discovered.
A great example that we can refer to is the Ancient Near East, where one f the earliest human civilizations were living in. It is told that the Sumerians were the first civilization that once lived in Mesopotamia which is in Ancient near east and worlds first cities also developed in here which includes Summer (Our) and Babylon (Wildfowl & Matthews, n. D. ) In this Essay I will be focusing on the urban development and Architecture of the Ancient civilizations which includes the Sumerians and the Babylonians that were based in Mesopotamia the lands of Fertile Crescent.
The Ancient Near East which is now known as the Middle East was the birth place of he civilization, It was here in Mesopotamia where the world’s first civilization (Sumerians) claimed their existence (Wildfowl & Matthews, n. D. ) The Sumerians lived in Mesopotamia (a fertile land between the Tigris River and Euphrates River in the Ancient Near East). These two rivers were very important for the Sumerian Civilization because of agriculture and trade, since it was one of the main routs of their economy.
The Sumerians were the first civilizations that farmed in large scale “It was here that the first farmers learned to cultivate grain, growing what they needed ether than gathering wild varieties”(Wildfowl & Matthews, n. D. ) Following the agriculture revelation and a great increase in population led to the multiplication of large communal centers of an urban character (Lamp, n. D. , BC. 8) As it is still apparent that when a nation becomes powerful and prosperous their architecture becomes more prominent and there cities become more complex.
Following the agriculture revelation the Sumerian economy grow rapidly and at the same time cities were taking shape and also public splendor and religious monuments were merging from the middle of the cities. “For the people of Ancient near east there cities meant more than Just a city for them, it was a complex that only a god could have created it and according to the ideal concept of the people in the ancient near east, cities did not develop in slow growth, to paraphrase the cosmogony: there was time when the city had not been made… And then the city was made” (Lamp, n. D. , p. ) The Sumerians built their cities around a huge monumental religious building with a tower that can be seen from up to km away. They built the high tower (Gujarat) n the middle of the city that the farmers far away could still see their house of God and for the Sumerians the Gujarat was a connection between their city and the havens. The city was enclosed by a wall that was surrounded by farms and villages. It is very important to understand the history of Architecture and planning before we could make any comment about the relationship between modern Architecture and ancient Architecture.
The western Architecture that can be mentioned as a “modern Architecture” derived from the Architecture of the very first civilizations in Mesopotamia (Watkins, 2005, p. ) The city of Our is one of the most famous Ancient Cities of the Sumerians therefore it can be mentioned as a typical Sumerian Urban Architecture example. Similar to the other Sumerian cities the city of Our also had a Gujarat (a huge religious monumental building) in the middle of the main city, it is estimated that it took at least 1500 men 5 years Just to build its base.
The main city of Our that was an enclosed area of 89 hectares with estimated population 34,000 people was surrounded by a huge mud-brick retaining wall that had another wall at the top which was built out of burnt-bricks. The size and population of the Our city including the towns and near suburbs that was situated outside the wall of the city was huge. As the author George R. Collins mentioned in his book (Cities and planning in the Ancient Near East) “Greater Our with its suburbs, merchant quarters and dependencies might have been a City of a quarter million people. (Lamp, n. D. , p. 15) The Architecture of the houses behind the city wall was very similar to each other; they were built out of mud-brick and they all had low doors and a few air vents in order to keep the interior cool in the summer. None of the houses was aligned with heir neighbors “the orientation of the buildings is non uniformed, with some designed to face the circular roadways and others positioned in what appears to be a more ad hoc fashion”(Asana & Herrmann, 2010, p. 6) Considering the layout, design and materials of the Mesopotamia cities and houses it becomes clear that the people of Mesopotamia were moderately conservative in terms of their approach to planning their cities and buildings(Lamp, n. D. , p. 17) Babylon the capital of Babylonian situated on the old Euphrates in Mesopotamia which is a part of modern day Iraq is one of the ancient cities that stands equally with Athens and Rome as a culture ancestor of the western civilization.
It was one of the large cities of its time that had a population of around half a million people including the suburbs and towns outside the city wall (Sags, 2000, p. 26) The city and its temples were destroyed many times by foreign invaders and were frequently rebuilt because of its religious importance. The city of Babylon too like other cities in the ancient Near East had its own Architecture and planning identity, it was here that brick was widely used for religious and monumental buildings. Excavation in Iraq as revealed the city grid plan with its double walls, towers and canal connecting it to the river, as well as the foundations of brick built Temples, Palaces, fortifications and the famous Gujarat”(Watkins, 2005, up. 18-20) The city had a rectangular shape with an area of 404. 8 Hectares that was surrounded by a double fortification wall approximately mm in width with a mm cavity area in between that were reinforced by strong towers and a moat.
The city had 8 main gates that lead to major streets behind the city walls and the main streets that leads to the city are paved “the main approach to the city was from a wide paved road now known as the processional way’ (Watkins, 2005) The hanging gardens that were arranged around five enormous courtyards and the massive walls of Babylon were once counted amongst the 7 wonders of the ancient world (Watkins, 2005, p. 12) Monumental and Residential buildings of the Ancient Near East As I mentioned above that most of the ancient cities were quite similar to each other in terms planning, the residential housing planning was not very different too.
A typical city in the Ancient Near East would have had a monumental building in the middle of the itty with residential buildings surrounding it. According to the excavators there was a planning idea that was followed when building during the fourth millennium B. C. “The plan shows that there has been great concern for balance and symmetry in the layout of the single buildings and their fades, but there is little regard for the alignment of the temples or their relationship to one another. (Lamp, n. D. , p. 19) This reinforces the idea that the overall compositional principal was undermined as long as the individual buildings were planned considering symmetry, axes and balance. Their concern for formal planning, symmetry and axial approach is never consistently carried trough but is only applied to parts of the building” (Movement, AFAIK, & Woodlouse, 2003) Letter the Babylonians adopted the same fundamentals of the Mesopotamia planning without bringing any minor changes to it.
The residential planning on the other hand was very basic, a town or a suburb was growing from a single house, and even the cities were developing in the same manner. The conclusion is that there was no difference between grown cities and planned cities. At the same time there is one principle that has always remained throughout the story of ancient planning which is the orientation of the buildings. Most of the buildings in the Ancient Near East face North West where the most pleasant wind comes from.
Following the agriculture revelation for the first time in the ancient Near East, the number of population grow in the region and trade was becoming more common through the Tigris River and Euphrates River. Ancient Near East was home to the world’s first civilization and it was here that city planning and monumental buildings first appeared. Some of the architecture in the ancient Near East was counted amongst the 7 wonders of the ancient world which includes the hanging gardens in the Assyrian city and the massive walls of the Babylon city.