Foundations: What is a city?
Footprints: The city shaped.
The Arts: The city observed.
Deconstructing the Worlds First City
TungDepartment of Anthropology, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
Note: Burcu Tung has been working on the Çatalhöyük
site since 1997, and is currently looking at the architecture of
The idea with which this talk will engage is that Çatalhöyük
was the worlds first city. This idea has been printed time and
time again in countless publications; however, I believe that we
should look at Çatalhöyük differently. Çatalhöyük
is not necessarily a city. In order to examine this difference,
I will introduce you to the history of the excavation and the history
of the concepts associated with this excavation site. I hope to
show you why this site is interesting, and how the distinction between
what is a city and what is not a city is historically important.
Can we see Çatalhöyük in a different way?
This image is a photograph of ongoing excavation at Çatalhöyük.
It is a dense archaeological site; you can see people doing things
everywhere in this photo, in many different buildings that were
constructed adjacent to one another. The building of Çatalhöyük
took place during a transition phase of growing animal and agricultural
domestication. During this time some people decided to settle down,
and this is of extraordinary importance. Archaeology focuses on
settlements and the people who move back and forth within these
If you take a look at this map of the modern Middle East, you can
see that Çatalhöyük is in present-day southern
Turkey. Çatalhöyük dates back to the Neolithic
(New Stone) Age, and was dated to approximately 12,000 years ago.
In the early twentieth century, the radio-carbon revolution allowed
archaeologists to give approximate dates to organic materials, a
very important step in the field of archaeology. This Neolithic
Revolution was a term coined by Gordon Childe, and refers to a very
important period in human history during which people began to settle
down and create the first permanent settlements. The research that
took place in the Middle East has uncovered many interesting sites
that have led archaeologists to talk about the changes that took
place during the Neolithic. They asked many questions:
1. Did people settle down and become sedentary during this period
2. Did people domesticate animals?
3. What was the symbolism of the period?
4. What happened to people during this period?
5. Was there a change in the way people depicted human and animal
forms in figurines, etc?
The answers to these questions are disputed. What we know from
archaeology is a disputed record. We only have certain things, and
only a handful of sites. Many researchers, for example, are quite
loath to talk about a revolution in symbolism. The evidence is inconclusive
because the Paleolithic record is not protected from the environment.
To take another issue, how does one define sedentism? One answer
is that most people have a primary settlement and live there throughout
the year, but this is also open to interpretation.
Cities: A Theater of Social Activity (Lewis Mumford)
One of the guide questions in this conference is: What is
a City? Lewis Mumford defined it as a theater of social
activity. Generally, we see it as a central place with centralized
control (for example, a palace, temple, government building), hierarchical
relations, social division of labor, a means for transportation
or movement, a means of infrastructure, and communal areas for social
interaction. Archaeologically, we define cities through their imprints
and their architecture; more importantly, we see the city through
its human experience and community formation. Architecture is the
surviving footprint, and unfortunately, for the Neolithic, we only
have a partial record. Given the evidence that follows, I believe
it is wrong for us to refer to these settlements as cities.
Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture):
First, lets look at the settlement of Jericho, which is in
the modern day a disputed territory of Israel/Palestine. Jericho
was a beautiful settlement, and has a long history of excavation.
Kathleen Kenyan found a tower that dated to the Neolithic. This
is the first communal structure that has been found in Jericho,
and the first structure to require a communal effort for construction.
Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture):
Nevali Çori and Göbekli Tepe
Across this particular landscape, there are quite a few settlements
that show a very interesting shift in the way people were constructing
settlements. These two sites in Turkey are marked by big buildings,
stones that were cut by people, and the widespread construction
of certain symbolic forms. Both of these sites predate Çatalhöyük
and date to a time when agriculture was much less commonly practiced
in the region. There were other things happening at a similar time
Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture):
This site was excavated by Robert Braidwood for many years. This
site shows a continuous span of settlement, and a much different
culture from that of Çatalhöyük. A sacred site,
where they found approximately 400 human skulls and a stone slab
blotted with blood residue, marks the building.
Defining Cities Archaeologically (mostly relying on architecture):
Now we move to Çatalhöyük. It is a big site, only
a small portion of which has been excavated. New excavations are
taking place in the northern areas, but what we know is based on
the excavation of only about 6% of the site. The houses were built
one on top of the other, and it is fairly obvious that this hill
was artificially made.
The first excavations took place in the early 1960s, at a time
when archaeologists were very excited about the Neolithic period.
They were finding sites all over the world, but the Fertile
Crescent became the focus of archaeologists gaze as they
came to believe that domesticated crops and human culture spread
out from that area. At that time, people did not think that the
Neolithic existed in the area that is present-day Turkey. The discovery
of Çatalhöyük was a hit with archaeologists, and
provided the field with much new information. James Mellaart could
delineate about 1012 layers of buildings, built one on top of the
other. He also believed that this site was occupied for about 1000
years, a theory that has largely been confirmed by subsequent excavations.
The settlement was very dense. Built on top of an alluvial plane,
Çatalhöyük is marked by its mud-brick houses as
there was no rock with which to begin construction. Wooden posts
were used to prop up the houses and their roofs. They were built
immediately adjacent to one another, with doors being on the roofs
as in a honeycomb.
Question: So there was a hole in the roof?
Answer: Yes. There was a ladder inside the house that would
lead to a hole. We think there was a wooden door that would close
it off from rain and snow. There could be adjoining rooms with crawl
holes as well.
Question: Was the cooking done on the inside or on the outside?
Answer: Both. At the southern end of the house, there was
a stove with a hole for exhaust, but there were also hearths on
Question: Is there evidence of animal discards?
Answer: Yes, there is evidence of animal discards. There
is no evidence of ritual slaughter, but there is evidence of feasting.
Question: A settlement pattern like this may have been an
adaptation to the harsh weather. It would be cooler in the summer,
and warmer in the winter. Is this an advanced innovation?
Answer: We are still debating the reasons for this. Was this
a major innovation? There is another site in Central Turkey that
predates Çatalhöyük by 700800 years, where
the houses are positioned next to one another and the doors were
on the roofs. This practice must have been learned from someone
else, because archaeologists went deep into the first layers to
find where this came from, and they werent able to.
Question: Did they share a wall?
Answer: Each had their own walls. This is another reason
why the site it is important, because it shows definitive households
with different identities, differences. They were similar, yes,
and you can guess where you are going to find an oven or food bin,
but the details are different.
Question: Did they have furniture?
Answer: There are traces of matting, bits and pieces of wood
that may have been used as some form of furniture, but nothing like
tables and chairs.
Question: Sixth Grade textbooks talk about built-in platforms
Answer: Yes, on the eastern and western walls. This is for
the differentiation of space. People would cook on the southern
end, and seemed to have been particular about keeping their platforms
James Mellaart uncovered the architectural density that looks like
what you see in these pictures. This site is archaeologically very
complex. We have good dating techniques, but we dont know when
it was first inhabited or when it was finally abandoned. This makes
any guess as to the density of the settlement somewhat problematic.
Some say as many as 8,000 inhabitants, some say as few as 2,000
Mellaart also found a good deal of symbolic expression in Çatalhöyük.
He believed some of the buildings to be shrines, decorated with
bullhorns, ibex horns, mother goddesses, leopards, bulls, etc. He
thought that the cattle depicted here were domesticated, and theorized
that cattle domestication took place in Çatalhöyük
in the Neolithic and then moved to Europe. These designs are far
from being simple geometric patterns; for example, one image shows
a mother goddess giving birth to a baby. After looking at images
like this, Mellaart decided that this was a place where people domesticated
plants and animals. The boar represents males, while the figurines
(seen here) represent females. Given this form of symbolic expression,
Mellaart concluded that Çatalhöyük was indeed a
city. However, with the progress of archaeology and a greater number
of excavations, some of his ideas have become a little outdated.
This is difficult for us to understand in North America, but in
Çatalhöyük, they buried their ancestors under the
floors of their houses. This is a practice we see throughout the
world in different places and at different times. In terms of burial
practice, archaeologists have not yet been able to define the difference
between the respective roles and status of men and women.
Trade and the Beginning of Agriculture
Mellaart also knew that this site participated in the obsidian
trade. He said, Ok, great, this is the center of trade in Turkey,
and people were extremely involved in this trade. This is a city
in the sense that residents went to Cappadocia to get goods, and
Çatalhöyük became the center of a trade route.
As a result of Mellaarts excavations and theories, Çatalhöyük
became a world-famous site. Recent excavations, however, have been
a little more meticulous and more reserved in their conclusions.
Ian Hodder, for example, excavated and documented only a few houses,
in addition to reopening excavation on Mellaarts houses for
the first time. He looked for an answer to the following questions:
What was it about animal domestication that was important? Was this
really an important agricultural center? Was this really the center
of the obsidian trade? The new excavations also took a multiple-scale
approach. What happened in one particular house? What happened in
the environment around Çatalhöyük? How did the
environment shape its people?
The site itself was located next to a river, and Neil Roberts,
a geomorphicist, determined that it could possibly have been flooded
for three months of the year. The farming that took place at Çatalhöyük
was dry-land farming, but the site itself was swampy. The whole
idea of Çatalhöyük as an agricultural center began
to fall apart. It was decided that 1) We didnt really know
what was happening; 2) People were farming about twelvemiles away
from the city; or 3) They may have built canals that would allow
them to practice agriculture on drier grounds.
The UC Berkeley Team, Directed by Ruth Tringham
Archaeologists from the UC Berkeley team have also been excavating
Çatalhöyük, and are interested in the daily life
of Çatalhöyük. Archaeologists are learning a lot
about the residents' diet, which was made up mostly of legumes (peas,
lentils, chickpeas), fruits and berries, nuts, barley, wheat, and
small portions of sheep or goat (difficult to tell the difference
between the two). Our new research on cattle bones leads us to determine
that cattle were not domesticated. The bones belonged to a wild
species that was hunted. Deer and boar were also hunted from faraway
mountainous regions. All in all, they seem to have had a fairly
high variety of food in their diets.
Question: Is there an easy way to tell whether livestock
was wild or domesticated?
Answer: You compare the size of the bones
stock is generally smaller. Also, it is important to look at the
morphology in the skull, because when animals become domesticated,
they are more juvenile in their features. In Çatalhöyük,
the sheep and the goats were wilder than the others. Age can tell
you whether they are herded or not, or if you have a majority or
males or not. There are multiple lines of evidence.
Questions: Did they have other domesticated animals?
Answer: They may have had dogs, but we havent found
any in the Neolithic site. They had a lot of birdsas it was a swampy
area there were storks. There is a considerable amount of fishbone,
but we think it might have been in the mud and brick already. There
were no chickens.
The Berkeley team had a great house that we worked on, which looks
fairly complex from this image. The holes next to the walls are
post-retrieval kits: when they abandoned a house, people recycled
the wooden posts because wood was scarce. A platform on the northeastern
side is a burial kit, where five individuals were buried, but because
they were buried in different times, the earlier burials were more
disturbed. There is also a wall with symbolic association.
Question: Do the walls go all the way to the ceiling?
Answer: Walls were 3 meters high, but what we have left is
1.5 meters worth of wall. They would knock them down into the house,
and then smooth out what was there and build on top of it. Sometimes
they built on a dump area, sometimes they built on top of someone
elses abandoned house, sometimes half and half, very complex. Built
up in a funky way, difficult for us to understand when one was abandoned.
Question: Why build on top of the old rubble, and not on
a virgin site?
Answer: They had nowhere else to go. They had to construct
in the actual settlement. It was important for them not to leave
where they were. They had ancestors buried in their floor. We dont
know who had the chance to build a house. If I were them, I wouldnt
have gone away either!
Question: Did the settlement expand at all from the original
Answer: We cant tell. We hit virgin soil, and the architectural
record shows only two buildings here. One level shared a wall, one
had its own building. We dont know how big it was or how far it
We cant call this site a city anymore. But the website says
it still is. There are certainly politics involved here. More funding
will follow the excavation of a major site. So why not call it a
city? It all comes down to the question of how one defines a city.
In the modern sense, we look at population density. But in ancient
times, people think the biggest ones conteained 5,000 inhabitants
or so. A city shows a specific division of labor and hierarchical
divisions (whether open or covered) but there are also central locations
from which the city can be governed. These are things we dont
necessarily see at Çatalhöyük, nor do we see the
control mechanisms we associate with the city.
Question: If you got to the center of the mound and found
some sort of central building, government structure, etc. would
you redefine how you feel about it?
I dont believe that you will find a
central structure. Maybe call it a proto-city, but I am uncomfortable
looking at a city like this. I think there is a lack of evidence.
