Friday, November 2, 2007


After Alexander the Great conquered Western Asia in the 4th century BC, he and his successors founded new cities. Discharged soldiers become their first citizens. Many of these were laid out with a regular 'chess-board' street-plan.

Alexander himself and his architect, one Dinocrates of Rhodes or perhaps of Macedonia, seem to have employed it at Alexandria in Egypt. Antioch, its port, Seleucia Priera, Apamea and Laodicea – all founded by Seleuceus I – have blocks of the same size (112m x 58m). The grid plan, history shows, is much liked by military colonizers.

An example is Priene, a little town on the east coast of the Aegean. Early in the Macedonian age it was re-founded. It had about 400 individual dwelling-houses and a population of about 4,000.

It provides an interesting case of the grid applied to a steeply sloping site. But it is a rather functional arrangement: no striking artistic effects appear to have been attempted. No streets give vistas of stately buildings. No squares, other than the Agora, provide open spaces where larger buildings might be grouped and properly seen. Open spaces were very rare in Priene. Gardens, seem entirely absent.

A, B, C. Gates. D, E, F, H, M, P. Temples (see fig. 7). G. Agora, Market. I. Council House, K. Prytaneion. L, Q. Gymnasium. N. Theatre, O. Water-reservoir, R. Race-course, from Haverfield

Perspective view, from Haverfield

But the Greek grid was alien to many of the local cultures conquered by Alexander. Many reverted to original ways – buildings encroached into the wide streets, and open space were taken over by small shops and stalls, and the grid would lose its form.

References: Spiro Kostof, The City Shaped, 1991.
F. Haverfield, Ancient Town-Planning, 1913, download from Project Gutenberg

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Kyle and Svet Keeton said...

Strange how people just create what they want. The best laid plans are never what the masses think it should be. People will adapt anything to make it comfortable.



Your, "So you want to be an architect" was a good article. Yes I do and always did want to be. But my society and family pushed me other ways. My favorite classes were Drafting in school.

Have a nice weekend.

Mazlin Ghazali said...

Its true, i'll be looking at more caes of how people change the grid to suit their way of life.

Thanks for your comments.

And funny, I did not seriously want to be an architect until quite late. And my idea of architecture is quite different from most of my peers.