What is a city?
Question: Ruins . . . do all of the ruins show domestic
activity? Were there religious things going on in some rooms, and
domestic things in other ones? Was there a division of room use?
Answer: There were rooms for domestic and symbolic activities.
They were integrated together, one with the other. Replastering
the walls, repainting the doors, were symbolic as well. When Mellaart
found things on the walls, he thought they were shrines, but they
do also show domestic activity. They were all households, and what
was found may have represented specific lineages and plans, may
have been core houses for a family in which all family members were
buried, with satellite houses around it. This is evidence for it
to be a city, with evidence of hierarchy and power relationships
where people are trying to negotiate their status. But there is
no evidence of aggression, disputes . . . things worked quite fluidly.
There is one level where there are burnt houses, but thats
for another day.
Question: While we find burials at each of the domiciles,
households, was their any evidence of special significance of one
particular personsomeone with eminence, status, privilege,
Answer: We dont see that. It is a disputed factor. One
thing that we found a few years ago was a burial with a woman holding
a plastered skull in her hands. The first thing we thought was that
the skull must be a mans. Based on the analysis done on the
bone the first time an anthropologist saw it, it may have been a
womans. There was decapitation: some burials have skulls; we
find skulls on the ground. No sexual preference involved. In the
beginning the anthropologists thought some might be female which
now they call male. It is very difficult to be certain about this.
Everything is very disputed, up in the air.
Question: How do you know that replastering was symbolic
and not functional?
Answer: It was done consistently throughout every house,
and there are phases of replastering with different colors coming
at similar timescycles. Some walls were repainted and plastered.
We dont know 100% percent, but we think that it was symbolic. One
thing that is important in archaeology that we have to use analogy
for our findings.
Question: Was the reason to create this city choice? Did
a natural disaster force people here? Did they want to create a
tighter community or become city-dwellers instead of nomads? If
you look at us now, the closer we are, the further we are symbolically.
We have no sense of community.
Answer: The beginnings tie in to the creation of the community.
This place was inhabited continuously for 1400 years; things changed
through time but much was repeated. This community stayed until
the bitter end. One of the newer findings is that plastering was
symbolic and found in the Neolithic Age. We actually see the making
of lime here, and Plaster of Paris was used to make the floors;
we see this as a regular practice. We see this in many sites, but
people stopped making it. It is easy to do, mix lime with water
and splash it on.
Question: Was the entrance to the house above the flood
Answer: Houses themselves were built above the flood line.
The first layer was probably built on perma-dry soil.
We were also doubting some of the fantastic bulls heads found
by Mellaart. We werent finding any because we excavated very
slowly. Now we do, in about one house per year. He found about one
per day. Anyway, we found some impressive bulls heads after
all. One thing that challenges the ideas about changes in symbolism
is a figure shaped like a bear. It was believed by Mellaart to represent
a mother goddess, and we think that the mother goddess was most
likely a bear. Animals protected a house, a family, or a clan. Some
people believe that the Neolithic saw a shift to specific gods and
goddesses, but at Çatalhöyük this had not yet taken
place. The definite females only constitute a certain percentage
of the figurines.
Question: What caused the site to be abandoned?
Answer: It was never really abandoned. That is, it was abandoned
but a site was built right next to it, and the cultures are quite
continuous. In archaeology, the latest levels are usually eroded,
so we dont have much to say about the connections.
Archaeologists and the Site: Transparence, Outreach, Education
The website has a lot of features that can easily be accessed at
There is a new website that will be much more involved, but it isnt
up and running yet, so stay tuned. It is being developed through
UC Berkeley to promote digital preservation and outreach. This website
also has a sixth-grade activity, so if you are teaching world history,
there are plenty of resources. The idea is to remix other peoples
work, mixing, citing in a scholarly manner, and producing your own
remixes as well.
Uruk: The First City
HayesNear Eastern Studies Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
We know a lot about Mesopotamia, because archaeologists have been
excavating there for over a century and a half. We also have many
cuneiform tables, hundreds of thousands of them in fact, and many
more still await discovery. Most of these tablets are economic,
administrative, and bureaucratic recordsFrecords of private
individuals, of the temple, and of the palace, keeping track of
the movement of goods of all kinds. When mankind first started to
write, they wrote about sheep! So on the one hand, we know a great
deal about Mesopotamia. On the other hand, there are still basic
aspects of Mesopotamian civilization that scholars argue about,
such as: Which city was the first city?
The average person on the street knows less about Mesopotamia
than about Egypt, because Mesopotamia didnt survive as well.
You can go and look at the pyramids, temples, and palaces in Egypt,
but if you go to Mesopotamia, what you will see are big mounds of
dirt. In Mesopotamia, there is very little stone, so buildings were
constructed of mud brick, which does not survive the way that limestone
in Egypt does. This is true of the city of Uruk. Here is the mound
of Uruk (image). This will not impress the average visitor in the
same way an Egyptian pyramid would.
The city of Uruk made the news a few years ago because of the
Uruk Vase. This is a vessel made of alabaster, weighing
about 600 pounds, with a pictorial image of a ritual procession.
This dates to about 3200 BCE. In the year 2003 it was ripped out
of the Iraqi National Museum and then was returned to the museum
in the form of 14 pieces.
Some people may have read the Epic of Gilgamesh, which
has poetic descriptions of the architecture of Uruk. Even at the
time of Gilgamesh, Uruk was known to be an ancient city that had
been there long before Gilgamesh lived. We find numerous references
to it in Mesopotamian historical and literary texts. It is also
mentioned in the Book of Genesis.
Archaeologists have been digging in Uruk since 1850, but modern
scholarship really began in 1913 with scientific excavation by German
scholars, who dug there until 1989, when all archaeology in Iraq
was halted by the Persian Gulf War. You can see [Map] how Uruk is
in the south of what is currently Iraq. Neolithic settlements tended
to be in the upper reaches of the Fertile Crescent because there
was more rain. Most archaeologists would say that are no settlements
in the south until about 6000 BCE. So how old is Uruk? It is difficult
to tell. Even though Uruk has been excavated for quite some time,
we still havent hit virgin soil. Best guess: it probably dates
to about 5500 or 6000 BCE.
In the Sumerian King List, ancient Sumerian scholars attributed
the founding of Uruk to a king named Enmerkar, who was the grandfather
of Gilgamesh. By 3000 BCE Uruk was a huge city marked by monumental
architecture. Most scholarship contends that cities appeared in
the south before the north, but many archaeologists are digging
in Syria and Lebanon and finding sites that could nearly be called
cities. Our knowledge of the record is biased. For example, archaeologists
have recently found what may be cities in Syria that, ten years
ago, we didnt even know existed.
By 2800 BCE, Uruk was surrounded by a twenty-foot-high city wall,
with numerous gates, towers, and observation posts. The Sumerian
accounts say that Gilgamesh himself built the wall, but we doubt
it; it was there before he was born. The walls enclosed an area
of 6 or 7 square kilometers, quite a large chunk of land, making
Uruk bigger than any of its contemporary cities by far. How many
people lived there? The population has been estimated at between
50,000 and 80,000 inhabitants, but you should take this figures
with a grain of salt. Archaeologists and anthropologists do not
yet have the tools to accurately estimate population size.
Who built Uruk? Presumably the Sumerians. The Sumerians are the
first people we know of by name in the history of the world, and
their language, Sumerian, is the first language we know of by name.
Are the Sumerians native to Mesopotamia? The question of the ultimate
origin of the Sumerians is known as the Sumerian Question.
We dont know the answer. Some think they were there from the
onset of settlement in the south of Mesopotamia, but others think
that they were relative newcomers, that in fact they only came in
the 4th millennium BCE. There is all kinds of speculation about
where they may have come from. We do know that there were other
people in Uruk besides the Sumerians, but we dont know where
they come from; we really only know of the existence of these other
peoples because some words from their languages made it into the
Why was Uruk built? This is a thorny question. There are different
factors that figure into the building of Uruk, or any city, and
scholars disagree about which factors were more important, and about
which factors actually led to the building of the city, and
which resulted from the presence of the city.
The most important factor was probably water. There is agricultural
potential locked up in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, but someone
had to tap into those waters, distribute them, regulate them, and
build the canals and dykes in order for the water to be used for
agriculture. Someone had to organize all of this. In this scenario,
there is water and a need to control it, and complex organization
arises to take care of this problem; that organization led to city-states.
This view on the origin of cities and civilization was adumbrated
by the archaeologist V. Gordon Childe, who said in 1942 about the
The waters teemed with fish, the reed brakes were alive with
wild fowl, wild pig, and other game, and on every emergent patch
of soil grew date palms offering each year a reliable crop of
nutritive fruit... If once the flood waters could be controlled
and canalized, the swamps drained, and the arid banks watered,
it could be made a Garden of Eden. The soil was so fertile that
a hundred-fold return was not impossible....
This is what has been called a hydraulic civilization.
The presence of water and its control lead to abundance and surplus,
which then leads to social complexity. Exactly how all this happened,
we will never know; the earliest stages will not show up in the
Some scholars now see the sequence of events in reverse. In this
view, as population increased, social complexity developed, and
then attention was turned to organizing the distribution of water.
Moreover, Uruk was also involved in long-distance trade, ranging
from Anatolia to as far away as India and Bahrain. Trade requires
organization, which also contributes to social complexity. Water,
complexity, and trade are just some of the issues that must be considered
when thinking about the origins of cities.
How did rulers and their institutions arise? We will probably never
know the real answer. The speculation is that there was some sort
of evolutionary path: a nomadic leader became a tribal leader, a
tribal leader became a king, and so on. In Mesopotamia, there may
have been an intermediate stage, where an assembly of leading citizens
would pick one person to solve a conflict, and that person would
come away with greater control. We know of these assemblies primarily
from later, literary sources, and have no idea how much this corresponds
to history. There is hardly anything we can say about how it happened.
By and large, the Mesopotamian temple was more important than
the palace. Uruk was surrounded by 20-foot-high walls, and had several
temple complexes. Someone had to build these structures. Religion
may have provided the ideological justification for coercion, whereby
people were convinced by the temple authorities to give up part
of their resources and part of their labor, for the good of their
community and their deity.
Writing may in fact have been invented in Uruk. While the Egyptians
attribute the invention of writing to the god Thoth, the Mesopotamians
had several theories. One attributes the invention of writing to
King Enmerkar, he who the Sumerian King List says built Uruk. This
attributes writing to human invention. In the prescientific Western
tradition, it was usually said that God taught Adam how to write.
The system of writing used in Mesopotamia is known as cuneiform.
It is a system of writing, and not a language; it used for many
languages, related and not. It was used by Sumerians to write in
Sumerian, a language of unknown affiliation; it was used to write
Akkadian, an early Semitic language; and it was used to write an
early stage of Persian, an Indo-European language. [Image of Clay
Question: At least two civilizations were coexisting at
the same time and sharing writing?
Answer: Yes, Mesopotamian civilization is really the fusion
of Sumerians and Akkadians.
In 1931, archaeologists found thousands of archaic-looking tablets
at Uruk, which seemed to belong to the genre of administrative and
economic texts. They were not obviously understandable, and so were
published without translations, which means that historians tended
to ignore them. Most of them were found in a rubbish heap. Much
of the city of Uruk was filled with temples for Anu and Inanna.
The ancient Urukians would periodically rebuild and enlarge these
temples, and in so doing would throw out tablets that had no further
usefulness. Since they were found in a rubbish heap, they are very
hard to date. We now have some 5,000 or so of these archaic tablets,
found in various places in the Middle East but mostly from Uruk.
These tablets are fairly complex with complicated counting mechanisms
and thirteen different metrological systems. Scholars began to reexamine
these tablets in the 1980s, and now we know that they record such
things as grain rations, beer rations, debits and credits, account-keeping,
How did these cuneiform signs start out? Many signs have their origins
as pictograms. So the sign representing a pig looks like a pig,
a head like a head, etc. Some signs, however, look more like abstractions
than like pictograms.
How did this system originate? Up until the 1970s, scholars thought
that writing was consciously invented, more or less at one specific
point and place in time, with no obvious antecedents. In the 1980s,
an archaeologist at the University of Texas, Austin, Prof. Denise
Schmandt-Besserat, developed the idea that the immediate precursor
of writing was a system of physical tokens. These are
small items of different sizes and different shapes that have been
found at excavations throughout the Ancient Near East, and which
have often been neglected by archaeologists. These tokens were used
for counting; each shape counted a different thing. One token of
a particular shape counted sheep, another counted beer rations,
etc. They didnt represent one in the abstract,but
one concrete thing. Why did any one particular shape indicate
one particular thing? That we dont know. In addition to the
tokens, we also have clay envelopes used to contain tokens,
although none have been found at Uruk.
Some time around 3200 BCE, someone got the idea of pressing these
tokens against the envelope, thereby creating a symbol on the outside
of the envelope, this being the origin of writing. What is the evidence?
We actually have a few clay envelopes preserved with tokens inside,
and impressions on the outside, and they correlate with each other.
Furthermore, once you have the impressions, what do you need the
actual tokens for?
Where was writing invented? For now, we think Uruk, but it is logically
possible that it may have been invented somewhere else, at some
unexcavated site. Who invented it? Most scholars think it was the
Sumerians. It is, again, logically possible that it comes from someone
else. Why was it invented?? Mostly for bureaucratic purposes; a
complex society with a complex bureaucracy needs a complex notational
Although 4/5 of the tablets known to us are bureaucratic, about
1/5 are not. They form a genre that we refer to as lists.
They generally listed things like material inventories, or different
professions. Why? They may have been used in scribal training in
order to help scribes learn cuneiform. Another potential reason
is to organize the known universe, to gather up the facts and try
and sort them out. Some scholars think that this might have been
the reason for the invention of writing. In any case, the point
here is that writing was an invention. It was the result of a conscious
process and deliberate effort. It was an act of the will.
Writing is a hallmark of civilization. It also has its dark side.
It is found in societies based on exploitation, and it is connected
first and foremost with power, inventories, censuses, and catalogues.
Some men exercise power over others and their worldly possessions,
and writing is one way by which this power is organized and articulated.
Imperial Rome: Monuments, Resources,
NoreñaHistory Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
What is a city? This is notoriously difficult to determine. What
matters? Size, density, division of labor, functions, goods, and
services are features that distinguish a city from its countryside.
I would like to explore the city as a key element in a larger configuration.
In this case:
Rome: 1 million inhabitants
Larger Configuration: Empire
How does the city reflect political power within the Roman State?
How does this city constitute power of the State?
I. Conventional Periodization of Roman History
a. 753 BC: Foundation
b. 753509BC: Regal
c. 50931 BC: RepublicPeople exercised their sovereignty,
but in reality it was the Senate that ran the show during the
d. 31 BCAD 395 (or 476): EmpireHigh-stakes game
of power ends with Augustus. After 31 BC, there is an emperor.
e. AD 395/4761453: Byzantine Empire
f. AD 1453: Fall of Constantinople
g. Today we will focus upon the period, approximately 200 BC200
II. Map of the Roman Empire
To begin with, if you have ever seen the HBO series Rome,
it generally gives a more realistic picture of Roman topography,
and captures the ancient city in details and grandeur better, than
the movie Gladiator.
Its physical topography can be seen on this map, where you see
the main hills and the River Tiber. This triangular area (capital)
is one of the biggest hills in Rome. Between them, there is a small
plain that was later filled by the Roman Forum (monumental center).
It is no accident that the monuments are here. The other main area
here was the Campus Martius (Mars Field), a monumental space in
the large and low flood plain. It also developed here because that
part lay outside of Romes religious boundary (this is indicative
of the centrality of religion to the organization of Roman life
and public space) and there were certain rules about what you could
and could not do in Roman public space.
One of the key features of Roman topography is the clustering of
religious and secular buildings. For example, the Roman Forum, in
the center of the city, was a political, economic, and religious
center all in one. Here are marked all of the buildings that one
would call administrative, financial, or political; and here are
marked those that we would call religious. You can see, they are
to be found one beside the other, clustered together, with no strict
separation. This is very convincing visual proof of the integration
of religion into politics and business. Furthermore, religious buildings
could often be used for a secular purpose, and vice versa. For example,
the Senate would often meet in a temple, or temples could be converted
into banks or archives. The fact that they are clustered together
like that tells us a lot about the religious nature of Roman life,
and how different it was from the classical Greek world, because
of their separation.
Urban Monumental Development
Here we must distinguish between the ways in which monuments developed
under the Roman Empire and the Roman Republic. Under the Republic,
development was highly chaotic. There was no master plan for the
layout of the city. It was very much the result of the pluralist
constitution of the Roman republic in which there were elections
for officials who hold office for one year and had power-sharing
with other colleagues. This fragmentation precludes the development
of a monumental master plan. This makes a very strong contrast with
Greek city-states and even with the Roman Empire.
Under the Empire there was no fragmentation of decision-making,
as all decisions came from the Emperor and his circle. For example,
the proliferation and spread throughout the city during the Republican
period of monuments celebrating victories took place during the
1st and 2nd century BCE. Here there is a correspondence between
military victory and monument building. Generals would pray to a
god for victory, make a vow (if you lend me support, I will repay
the debt by building a temple in Rome), typical of this type of
transactional religion. This really shaped the urban fabric of the
city, forming a striking visual expression of the relationship between
religion and warfare.
Triumphal monuments in the Republican period came in the form of
temples. Each temple was designed according to convention, with
a frontal staircase and a temple that sits on top of a platform.
Roman temples emphasized frontality, as opposed to Greek temples,
which were accessible on every side. This building type was also
useful for the aristocratic general, whose name would go in very
big letters on the front. It would henceforth be known that this
aristocrat was the patron of this temple. What then developed was
an intense competition between aristocrats who would go to war,
stomp a hapless enemy, build a temple, and then go and do it again.
All in all, we know of 96 temples from the mid-Republican period
of Roman history, showing very clearly the lack of any master plan
for urban monumental development. One cluster on the Campus Martius
became the destination of processions and parades celebrating the
god Jupiter and frequently marking the onset or termination of a
war. There is in fact no strong correlation between temple building
and city development. The generals and aristocrats treated them
as private initiatives. This kind of aristocratic, senatorial competition
intensified in the 1st century BCE. The stakes got higher, and the
results were violent. 1st-century BCE temples were built as a result
of civil wars. In the late Republic, you get a procession of very
power figures who put their imprint on the city with monumental
buildings; Pompey and Caesar are important examples. With Caesar,
there was a transition from haphazardness to autocratic control
of the city in the Empire.
Caesars Forum was an ambitious undertaking, designed to remake
the Roman Forum in his own image. He began by creating an entirely
new forum, the Forum Julium, adjacent to the old forum, and many
of the functions that took place before were moved. The crowning
monument of this form is the temple of the Venus Genetrixgoddess
of love, whom Caesar claimed as a family ancestoras a monument
to his family. He attached his own name to the Curia Iulia, the
new Senate House. Within the forum itself, he built a massive new
Basilica Iulia that had a lot of administrative functions and law
court activity, all in his name. Whereas earlier, aristocrats had
dedicated a temple here, paved something there, Caesar systematically
overhauled the basic configuration of the forum, putting a Caesarian
stamp on the city and foreshadowing what Augustus and future Emperors
Contemporaries always complained that the chaotic development did
not look the part of a worthy capital city, and that such haphazardness
was an embarrassment, or worse, backwards and barbarian. That began
to change under the Empire, when new material resources began to
pour into the city as a result of conquest. The city-scape became
more spectacular as emperor after emperor completed building programs.
It is impossible to see every construction in the time allotted,
so we will get a handle on imperial monumentalizaiton through a
[Map view of the Imperial Palace on Palatine the Hill] The Roman
emperors needed a suitably grand residence as a way of expressing
their status. They developed their residences on the top of the
Capitoline Hill. By the 1st century AD, the hill was monopolized
by the palace complexthus, Palatine Hill. Geographically, it
is highly central to the city itself.
Question: Did Caesar have bigger plans?
Answer: Yes, man. One of his plans was to divert the Tiber
and make a straight river. The result would be a flat, axonometric
city like those he saw in the east for new monumental buildings.
Augustus actually put many of these things into action. This is
only meant to be an illustration of the scale and complexity of
the new construction.
Question: Was there a military motivation for this as well?
Answer: No. Back in the early history of the city, they were
constructed for military purposes. But by this time, the city walls
were in decay, and practically undefended. This was seen as a testament
to the Roman sense of security.
Back to the palace. It was restricted, so one couldnt just
show up and get an audience with the emperor. The scale of the residence
is not particularly ostentatious or overwhelming, and when compared
to Versailles is quite modest.
The temples were usually colonnaded squares, paved walkways with
central courtyards, flanked by priceless works of art. You get a
development of a characteristic mix of religion, Greek culture,
and leisure. Among other things, the emperors put their resources
into developing structures for the good of the population.
Several Emperors created their own Forums. They were all bunched
together in the center of the city, adjacent to Caesars Forum.
If you take a look at the image here, you can see how close they
were, one to the other.
The bath complexes were very large. Baths and bathing culture was
central to Roman society. So, a trip to the Baths was not about
hygiene, but about socialization and athletic competition. Many
of these bath complexes had libraries or even small museums, amounting
to a mix of hygiene, socialization, athletics, and Greek culture.
There were a few large bath complexes, and hundreds of smaller bath
houses, the bigger ones being Trajans and Caracallas.
Question: Was there a fee involved?
Answer: Yes, but it was nominal. Very often, it was very
small and within reach of most people. Aristocrats would pay for
their friends, and the emperor would sometimes give out tokens.
Question: Were slaves allowed into the baths?
Answer: Possibly. Most likely there were specific baths and
specific times when slaves could come in, but unless they were accompanied
by their masters, probably not.
Question: Were these bath houses co-ed?
Answer: That is another debated point. There is evidence
of ethical debate over whether or not it was appropriate to admit
women to mens baths; most times, it was probably not appropriate.
Some times, it certainly was.
Aside from the palaces, forums, and temples, there were also venues
for public entertainment with which you are probably familiar. There
were theaters, stone amphitheaters for gladiatorial combat, and
circuses for chariot racing built and maintained by the Roman emperor.
A quick glance at the Circus Maximus shows it to have a capacity
of about 250,000 people. The size and presence of such a structure
would have been a symbolic presence of the emperors power.
Provisioning the City
Rome was perhaps the biggest pre-industrial city, and perhaps the
only one to reach a population of 1 million inhabitants before London
in the nineteenth century. We know a little about its population
due largely to records that survive detailing the free grain distribution
to the citys poor. Its population was a testament to Romes
size and strength, and the ability to provision it a testament to
its organization and planning. The majority of cities at that time
would have been provisioned by the immediate hinterland, but as
Rome grew, it could no longer do so, and had to import its grain
from other parts of the Italian peninsula, and even more farflung
areas of the Empire like Egypt, North Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia.
Because Rome controlled these areas militarily and politically,
they could use them to sustain their own population.
In terms of water, they were dependent on the Tiber River. Water
had to be imported to the city, and this was done by aqueducts that
operated on the principle of gravity. They did have siphon technology,
but gravity was most frequently used. How did they get their water,
and how was it distributed? Historians have a remarkable document
from a Roman senator who wrote a pamphlet on the water questions,
complete with amazing detail on its distribution:
Three basic categories existed:
These combinations are really a testament to the power of the emperor
and the way in which the emperor controls a potentially unruly population.
- In the name of the emperor (17%)the imperial palace, those
built by the emperor;
- For private citizens (39%)for those individual citizens
who were permitted to bring a tap into the aqueduct and bring
some into their home;
- For public uses (44%)water for markets, military barracks,
fountains, public basins, where the majority of the population
gets their daily water (Public basins 13%)
Juvenal, Satires, 10.7881
The Roman people, which once bestowed imperium, fasces, legions,
everything, now foregoes such activities and has but two passionate
desires: bread and circuses.
Fronto, Principles of History, 17
It was the height of political wisdom for the emperor not to
neglect even actors and the other performers of the stage, the
circus, and the arena, since he knew that the Roman people is
held fast by two things above all, the grain supply and the shows,
that the success of government depends on amusements as much as
on serious things.
What was the lived experience? It depends on social and economic
statushigh life for the urban aristocracy, miserable quality
of life for the totally destitute. What about the masses in the
middle? Material and cultural?
Free grain distribution (Roman cities went above and beyond by giving
free grain to the people . . . as many as 150 thousand people were
given monthly distributions of grain)
Water supply (availability of water in drinking basins seen as a
Public entertainment (dramatic performances, Greek tragedies, Romances,
public plays, monuments of unparalleled splendorsee the example
of Pompeys theaterchariot racing, gladiators a very common
and a very regular feature of daily life, originally staged in Rome
as part of aristocratic funerals but that association disappeared
and it became public entertainment)
Spread throughout the city of portico complexes, colonnaded squares
and shade from the elements (showing of the Campus Martius)
Other advantages of a large commercial city: you can take advantage
of the availability of staples and luxury items, many opportunities
for employment, especially in building . . . not built solely through
slave labor, but paid, free labor as well
Total absence of basic state services that we take for granted:
no public health care, no public education, no public firefighting
service, no police force (free-for-all situation), disaster and
violence mitigation, urban sanitation (serious limitations, see
he is right, but it is a typical aristocratic
viewpoint . . . unpleasant for the urban masses, most houses did
not have toilets, waste tossed out of window), 1 million produced
about 50k kilograms of body waste per day, plus the anecdotal evidence
of filthy streets, dogs and birds eating dead animals, corpses lying
around for days, contagious diseases, multiple references to urban
slums. Problem of apartment buildings collapsing (Cicero quote).
Strabo, Geography 5.3.8
The Romans were farsighted about matters to which the Greeks
gave little thought, such as the construction of sewers which could
wash waste matter out of the city and into the Tiber. The sewers,
covered with a vault of tightly fitted stones, are so large that
hay wagons could drive through them. And the quantity of water brought
into the city by aqueducts is so great that rivers, as it were,
flow through the city and the sewers, to which almost every house
Cicero, Letters to Atticus
Two of my buildings have fallen down, and the rest have large
cracks. Not only the tenants, but even the mice have moved out.
Question: Do you have a visual of the temple of Venus?
Answer: No; it would usually have been locked shut, used
to store money and archives. Inside would have been a cult image
of a god or goddess kept behind closed doors. What is missing is
the altar, placed about halfway up the stairs, where sacrifices
took place and formed the centerpiece of Roman religion.
Question: In what kind of numbers was the military presence
in the city?
Answer: Another important distinction between Republic and
Empire. Republic, no police force, no public service for security.
The result was that aristocrats had private armies for protection,
and could offer protection in exchange for votes or loyalty. In
the Empire, Augustus implements some sort of paramilitary forces,
and Trajan creates a military that would become the Praetorian Guard.
Later, consider it about 25k armed men in the employ of the Emperor.
Question: Was there any mass transit?
Answer: No, and there were often regulations about the hours
of the day when wheeled vehicles could be brought into the city.
Question: Did they have public latrines?
Answer: Yes. This has only recently become an area of scholarly
interest. In the past twenty years, the daily life of people has
become more interesting to historians, as opposed to the lives of
the Emperors. The anecdotal evidence is suggestive of the level
of public filth, but public latrines did exist.
Question: Poor peoplewere they ghettoized or homeless?
Answer: The standard explanation is that Rome is unique in
its mix of rich or poor. There was no zoning of poor and rich. I
dont think that is right . . . in macroscopic terms, there
seems to be a certain hierarchy, based on water distribution. Tenements
and slums coexist with wealthy hotels, etc., so its a mixed
Question: Was Roman expansion really more about the idea
of conquest for a glorious Rome, rather than to provision the city?
Answer: A vast majority of rank and file soldiers would have
been intimately familiar with the city of Rome. The city had the
reputation of not caring about the Empire, but there is a split
between the professed ideals of the state and its existence within
the city of Rome.
in China: The Early Evidence
Nylan, History Department, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
Cities are not just the location of social, economic, and political
activity, but prime agents and aspects of that activity. This talk
will focus on the early urbanization of Han China, taking place
at about the same time as the Augustan Age of the Roman Empire,
with a particular focus on the Han Capital, Han Changan, found
in Chinas northwestern province, which was closely linked to the
areas further west along the Silk Road, areas such as the so-called
autonomous regions of Tibet or Chinese Turkestan. Five other capitals
of the Han Empire could also have been considered global cities,
and I use the term global cities advisedly but anachronistically.
On the one hand, global city suggests the massive scale of urbanization,
by which rural communities outside of the city take on the urban
pattern as well. This level of urbanization existed in Han China,
but not everywhere. The capital itself, Changan, boasted 600,000
inhabitants, and its metropolitan area had 917,000 inhabitants.
No fewer than five other cities in China had a roughly comparable
size. Far to the southwest was the city of Chengdu, a city of only
sixteen square miles whose greater metropolitan area counted 1.2
million inhabitants. City dwellers were therefore a substantial
portion of the sixty million residents of Han China, whose population
was fairly evenly distributed, unlike modern Asian cities, which
have become magnets for lopsided population growth.
The modern global city, in the words of Rem Koolhaas, is dead
because (a) its downtown area empties out at night, leaving only
a fraction of its population behind; and (b) its boundaries are
hard to map. Something similar was true of Changan, since only
the imperial family, their servants, and some 30,000 or so resident
bureaucrats lived in or adjacent to the palace confines. The palace
walls were shut and bolted at night, leaving the doings of the capital
to its few inhabitants. Moreover, Han cities were typically divided
into wards like this, each of which was tightly shut at night and
in times of crisis. Even in Chengdu, the beginning of the Silk Road
and one of Han Chinas most vibrant cities, merchants haggled only
from dawn to dusk over their precious metals and silks. Modern studies
that see Chinas government as an oriental despotism would also
see the iron fist of administrative law extending outwards from
the city to its hinterland. Major cities in classical Chinese are
called daju, a term which is often (mis)translated as great agglomeration, but which refers instead to the coming together of the greats, in other words, the political
elites. However, when we turn from the institutional structures
of the grand cities to everyday life, we see that the Han people
came, then as now, to cities mainly for opportunity. They came for
economic reasons, for better jobs, to seek justice, for entertainment,
and even for sight-seeing. Changan was certainly a major destination
for such travelers. Rubbings from tomb tiles and bricks show carriage
processions through the city. Once a year, the imperial robes and
caps paraded in all their splendor through the streets of the city
to impress the thrones majesty upon the people. These processions
were standard from one palace to the next. The emperor also had
traveling palaces outside the city walls, in which similar processions
might take place. In addition to imperial processions, high officials
would also have their own processions.
Merchants and businessmen were also fairly common in this area.
A Chinese legend tells the story of a man who made the equivalent
of 100 million dollars in one day, and was hired by a private family
to help them increase their funds. Local industries were highly
sophisticated, and they included silk, copper, iron, lacquer, and
chariot industries. Trade in silk alone made Han China the dominant
economic power in the world during the Han period. However, we must
not fool ourselves into thinking that, even with all this material
wealth, daily life in Han China was similar to what it is today.
What would have astonished the modern observer is the citys hinterland,
or that which lies beyond the city walls. Within the city, there
was a modern administration, and in fact, many of the forms of administration
used in Europe and the United States originally came from China
via the Italian city-states. There were approximately 130,000 functionaries
and administrators working in the Han civil service and compiling
documents. Outside of the walls of the major cities, however, there
would have been only small outposts, analogous to the old frontier
outposts in the western United States. The officers and bureaucrats
of the Han city tried to stake their claim to large areas that appeared
to be beyond their grasp. The Empire itself was often compared to
an unseaworthy boat, in that when it sprang a leak in one location,
you patched it up, but it would leak again somewhere else.
As is typical of planned cities in Han China, Changan was
built on a square plan with fortified walls. The main palace city
that contained the royal residence and governmental offices and
workshops was situated in the western part of the city. Surrounding
the walls of the capital was a moat that measured approximately
eight meters in width, and was spanned by several wooden bridges.
The fortified wall, which was made of rammed earth and brick as
was typical in Han times, ran for 25.7 kilometers, and was some
twelve meters high and even wider than this. The outer wall was
pierced by twelve gates, three to each side of the quadrilateral
formed by the town. Each gate had three access passages, measuring
six to eight meters in length, and wide enough to accommodate three
to four carriages abreast.
Four of the gates communicated with those of the two great palace
complexes, the Changle Palace and the Weiyang Palace. The other
eight gates opened up avenues that crossed the town. The longest
of these avenues is approximately 5400 meters long. The main thoroughfares
in Han cities were usually five to eight meters wide in smaller
cities, but in Changan they measured 45 meters in width. The central
lane, the widest of the three, was reserved for the exclusive use
of the emperor, and its surface was paved with rammed earth.
Liu Bang, the creator of the restored Qin Shi Huangdi, or Palace
of Eternal Joy, chose Changan as the Han capital in 202 BCE.
Under his successor, the city wall was completed in 190 BCE. The
city assumed its definitive shape in 141-87 BCE when many buildings
and terraces were introduced both inside and outside the city walls,
in particular, the pleasure palace to the west and southwest including
the Mingguang Palace north of the Changle Palace, and the Gui Palace
and North Palace, north of the Weiyang Palace. Palaces occupied
some two-thirds of the city, and it is outward from these palaces
that the rest of the city developed with little or no planning scheme.
We know that some of the palace towers were as tall as ninety meters
in height. There were also several closed parks, including the Sung
Dang Park and a hunting park in the western suburbs. This image
shows an elevated walkway that connects two different palaces; it
was built so the emperor and his entourage could pass back and forth
Changan in Western Han, in other words, was not originally
constructed according to a pre-established plan that mimicked the
Great Bear constellation [SLIDE 9], as has been claimed ever since
the sixth century AD, because of a work entitled the San Fu Huang
Tu. According to Chinese city planning texts, Changan
was built according to a central plan; however, we believe that
to be false. Its shape and its layout became significant later on.
For example, its shape was soon analogized to the seven stars of
the Dipper. After all, in the Han political scheme, the palace is
the center of the social world of the earth, and the chamber of
the emperor is like the North Star around which all revolves.
The site of the Changle Palace bureaucratic offices has been thoroughly
excavated. Inside, we have found bone documents, recording the name,
measurements, and dates of manufacture of a number of palace goods,
including how and when they were made. Archaeologists havent
yet located the library, but they have found an arsenal that occupied
an enormous space between the Weiyan and the Changle palaces. Here
seven storehouses also contained various types of weapons, mainly
of iron, and items of equipment, placed on weapon racks and shelves.
As mentioned earlier, to the north of both the Weiyang Palace and
the Gui Palace were the Eastern and Western markets, each surrounded
by a high wall with two gates on each side. Excavations have revealed
within the enclosures of the Western Markets surrounding walls
(550 m E-W by 480 m N-S) an industrial complex under the management
of imperial officers that comprised an iron foundry; twenty-one
potters kilns producing funerary statuettes for the imperial
tombs; and a workshop where coins were minted. The presence of blast
furnaces so close to the imperial palace is astonishing, for this
was a choice with many drawbacks. The blast furnaces must have consumed
enormous quantities of charcoal, possibly producing shortages of
the limited fuel available to the population; they would also have
increased pollution, waste, and the risk of explosions. Any or all
of these reasons would have justified moving this type of industry
away from the center of major towns. Most believe that the reason
behind this choice to locate production sites so near administrative
officesand indeed the palaces of the emperorwas the desire
of officials to maintain strict control over production, once a
government iron monopoly was instituted in 119 BCE.
Zooming in for a still closer look at the palaces within Changan,
we should imagine the palace as a Han poet did, allowing for a bit
of exaggeration on his part:
Joined by lofty towers and leisure lodges,
The Hall of Fresh Coolness, the Proclamation Chamber, the Warm
Hall of Divine Immortals, Hall of Enduring Years,
Hall of Golden Splendor, Jade Hall,
White Tiger Hall, Unicorn Hall:
Within the palace compounding, buildings like this
Were too numerous to be recounted.
Inside the palace:
They had carved columns of jade pedestals,
Decorated brackets with cloud-patterned crossbeams,
A triple staircase and a tiered balustrade,
Engraved railings with figured edging.
On the right was a ramp, on the left was a staircase
Blue was the door-engraving; red was the floor.
... Gilt paving stones, jade-decorated staircases
Vermilion courtyards shone with a fiery glow...
Palaces also contained:
Repositories of documents and writings.
Here the court commanded:
Elder officials, diligent in instruction,
Famous scholars and tutors,
To lecture and discourse on the Six Classics.
The hunting parks are also of some significance. They not only served
as hunting grounds for the imperial suite, but they functioned as
training grounds for infantry and cavalry, they acted as storing
grounds for certain precious goods and confiscated items, rare plants
and even zoos. Zoos were not the only entertainment though, by far.
The capital was famous for its Hundred Entertainments,
which daily delighted all residents of the city regardless of rank
or class. For example, there were sword swallowers, tightrope walkers,
magicians, dragon dancers and so on who performed for the residents
in the market areas. The city also had a sophisticated system of
water drainage that brought water from the interior areas of the
city to the nearby river. Channels ran alongside the streets. Some
of these channels for carrying water and draining it away were built
of stone blocks, but most were earthenware and mass-produced, as
were the facings of well walls. While it may not be much to look
at, it was effective in carrying night soil outside the
city limits and away from the water supply. Night soil
could also be used as fertilizer to enrich soil and crops. That
may be one reason why even outside the capital city walls of Changan
there grew up flourishing markets, mostly situated to the north
and the northwest, between the capital and the mausoleum counties,
which were convenient for the powerful families in those areas whom
the throne wished to keep under close supervision. Cemeteries and
religious centers were situated outside the walls. There were also
cemeteries and certain religious centers, including a shrine to
the dynastic ancestors, found outside of the city limits.
Since the 1950s, nearly 150 Han towns have been discovered, not
including the numerous settlements in the north of China. There
were several highly dense areas of settlement, including the area
around Changan and the area alongside the Yellow River. Urban
growth was relatively high in the first and second centuries BCE,
but slowed down significantly in the first and second centuries
CE. This slowdown affected both the number of towns and the size
of their populations. We have a good deal of information, but the
excavation of these towns is not yet enough to give us a more complete
version of this story. At the moment, our excavation gives us a
monolithic picture of urban planning, but this picture may well
change if settlement archaeology ever really develops in China outside
of the old major centers of the north and the Yellow River Valley.
It is notable that not one of the three capitals of the Qin dynasty
or Han dynasty were natural towns. The Qin capital, which was destroyed
by fires during the conquest, was chosen for its strategic value.
All three capital cities developed as seats of imperial power to
which things, goods, and people eventually gravitated, but not where
they had originally settled. Three controversies centering specifically
on Changan have stimulated considerable reflection on Han town
planning in general: (1) the status of Changan as strictly a palace
city (nei cheng) or as a town whose significance lay as a
commercial or industrial center; (2) the presence or lack of extensive
suburbs to the city; and (3) the location of the Eastern and Western
markets, specifically whether they were inside or outside the city
The controversies, as it happened, pitted a historian, Yang Kuan,
against an archaeologist, Liu Qingzhu. Yang Kuan believed the capital
to be modeled on other capitals, and insisted that most of the population
would have lived not within the city walls, but in the northeastern
suburbs that offered the natural protection of the river. Li Qingzhu
believed that Changan was a producer city, in that normal people
who engaged in economic and productive activities populated sections
of the town. Li Qingzhu cited the lack of fortifications outside
the city walls and some 160 residential wards inside the city as
evidence for this argument. Eventually, Li Qingzhus argument
was confirmed, and today, most scholars believe that twenty to thirty
percent of the citys residents lived inside the capital citys
walls. The wealthiest inhabitants preferred the suburbs found outside
the city walls, but there was no strict separation between rich
and poor. Beside this, we know very little about the placement of
the residential ward. In part, this is because Changan lies
underneath the modern city of Xian, so in order to excavate,
you would have to destroy some of the modern city. Current research
has established Changan as a political, administrative, and
cultural center that was by no means a parasitic town. Changan
was a fully functioning city in all respects. All current research
into city planning is based on material remains: town walls, terraces,
the foundations of buildings, bricks, roof tiles, roads, sewers,
industrial and craft workshops. Town walls constituted the main
vestige of early towns, but sometimes serve as the foundations for
modern structures. In addition to these kinds of structures, there
might be pottery, architectural models, and tombs with pictorial
representations from the first to the second century CE, but nobody
has listed or maintained a typology or catalogue of all these different
representations. This is necessary for a more thorough critical
analysis. Taken together, material remains make the analysis of
early urban sites possible, but barely.
Our knowledge of Han town planning is still somewhat sketchy, for
three main reasons: First, the poor state of the preservation of
buildings made of earth (mud-brick, wattle-and-daub, and rammed
earth) and wood, instead of baked bricks or stone. Most of the remaining
structures are hollowed out of the earth and few walls
or examples of architectural decoration have survived. The second
reason is that urban excavations in north China have been impeded
by alluvial deposits and present-day urban development. Urban development
is progressing rapidly, in many cases without preliminary excavations,
and ancient sites are being destroyed as a result. Under these conditions,
most of the excavations are selective at best. Third, representations
of houses are not at all uncommon, but the identification of these
representations remains problematic. Nor do Han representations
show how city and countryside were connected one to the other; city
life was disconnected from the agricultural economy and the environment
of landowners and farmers. One aspect that would be worth studying
is that of end tiles, as these are, first, often the only surviving
elements from aboveground architecture and, second, an excellent
indicator of the buildings dates and functions.
All of this patchy evidence allows us to hazard a few observations.
We know that apart from new towns on northern and southern borders,
most Han towns developed by expanding older sites. All of the so-called
capitals during Han times had also been capitals from pre-imperial
times. These capitals have the same basic plan: inner city, wall,
outer city, wall. There were new urban developments in Han China,
including satellite towns around Changan, which is a good example
because of its mausoleum towns. Another departure is that all major
Han cities shifted their cemeteries outside of the city walls. Why?
We dont know. The final change is that whereas pre-imperial
cities were under the jurisdiction of independent polities, Han
cities were ruled by central powers, and therefore needed central
planning, and were ranked according to importance to the crown.
More discoveries and better knowledge of foreign influences will
improve our knowledge. More integration, less narrowly focused excavations
will help us all. Many things have yet to be weighed or assessed.
To explain material, ideological and social conditions of those
in the past is complex.
Question: Were Han cities independent of their hinterlands?
Answer: No, they needed grain and other things. Right around
the cities, there grew up quite a few farming communities in the
suburbs because of the night soil.
Question: Who lived in the suburbs? Was it reserved for
a certain caste?
Answer: There was no caste system; there was great social
mobility. It was nothing like India. If we talk about how many people
were in the imperial family, literally just the imperial family
(clearly the family was connected with the nobility through ties
of intermarriage) it would have been less than 1% of the population.
The remainder was divided into 18 ranks. This sounds hierarchical,
but the ranks are often given to everyone upon the accession of
the emperor, or through good harvest, etc. Merit-based promotions
took place as well. It is important to remember that pre-modern
economies were not run by money, but by status.
Question: Where were the temples located?
Answer: There was no organized religious activity prior to
150 CE. What you had was imperial cults, but nothing like present-day
Buddhism. The closest things to temples were the imperial and ancestor
shrines. Buddhism comes in the first century BCE, but doesnt
catch the elite consciousness until later.
Question: Was city planning inspired by feng shui?
Answer: We dont know when this started. By 500 AD, yes,
it was cosmologically based. A 6th-century text tells us that Han
Changan was done so as well, but we dont believe it. The
earliest traditions were pretty much in the realm of legend and
Question: Did the emperors change residences with seasons?
Answer: There was talk about the emperors changing residences;
what is referred to, however, is that they changed residences within
the actual home. They arent changing geographic locations.
This is following the cosmic orders.
Question: Is there any information about gender roles?
Answer: Yes, soon there will be more on this. By next year,
the new supplement to the Cambridge History of China will
be out. The best place is Michael Bowie, Daily Life in Han China.
That would work pretty well for most of imperial China
of vast aristocracies, but thats not accurate. The Emperor seems
to have been responsible for the economic livelihood of his people
Question: What is rammed earth?
Answer: You build a wooden frame, put earth in it, and ram
it in there. This makes soil into a compacted base, and that compacted
base is virtually stone. In areas covered by this loess soil, the
earth can be made into virtual rocks. Rammed earth was always used
for platforms of Chinese buildings.
Built World of the Incas
Protzen, College of Environmental Design, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
When most people think about the Incas, they think about Machu
Picchuthe beauty of its natural scenery, the unity of its architecture,
gives it unsurpassed harmony, and the perfection of the stone masonry
is exquisite. It rivals the best of any civilization.
The Incas were a remarkable people who emerged around Cuzco around
1200 AD. For about 200 years, they remained within its confines,
governing an agricultural state of minor importance. It was not
about 1438 that they embarked on an unprecedented empire-building
enterprise in the relatively short time until the Spanish conquest
in 1532. They assembled the largest empire the New World ever saw,
which stretched from Ecuador to Chile, west to the Pacific Coast,
East to the Amazon basin and into the Argentine Pampas. Its greatest
length was about 4000 km, or the equivalent of the distance from
Cairo to Moscow. The Incas are often compared to the Romans for
military exploits and as administrators, agronomists, and architects.
The Incas laced their empire with an extensive road network, estimated
at about 45,000 km in length. The major highway was at the back
of the Andes along the coast, but there were numerous others. On
this map, I would like you to remember Tambo Colorado and Cuzco.
The roads were paved or cut out of bedrock, steep grades were overcome
by stairs, obstacles were tunneled through, and sheer cliffs were
crossed with daring structures and rivers with suspension bridges.
To gain much agricultural land, the Incas like their ancestors
terraced entire hillsides. It was a major intervention into the
landscape, but the intervention did not destroy the landscape, it
enhanced it. To protect agricultural lands, they straightened out
rivers. To irrigate, they built thousands of lines of canals. To
conserve the fruits of their labor, they build innumerable storehouses
all over the Incan Empire. Now, my initial fascination was with
the awesome feat of their stone masons. They had no iron tools and
no mortar, but made absolute perfect fits between huge stones. They
put them together without mortar, and their precision defies imagination.
How the Incas did this is a subject of another lecture. This one
is not about construction techniques, but about cities.
Now, I did much of my research on Inca quarrying and stone-cutting
techniques in Ollantaytambo near Machu Picchu. The more time I spent
there, the more I became intrigued by the complex as a whole, namely,
the various components and their temporal and functional relationships
to one another. The site reveals good understanding of morphology,
geology, and imagination. It reflects a rationality of deliberate
decision; in other words, a plan or a design. People still live
there, and use the site as it was used in Inca times. An art historian
once called it the longest and best preserved Inca settlement. It
sits in a valley sacred to the Incas (the slide shows all the infrastructural
elements at the mouth of the valley, well connected with the road
network coming from Cuzco. There are two roads, one on each side
of the river. The river here has been diverted to change directions.
At both ends we see control posts, one on the left, one on the right.
A bridge close to the settlement in the Ollantaytambo connects the
tow roads. The pier and the abutments are the originals. There is
terracing climbing the foot of the hills all along the valley. There
is also one rather intriguing staircase that climbs about 700 meters,
which allows farmers to climb the mountain and exploit different
altitudes for their agricultural potential. At the bottom it is
warm, so they grew beans and corn. Higher up, they planted potatoes,
which are resistant to cold. There is one particular set of terraces
opposite the town that are intriguing because they are irrigated
with a well-situated cornice, which is dry most of the year. It
has a catching basin that runs year-round. In the sunken valleys,
you will find sunken terraces, averaging 2°F higher than elsewhere.
So they exploited these areas for special crops. On the other side
of the valley there is an old riverbed surrounded by fancy walls.
You see the remains of the walk, and at the very end of it you see
a structure which some have identified as a palace of a local lord.
There is a site further up the river where someone experimented
with crops that did not belong at this end of the river.
Ollantaytambo has many storehouseshigh, cool, and windy places
that are ventilated, and perhaps provide protection from predators.
Storing crops here was a part of a primitive freeze-drying technique
that helped to preserve crops. There is a bench in the back that
was drained and ventilated. The unit was dry and appropriate for
storing food (probably maize) but archaeologists have never found
traces of this practice. Another type of storage arrangement was
much smaller, rectangular or square, and had an opening at the bottom
where the buildings were separated from each other for ventilation
to keep food dry. There was also a quarry, about 1000 meters above
the valley floor. This implies an enormous infrastructure serving
Ollantaytambo is situated at the mouth of the river valley, and
it uses very little land. You see the Inca town situated on longitudinal
roads and latitudinal roads. It forms a square-like shape. If you
map only the Inca parts, you find that all of this part (the square
section) is the original Inca town. One can pretty much reconstruct
the rigorous plan; the streets are parallel, with transverse streets
at right angles90 degrees, 88 degrees, 86 degreesperfectly
oriented to an imaginary point. They had a way of surveying, but
we dont know how. The end of the town, in Inca times, was marked
with water channels. The town was supplied with water like this
until 1982. Streets ending in water channeles were the ones that
gave access to city blocks.
As you have seen on the map, part of the town was built in a very
regular fashion. In town, at the fifth transfer point, you see a
change in architecture: there is cut stone in the lower, whole stone
in the upper. The significance is that Andean communities are even
today separated into two sections and have two mayors, as is represented
here in the architecture. This system of communities being divided
into upper and lower parts probably predated the Incas. The lower
parts of town are built up in these courtyard structures in buildings
called canchas, which is a word of Incan origin. Two canchas
back to back make one city wall. There was no communication between
sides, with a two-story building dividing them. The cancha
was entered through a building that was open to the court. We find
two opposite symmetrical buildings, with the two-story one in the
middle. On either side, there were symmetrical buildings, all built
the same. The original doorway was much higher than the current
one. The roof is steep, and the original gables are still there.
The courtyards were left open, and animals were herded into them
and kept there. There is still a stairway that leads to the second
story of the two-story building. When you look back, you see the
Now, Ollantaytambo has terraced hills, and each of the settlements
have a sort of residential area, but there were also ceremonial
centers, and this is the most important one here. When you climb
the stairs, you see unfinished monoliths. This one is the Temple
of the Sun. At the bottom of the temple hill, there are these hard
rock faces all over the place. These are really amazing to see;
we dont know how they were used. They were described as wachas,
or holy cities. There were obviously some sacrifices, but we dont
know why or how many. You see how the whole face is carved out of
the hillside. There is also carved stone laying around everywhere.
There are also wachas distributed throughout the landscape.
Here we find all the elements of a city: urban planning, water,
ceremonial center, etc.
Now we should turn our attention to Cuzco. Many people have argued
that because the previous city was so well drawn, we want to see
if that prototype really holds. The Incan Cuzco was situated between
two rivers, but in Incan times, there were canals that directed
the river flow. Although Cuzco was burned down by the Incas themselves
in 153536 and was rebuilt by the Spaniards as a Christian
town, we can still reconstruct the Inca town by its well-preserved
walls. Sometimes the whole street was preserved, sometimes only
sections of it. We can reconstruct the shape of the Inca town herewe
see the streets and the remaining walls, more walls than are shown
on this plan. There was a plaza that was open on one side, and like
Ollantaytambo we have a regular street pattern, but not so much
as in Ollantaytambo because it had to be squeezed between these
two rivers. The grid was broken to fit the landscape.
Question: So the Spanish maintained the center, and built
out from there (and put in cathedrals)?
Answer: Yes, here is a cathedral and here is a Jesuit church.
One interesting fact is that, in Inca times, sand was brought from
the Pacific to cover the plaza. The Spanish wanted it used for mortars,
which nearly caused another rebellion. Up here, dominating the town
is a Spanish structurenot a fortress, but a ceremonial center.
Question: So the ceremonial place was outside the city?
Answer: Yes, but there were also ceremonial centers in the
middle of the city. In Ollantaytambo there was also one in the city.
There is some ethnographic evidence that at least in their minds
it might have looked like a ceremonial site.
So there was the center, the ceremonial outside, and then the Coricangha
(Temple of the Sun). These walls were restored and formed into the
Dominican church and monastery. In 1950, the monastery was damaged
in an earthquake. The Spanish section was damaged, the Inca section
was not. An interesting thing is that there were imaginary lines
coming from the coricangha, and here they are all listed.
One of the Spanish chroniclers named all these lines; there were
wachas on each one of them, and he named every one along
the line. Each three lines together were charged to two families,
one noble and one non-noble, to maintain the shrine and make sure
the proper ceremonies were performed. There was a calendar to indicate
which ceremonies should be performed at what time. Following the
wachas around gives you another way to understand the city.
Some were in the city themselves; some were out in the countryside.
Question: When you look at that outcrop, there is no identification
that this is a shrine in particular
Answer: No, we know because the line leads to it.
Ollantaytambo was a private city, Cuzco was the capital, and Tambo
Colorado was an administrative town. It does not fit anything we
described. It has a plaza, and is built out from the sides. It is
called Tambo Colorado because it was painted. It is amazingly well
preserved, and the colors are still there to be seen. It is one
of the best-preserved Incan sites along the coast. There was no
street pattern; a huge plaza was built up on three sides. This [indicating
a building on the slide] is referred to as the northern palace.
This resembles a cancha, with a single entrance and buildings
all around. Tambo Colorado was built in a very tightly structured
hierarchy. Come into the front, and there is this cancha,
then you go into a double doorway, and if you go left or right,
you come to another plaza with double-jambed doorways. There you
have two compounds, but it is a roundabout trip to get to them all.
It is a very tightly controlled hierarchy, with controlled access.
It does have a number of features, like waterworks, found within
the compounds as at any other place. Yet it also was different,
not just in layout, but in incorporating elements of coastal, rather
than Inca, origin. When the Incas conquered people, they took elements
of their architecture. We recognize the windows and the doors as
Inca, but with new elements incorporated into it.
Question: Is there any evidence that this was built on another
Answer: No; this was not necessarily virgin land, but it
was relatively untouched. There were lots of settlements in the
surrounding areas, a dense population, but no city on that site.
Question: What is a double-jambed doorway?
Answer: There is a recessed second frame, and it never led
into a room or building, but always into other compounds. It signifies
a higher status for people.
A colleague of mine thought Machu Picchu was the prototype of an
organically grown city, but I thought he was wrong, because there
is a grid. The roads either follow the contour lines, or they cross
at right angles, but there was a plan. That is another element of
the planning is this division. There were canchas, courtyards,
but these canchas had to be squeezed in because of the land.
There were also water-works at Machu Picchu.
Most tourists come up a switchback highway, then they go to the
hotel and the site. The Inca did not come this way. The old Inca
road runs along the ridge, and you miss a very important feature
of the city if you dont come this way. You would have come
from Cuzco through the jungle on the highway, and would not have
seen much as you went along. There is a structure from which you
would discover Machu Picchu for the first time. As you go away from
that new point, you pass by another control place, but your sight
is taken away from it, and you dont see Machu Picchu anymore
until you come to another cliff and there it is.
If you come in on the old Inca road, the sight of the city is taken
away again, but when you go down and approach the main entrance,
what do you see there? There is one peak, there are two peaks, and
these frame the city. This is no accident. As you go through a gate
toward the temple plaza, there is the Temple of the Three Windows,
and if you look through the center window, another mountain is framed.
This mountain has a platform, from which you can look back towards
the city. As you turn around in that plaza toward the sun, on a
good day, you see in plain sight a mountain range that has several
sacred peaks. Then you are looking out on the snowy peaks, and you
go up some stairs and you come to a place where you see the Intiwatana
hitching post. It is sort of an observatory, with certain shadows
cast at certain times of years lining up with edges, and it certainly
has something to do with the sun. When you are up there and you
look back through one of the windows, you see Machu Picchu peak.
These amazing features (there are also such features at Ollantaytambo)
are well and significantly integrated into the layout of the place.
The Incas had a great reverence for mother earth, and as I said
things could become sacred, objects of worship. Therefore the landscape
was a part of the structure. It lacks those ideas that we have of
built cities like diversity of economic and social structures, large
populations, which may have existed in Cuzco but only marginally.
There was not much of a public life, although there were ceremonies
on plazas; there is nothing like people going to the forum in Rome.
I wanted to show this as a way of integrating nature into the city.
Walking in the City: Mapping St. Petersburg
Milkova, Comparative Literature Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
(Complete paper also available here.)
Project Website: http://stpetersburg.berkeley.edu
Reading Literature with the help of a city map has become a common
teaching practice. Many 19th-century novels require knowledge of
a map, including but not limited those of Dickens and Flaubert.
The knowledge of urban space has informed literary production in
the West. Therefore, using a map to get insight into the diurnal
activities of a citys inhabitants is crucial to a better understanding
of Western literature. One can gain insight by plotting characters
lives and deaths, food sources, and entertainment. This project
traces such life-itineraries by going through the city of St. Petersburg,
using a city map as a conceptual tool in research.
First, a brief account of the appearance of St. Petersburg. Its
history coincides with that of the Russian Empire, but the city
sprang primarily from the vision of one man. In 1703, Peter the
Great ordered the construction of a modern city on the Gulf of Finland.
If one examines an area map from 1705, one can see the islands and
peninsulas upon which the city was built from marshes reclaimed
from the Neva River. Building St. Petersburg from the ground up
was an ambitious and daunting task, which required many workers
and saw many deadly floods. Peter himself designed the city with
a pencil, as it sprang forth from his vision of a mapped city. Early
maps, like the map from 1737, together with plans, house designs,
and naval regulations testify to Peters vision of integration.
On the one hand, the construction of St. Petersburg was a political
move designed to secure Russias northern territories. On the
other hand, victory over the elements was a testament to Russias
leap into modernity. St. Petersburg was to rival western European
capitals and reflect Peters westernizing agenda. He invited
Italian, French, and Dutch architects and artists to design rectilinear
boulevards and façades. Next, Peter attended to the peopling
of the city, beginning with the imperial family itself, who moved
from Moscow along with the organs of imperial government. In 1716,
by Peters order, many families and thousands of peasants arrived
through a policy of forced migration. The new city became fully
functional and attempted to catch up to its European parents,
like Rome and Amsterdam. Paradoxically, Russias foremost city
now existed on the margins of both Russia itself and of Europe;
this irreconcilable identity came to define St. Petersburg. By 1903,
200 years after its founding, St. Petersburg was a fully integrated
and functioning urban center. The miraculous appearance of a city
in the marshes captured the imagination of Russians, and that imagination
was in turn captured in literature. The boulevards, canals, palaces,
swamps, and gardens would become the topographical setting of Russian
literature. As cultural historian Julie Buckler puts it: Petersburg
was the literary capital of tsarist Russia, not to mention
its own favorite literary subject ... St. Petersburg virtually wrote
itself into existence, so vast and varied is the Russian literature
that charts this city in all its aspects. The textual map
of St. Petersburgthat is, the sum total of genres, topoi, and
tours that cover the city in writingconstitutes a detailed
literary analogue for urban topography.
The Mapping St. Petersburg Project is designed to explore the cultural
history of St. Petersburg by creating a textual map that traces
private histories and the movement of products and peoples through
the citys urban space. This project was conceived by a group
of students at Berkeley, and is very near to completing its task
of mapping various aspects of St. Petersburg in the 20th century.
In doing so, it explores the themes of Russian literary modernism,
urban space, and cultural life with the goal of tracing literary
modernism in the city of St. Petersburg.
The Mapping model was inspired by Andrei Belys 1913 novel
Petersburg. It represents the imperial capital struggling
with modernity and Russian identity, the same cultural and geographical
split that dates to the age of Peter the Great. The project traces
the plot to assassinate a government official by navigating the
city space that brings the characters and authors together at this
event. Such a tracing shows the city in a profound state of angst,
from its idealistic revolutionaries to its downtrodden locals. The
city appears to us as fragmented and abstract, reflecting a certain
vision of modernity. Indeed, Petersburg opens by asserting
the citys cartographic existence: However that may be,
Petersburg not only appears to us, but actually does appearon
maps: in the form of two small circles, one set inside the other,
with a black dot in the center; and from precisely this mathematical
point, which has no dimension, it proclaims forcefully that it exists.
The mapping of the novelistic St. Petersburg opened up new possibilities:
as had been done with 19th-century Paris or London, it casts a map
on modernity, with progress and poverty center stage. The exigencies
of modernity required new ways of navigating city space, and new
visual and oral experiences for its inhabitants and visitors. Looking
at a map of the St. Petersburg rail system, you see that it is a
complex network of railroads and trams, newly conceptualized and
connected city spaces that are fixed into the space of small maps.
Trams and trains altered notions of urban time and space. Technological
progress brought consumer products, and the urban space grew into
a capitalist space. Tourists came, and brought with them guidebooks
for walking tours and sightseeing. Slums and factories gave Alexandr
Blok his material. Furthermore, the Russo-Japanese War and Revolution
of 1905 caused a good deal of political unrest. The 1904 assassination
[of Minister of the Interior Viachislav von Plehve] exploded the
security and uniformity of urban geography and experience.
Our map begins to show modernity at the moment that St. Petersburg
emerged as a modern city, as we trace itineraries enacted by visitors
and residents through the streets of St. Petersburg. Our vision
of literary modernism follows inhabitants on their daily pathwaysa
window onto a different St. Petersburg through walking tours and
strolls. We give a cartographic view of the city composed of public
and private practices. As Michel de Certeau has theorized, walking
the city unravels urban sectors and opens possibilities, as directional
and directed arbitrary movements offer singular glimpses into private
and public endeavors. Our hero is a Baudelaire-ian flâneur,
a passionate city walker, a collector and a connoisseur who bridges
the gap between public and private by seeing through façades
and understanding the city crowds.
Our website follows several plots that unexpectedly cross paths,
each with its own itineraries and subplots. They are hypertext narratives
that destabilize linear progression. Each allows the user to cross
from one to the other into fuller urban life. At present, the site
follows six paths that document different sorts of movements. Our
plotting goes beyond the novel to reflect the presence of the everyday.
Soon we will be adding four more itineraries. The advent of modernitys
infrastructure (electricity, sewage, telephones) creates new space
and is fixed into the maps and our plan. Mechanical transportation
facilitated navigation through the city. Modernity through tramlines
transformed the city streets, and the first of our pathways does
Note: It is advised that the reader follow along at
Tram technology was first demonstrated in Russia at the Worlds
Fair in Nizhny Novgorod, where it offered a spectacle of progress.
The opening of the first tram in St. Petersburg was a ceremonious
affair: the first tram pulled away from St. Petersburg laden with
the blessings of orthodox priests and manned by uniformed employees.
For a while, people stood in long lines to take the tram. It was
functional, it was entertainment, and it was movement for pure pleasure
The first pathway, Trambau, maps narratives of modernism
and modernity, and traces the first tramline through St. Petersburg.
Tramline 4 made its first journey on September 16, 1907; then, inspired
by modern maps of public transportation, it branched into three
lines of its own. The green line was Russias first functioning
tramline. The blue line connects the tram as part of urban culture
to its modernist texts. The blue line links the trams of the world
of St. Petersburg artists by locating them along the tram itineraries.
One stop maps an important literary event in the history of St.
Petersburga chance encounter occurred on the tram in 1918,
when Alexandr Blok and Gippius met for the last time in a tramcar.
The tram was a public space that sanctioned the severing of their
relationship. It changed the way the conversation was heard, viewed,
The red line is the theoretical model. The red line and the blue
line converge at the house of Dmitry Mitrokhin, whose etchings transformed
the tram into a part of everyday visual culture. On the one hand,
this etching includes the tram as part of everyday culture and as
a part of the urban experience; on the other hand, it is already
a part of the urban experience. At the end of this line, we go to
the city margins, where we can transfer over to the riverbanks.
Our second itinerary is called Karpovka, and allows the
flâneur to navigate fluidly through the numerous canals and
waterways of St. Petersburg. The river Karpovka as one particular
approach to modernity runs through islands, to Peters side,
and through the northern part of the city where different strata
of urban society mixed and lived. Here, you find slums, bourgeoisie,
industrial giants, and aristocrats. A walk along the Karpovka recreates
the city margins by following emblematic figures of St. Petersburgs
modernism in four stops. The first gives you to Alexandr Blok, who
roamed its banks and lived there. This stop allows you to learn
more about his city walking and his poetry. The next stop takes
you to the house of the famed actress Maria Savina, and allows you
to learn more about her life. Next, you stop at the house of the
artist Dmitry Mitrokhin. Finally, the most prestigious furniture
factory in St. Petersburg, owned by Fyodor Fyodorovich Meltser,
who worked in the art nouveau style. Here, you can learn
about the factory and the furniture produced there.
Our third itinerary is called Visions of Terror. It conceives
of human life and death as urban space, through an assassination
and a funeral. Both the terrorist and the poet were prototypes for
characters of St. Petersburg. In this itinerary, we take characters
from the novel Petersburg and plot their own itineraries
through St. Petersburg. More important, an intimate understanding
of the event cannot be separated from the topography of the city.
The assassination was plotted here in an alleyway, and took place
on July 15, 1904: as the notoriously oppressive Viacheslav Konstantinovich
von Plehve stepped into his carriage to meet the czar, a young man
threw a bomb that blew up the carriage and the person in it. The
main map shows two ways of navigating this site, all based on the
memoirs of conspirator Boris Savinkov. It combines two tabs, one
for each navigation. The assassination itinerary plots the day of
the murder; the other, the historical and theoretical implications.
The assassination pathway shows three prominent lines of the plot
and its unfolding. Blue follows the Plehve path, the brown, the
assassin, and the red, Savinkovs own path. The second line
of navigation offers a theoretical approach to its theatricality.
In the days before the attack, the conspirators spend days roaming
the city, using the city to camouflage their attack, as they were
dressed like railway porters. The city was a stage of sorts on which
the reporters staged the events. This pathway illustrates how a
historical event can be mapped and visualized through its multiple
Our fourth itinerary is called Postcards from St. Petersburg,
and it follows a guided tour of the main attractions of the
city. The modern phenomenon of mass tourism framed the city as a
travel destination. This path captures the city in postcards, casting
sightseeing as another urban experience and remapping the city as
a guided tour. This pathway maps the four stops of the itinerary
through two different guidebooks, where you can navigate from one
stop to the other and read the guidebook description. It is a virtual
meta-guidebook with critical commentary. The citys most famous
monument, the Bronze Horseman, was built in 1782 at the behest of
Catherine the Great, as a memorial. The original text of the guidebook
is on the right hand side of the page, with some commentary. This
suggests a way of reading the guidebooks representations and
poses questions for further analysis. The visual experience includes
different postcards of the site, so you can get different visual
takes on the same monument. This pathway works with the most literal
conception of a map, that is, its use for practical and navigational
purposes. The tour represents a simultaneous oriental and occidental
identity, representing Russias own uncertainty about itself.
This pathway illustrates how the visitors perception of the
city could be manipulated and viewed through the pages of a guidebook.
Please visit the website for more itineraries, and stay tuned for
four new itineraries to be added soon.
This online interactive map studies movement through modern urban
space and various aspects at the same time as modernity was emerging
as a critical concept. This project can be used as a research tool,
a pedagogical tool, or a suggestion for new research. Just like
modernity itself, this project is a multifaceted one, representing
the many different experiences of the urban walker. It takes the
vantage point of the flâneur, a person with a slippery identity;
this flâneur could be a passenger, an assassin, a poet, an
artist, a tourist, or a butcher. The six existing pathways map these
movements through the space of a text, each giving a framework or
a meta-pathway to the understanding of the itinerary.
Apocalypse in Dickens London
Alter, Comparative Literature Department, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
I would like to propose that the 19th century was a special watershed
in terms of the evolution of the city. As we are aware, cities have
been a part of civilization since ancient Sumer at least, but something
new happened in the 19th century in the Western Hemisphere. There
was a mushrooming of cities. There are many reasons for this startling
transition: the Industrial Revolution, new jobs and massive immigration
from the provinces to name a few.
The growth of cities is especially visible when we consider two
famous men from the twentieth century. Both Sigmund Freud and Franz
Kafka were born into families originally from the countryside and
who came to make their living in the city; the formers family
came from a village in Galicia, while the latters hailed from
Moravia, but both Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka became famous for
discussing in one way or another the dislocating effect of modern
city life. Better and more diverse nutrition led to a decrease in
infant mortality, and a consequent population explosion. One particular
illustration should give you an idea of how quickly cities were
growing. In 1800, London was a city of one million inhabitants.
In 1850, it had reached 2.6 million inhabitants. In 1899, there
were six million inhabitants, a six-fold increase in only one hundred
years. Now, in England this was due not only to a greater life expectancy,
but also to in-migration from the countryside as a result of rural
dislocation and the enclosure.
There is a very general way in which this is mirrored in the 19th-century
novel. There is a recurrent plot in nineteenth-century literatureThe
Young Man from the Provinces. Think Balzac with Rastignac confronting
the big city; think Lost Illusions; you will remember Pip
from Great Expectations, again a young man from the provinces.
From the East, think Raskolnikov, who was crazed by a delusional
ideology; he came from a small provincial village. The general effect
of this migration was a transformation of all the basic coordinates
of existence. It is a situation where quantitative change becomes
qualitative change; there is massive crowding of the population
living in appalling proximity to one another. Because people came
as individuals, you have the break-up of the extended family as
the unit within which you lead your life. Individuals become isolated,
and you have both crowds and crowdedness, and a sense of experience
in the 20th century that Simmel described as the overload of stimuli.
Later, Walter Benjamin talked about shock and disruption (little
and big alike) as characterizing life in the city.
One of the hallmarks of modernity in Great Britain was the railroad.
It was invented in the 1820s, and put into general use in the late
1830s and 1840s. It is one of the agents that enabled the big migrations
from the provinces. One could hop on a train and be in a capital
city in three hours, not two days by horse and wagon. What we are
looking at here is the construction of a railroad line in London
in the 1840s. This picture gives you a sense of what was going on.
The violence of the disruption of the urban landscape, these people
with pickaxes and hammers tore apart the guts of the city to make
way for the railroad. So what does the novel have to do with any
My contention is that the experience of everyday life was radically
altered in these new cities. The individual sense of selfhood and
individuality, human agency, and how that person perceived both
time and space really shifted in these new urban circumstances.
Novelists used certain tools to cope with that. I will mention one
major line of development that I will not follownamely, the interiorization
of narratives. That is, if you read an old fashion 18th-century
novel, one by Fielding or even the novels of Balzac, you have an
omniscient narrator who explains exactly what is happening in the
physical setting and the characters. But at the same time as Balzac
a few novelists, like Jane Austen or Stendhal, see that there is
something compelling about telling the story through the eyes of
the character. What you see as you read the novel is what the character
sees, which may be imperfect or skewed but it is what he sees; this
gives the story a dramatic immediacy. For example, Gustave Flauberts
writings are technically referred to as free indirect discourse,
where the narrator reports to you in the third person the words
that the character would speak to him or herself. This is another
way of telling the story as the character experiences it. For example,
in Flauberts Sentimental Education, the entire story
is told through the lens of the main character, Frédéric,
a young man from the provinces. You get a sense of the disorientation
of the urban experience and a dizzying array of stimuli.
Now I would like to discuss the use of metaphor in Dickens. You
cant talk about literature without talking about metaphor.
For many people, metaphor is a sort of decorative device. Actually,
metaphor does much more serious and compelling work. One task I
would like to propose is that it is a vehicle of discoveryit
opens up the horizons of the new perspectives it represents. The
stereotypical conception of Dickens, which is inaccurate or incomplete,
is that he is a sentimentalist who creates tearjerkers, or that
he is one of the great humorists of his age with his great sense
of comedy, cheeriness, or zaniness. All these features of his writing
continue until the very end. But as Dickens got on in his career,
towards the end of the 1850s, there is a darkening of his vision.
He gets concerned about where the world is going and particularly
about where the contemporary urban world is going. One last word
about Dickens and metaphor: there is no formula for works of genius.
On the one hand, there is someone like Flaubert, who honed Madame
Bovary from over 2000 manuscript pages, constantly agonizing
over every word choice until he got it perfect. On the other hand,
there is Dickens, writing serial publications at great speed, amounting
to a sustained and brilliant improvisation. About the metaphor:
Dickens is the great master of metaphor in English literature after
Shakespeare. The metaphor becomes a cognitive instrument by which
Dickens can show that he might have known more than he realized.
In the novel Bleak House, most people remember the fog,
which he insists upon with great rhetorical flourish. But there
is something more environmental about this novel. For example, Smoke
lowering down from the chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle,
with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakesgone
into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.
The chimney pots, of course, are in the houses that could afford
them, each room being heated by a fireplace with a chimney on the
roof. The hearths burned soft coal, which was an appalling source
of pollution, and incidentally the same material burned in East
Germany under the communists that melted the façades of buildings.
That acute notion, technically called conceit, is more than just
conceit. There is a spooky sense in the way that urban reality has
altered the environment and threatens extinction. The order of nature
has been radically reversed. The death of the sun is also an idea
that was current in the nineteenth century, in the works of the
astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace, for example. When you introduce
the idea of the death of the sun, you get into the borderland of
In the novel Our Mutual Friend, which was Dickens last
completed novel, he tries most fully to come to terms with the new
urban reality. I would like to mention two features of the plot.
There are two related manifestations of the cityscape that are at
the center of the plot. One is the dust heap, dust being a euphemism
for garbage. The family at the center of the novel has reaped a
fortune from scavenging, finding value in the vast pile of refuse.
You have this notion of wealth extracted from filth. There is something
else that needs to be mentioned: in these new compacted cities with
large populations, one very practical problem is that of garbage
disposal. So, the dust heap became one central image. The other
image is that of the River Thames. What I want to underline here
is that the river is filthy, and in the first scene, you have a
sordid character and his sweet daughter fishing for dead bodies.
In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens gives a description of the
Thames at dawn:
The white face of the winter day came sluggishly on, veiled
in a frosty mist; and the shadowy ships in the river slowly
changed to black substances; and the sun, blood-red on the eastern
marshes behind the dark masts and yards, seemed filled with
the ruins of a forest it had set on fire.
You can see how the figurative language takes the novelistic account
to a surprising place. Not just a decorative description, or a vivid
image of the red at dawn, but an apocalyptic description. These
masts sticking up are flipped back from the forest from which they
came and the forest is enflamed. You get a real sense of the power
of Dickens metaphorical imagination.
Let us look at three longer passages:
The city looked unpromising enough, as Bella made her way along
its gritty streets. Most of its money-mills were slackening sail,
or had left off grinding for the day. The master-millers had already
departed, and the journeymen were departing. There was a jaded
aspect on the business lanes and courts, and the very pavements
had a weary appearance, confused by the tread of a million feet.
There must be hours of night to temper down the days distraction
of so feverish a place. As yet the worry of the newly-stopped
whirling and grinding on the part of the money-mills seemed to
linger in the air, and the quiet was more like the prostration
of a spent giant than of one who was renewing his strength.
This passage is mostly self-evident. The kind of activity that
Dickens imagined is not meaningful activity like building a table
or planting a field and then reaping the harvest at the end of the
year. It is a constant, maddening, cyclical and frenetic, feverish
activity that never ends. It is the great giant who is spent (a
pun, meaning exhausted but also spent moneycharacteristic
Dickensian fairy-tale image), but the fairy tale is the terrifying
aspect which illuminates the terrifying aspect of reality.
A grey dusty withered evening in London city has not a hopeful
aspect. The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death
about them, and the national dread of colour has an air of mourning.
The towers and steeples of the many house-encompassed churches,
dark and dingy as the sky that seems descending on them, are no
relief to the general gloom; a sundial on a church-wall has the
look, in its useless black shade, of having failed in its business
enterprise and stopped payment for ever; melancholy waifs and
strays of housekeepers and porters sweep melancholy waifs and
strays of papers and pins into the kennels, and other more melancholy
waifs and strays explore them, searching and stooping and poking
for anything to sell. The set of humanity outward from the City
is as a set of prisoners departing from jail, and dismal Newgate
seems quite as fit a stronghold for the mighty Lord Mayor as his
On such an evening, when the City grit gets into the hair and
eyes and skin, and when the fallen leaves of the few, unhappy
City trees grind down in corners under wheels of wind, the schoolmaster
and his pupil emerged upon the Leadenhall Street region, spying
eastward for Lizzie.
You can see here that there is not much room in the haze and fog.
The other thing to remember is in its useless black shade
of having failed in its business enterprise and stopped payment
We are talking about a sundial and what would
happen were it to stop payment
it would be the apocalypse.
In the next line, we see a sentence that expresses the feeling of
actually, physically looking into the city. Next, Dickens introduces
the idea of the residue that haze can leave on your skin, the same
sort of film that you might get from spending too much time outside
in New York or Los Angeles.
There is still more evidence of an environmental hazard in the
last quote, when one of Londons most recognizable symbols,
St. Pauls Cathedral, becomes invisible to the eye through the
It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark.
Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking,
wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided
in purpose between being visible and invisible, and so being wholly
neither. Gaslights flared in the shops with a haggard and unblest
air, as knowing themselves to be night-creatures that had no business
abroad under the sun; while the sun itself when it was for a few
moments dimly indicated through circling eddies of fog, showed
as if it had gone out and were collapsing flat and cold. Even
in the surrounding country it was a foggy day, but there the fog
was grey, whereas in London it was, at about the boundary line,
dark yellow, and a little within it brown, and then browner, and
then browner, until at the heart of the Citywhich call Saint
Mary Axeit was rusty-black. From any point of the high ridge
of land northward, it might have been discerned that the loftiest
buildings made an occasional struggle to get their heads above
the foggy sea, and especially that the great dome of Saint Pauls
seemed to die hard; but this was not perceivable in the streets
at their feet, where the whole metropolis was a heap of vapour
charged with muffled sound of wheels, and enfolding a gigantic
Dickens is at once both a visionary and a fantastically precise
overseer. Comments and preconceptions might lead one to believe
that those two things are opposed, but not in Dickens. What he is
describing in this quote is what we refer to as smog, and notice
how precise his description is. The natural fog in the countryside
slowly gets tinged with brown the closer one gets to the city, until
in the middle of the city it is a dark and deep brown color. This
passage ends with two associated images of drowning. One of the
whole city in smog, with only St. Pauls bravely struggling to keep
its dome above the surface, and then wheezing with irritated lungs
and choking that ends with a giant catarrh, or inner drowning.
Question: Was there any connection between the human elements
of creating the poor environment, or was it dissociated? Was there
any evidence of people saying that we need to do something about
Answer: I think that Dickens treatment of the environment
is not programmatic, the way that it is in Oliver Twist, inveighing
against poor houses
here it is more direct. It helped to raise
consciousness and add to the few voices already talking about urban
by the 1880s and 1890s, various schemes of planning
had been implemented, but there was no clear sense of the sources
of pollution. They did have an idea that these were not habitations
fit for human beings. I mentioned a few minutes ago Hampstead: around
1890, some city planners created Hampstead Garden suburbs (no part
of this massive city of London) and these are orderly row houses
which have their gardens and heath alongside, so there was grass,
fresh air, greenery, so people began moving a little faster.
One could make the case that, well, isnt this all apocalyptic:
the city drowning, the death of the sun, etc.? Isnt this rather
extravagant or extreme? Of course it is, and of course there are
alternatives to dying in cities. However, I dont think it is
the job of an imaginative writer to strike a perfectly reasonable
balance. The visionary impetus that you feel in Dickens metaphorical
language is such that it opens up a perspective on the worst-case
scenario. It makes the reader realize how we have pushed things
to such a point that maybe the city is not going to be viable as
a place of human habitation. It is going to be the death of human
civilization. But it is well for us to be warned of this.
Question: Before cities became big centers, metaphors were
usually associated with nature. Does metaphor become more city-oriented,
do we see authors going away from metaphorical language associated
with nature as the death of nature?
Answer: Dickens feels very clearly that the city is alienation
one element of the plot is that when you go up
the Thames away from London in certain scenes, the air is clearer,
there are trees and grass, and redemption comes to a character who
nearly drowns but doesnt, saved by nature; but in the city
you are cut off from nature. Anti-urbanism also has a long history,
and it goes back to the book of Genesis. Think for example of the
story of the tower of Babel, and that is really an anti-urban fable,
an argument against Mesopotamian culture where they have these big
cities and ziggurats going up into the skysay the Babylonian
equivalent of skyscrapers. The Israelites were these agricultural
peopleyes there was Jerusalem, and a few others, but these
were sort of hick towns. You can see in the Babel story and elsewhere
a sense that those writers had that the city alienated you from
God and from the way that you were supposed to be in the world.
Mechanization, and Migration: The Urban Experience in Walther Ruttmanns
Weimar Film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Wizansky, Institute of European Studies, UCB
(Summarized by Robert Nelson)
A silent version of the film can be found at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=5ej84nN1WcE
This film is a black and white silent film from 1927 Weimar Germany.
Weimar Germany is the name by which we know the German Republic
that governed after World War I and before the creation of the Third
Reich under Hitler. Walter Ruttmann , who wanted to show the cross-section
view of a single day in the city of Berlin in the 1920s, directed
this film. The film chronicles a day from dawn to midnight, divided
into five movements. Three cameramen, who were working in documentary
format, shot it. Almost none of the scenes were staged or plotted.
Often, they worked with hidden cameras for more candid shots. All
this was condensed into a film that is 62 minutes long, and is meant
to represent one day.
At this time, the mid-twenties in Europe, people were intensely
interested in urban spaces and their effects on city dwellers. This
is a long-standing interest that dates back at least to the beginning
of 19th century, and persists in this post-war period, in ways that
were specific to the period. You can find this in numerous texts
from a wide range of fields at this timesociology, psychology,
engineering, medicine, general cultural criticism, and daily newspapers.
This interest manifested of course in the visual arts as well, including
films of all kindsnarrative, sci-fi, documentary; a few of
these that come to mind are Fritz Langs Metropolis, Chaplins
Modern Times, Taxi Tangle (an American film set in New York),
and Ernst Lubitschs The Last Laugh. What distinguishes
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City from these films is that the
city it represents doesnt serve as a backdrop or even a setting
for a story about people, whose lives we follow and get involved
in. It is the city itself which is both the films subject and,
I would go so far as to say, its main actor. And, given how the
film blurs the boundaries between people and inanimate things, I
think that it is appropriate to call the city an actor.
1. What did the filmmakers choose to show about Berlin in 1927?
2. What aspects are most representative?
3. What informed the filmmakers choice of material?
4. What attitude does the film project?
5. What can these questions tell us about perceptions and ideas
about urban life in mid-twenties Germany?
The city was viewed as the epitome of modern life, or what was
most modern about modernity. There was still a heightened awareness
about modernity, and city inhabitants wore that awareness very self-consciously.
Time was moving faster in the interwar years, and the changes arising
from modernization at home, in the public sphere, and in political
culture were happening more quickly and visibly. There is a historical
context to this perception, which we dont have time to explore
today, but I will put it out as an interesting one.
The city, as the most modern landscape, emerges at this time in
the West as a space and force that had a deeply transformative influence/impact
on human beings living within it. Furthermore, this transformation
occurred at the psychic level. So, while city life manifested itself
in all kinds of ways that were visible on the surface (which to
a large extent we still recognize)in dress codes, profuse and
ever-changing fashions, display windows; new technologies and mass
cultural formsmovies, radios, cabaret, sports, trafficthese
things were understood by and large as both inducing and reflecting
deeper structural changes in the very psychic make-up of urban dwellers.
People were critiquing and representing the city as a landscape
that both destabilized and radically reshaped ones very identity,
core sense of self, and relationship to the surrounding world. By
1927, Berlin was widely regarded as the paragon of urban living,
or Europes most modern city. As you can imagine, opinions about
the quality of life in the city varied widely. On the one hand,
it was exciting and innovative, it embodied the dawn of the modern
age, it saw experimentation in art, changing social and gender identities,
fashion and new cultural norms. On the other hand, it seemed chaotic,
alienating, utterly dehumanizing to some, and these kinds of critics
saw Berlin as the pinnacle of decadence, and the locus of the decline
of traditional morals and with it, civilization.
Movie Sequence, Act I
The filmmakers position the spectator in the position of the passenger
looking at the speeding landscape from his or her eyes (given that
gender-neutral subjects were coded male, I would have to say his)
so the passenger is looking out frequently at the landscape. From
the very start, Ruttmann draws our attention to the profound relation
between the cinema and modern urban life, and he will do this many
times through the film. Here, he draws an analogy between the experience
of watching the landscape flying by and a movie itself. When the
train arrives and stops in the station, the passenger disembarks
and begins to walk through the city. It is through his or her eyes
that we see Berlin. Who exactly this is supposed to be, we will
turn to at the end of the talk. The city is beginning to wake up
Movie Sequence, Act II
The city-waking-up theme continues. Now it is a different social
sector, but we begin to see the curtains being pulled back, stores
raising their guards, more workers, and this time, more women in
secretarial or clerical jobs such as nursing, teaching, or gardening.
Movie Sequence, Act III
This is about 10 a.m. More people are crowding the city streets,
doing a variety of things. In this act, we have a more varied scene:
magicians, street vendors, thoroughfares, and a brawl. It introduces
a very strong theme: namely, the tension between percolating chaos
and the enforcement of order. The crowded, jostling bodies all threaten
to become chaotic, escalating into mass political protest or a simple
traffic collision. All of these potential eruptions are kept under
control by the law enforcement, which directs traffic, breaks up
speeches, and intervenes in brawls. Think about the beggar who picked
up a cigarette butt. This points to a larger issue that is a longstanding
process in western cities: the widening of the gap between the well-to-do
and the impoverished, and certainly the swelling of the latter group.
A potential political statement occurs when the frame immediately
cuts to the policeman, who is positioned in the space to keep order
in traffic matters, but also waves the viewer past this scene and
on to the next. We are reluctant to dwell on such poverty.
Movie Sequence, Act IV
This act shows relaxation time at lunch. It also picks up on the
tension between crisis and control; the suicide is the most extreme
example, and probably the only staged event in the film. It depicts
an individual at the moment of the most extreme personal crisis
and collapse, who jumps and draws an excited and excitable crowd.
The moment is drawn away from us, as the body is swept away by water.
It doesnt reappear.
This film constantly challenges us visually. It sends a steady
stream or march of images that you have to recognize, register,
and understand, but it gives you very little time to do so. It gives
you images, and replaces them over and over again for 62 minutes.
The viewer, like the characters, are anxious and disoriented, and
after a while, somewhat numbed and assaulted by so much information.
The diversity of objects and exchanges begins to feel the same.
Instead of fighting this feeling, you should use this as a departure
point to understand this particular view of the city and the filmmakers
perspective on the city. Like a symphony, this film takes many individual
shots and notes and spreads them out. It also treats a few common
themes, like motion, crisis and control, and mechanization and rationalization.
The film shows a lot of items and people in motionit opens
up with the train hurtling through the city, people walking and
playing sports, animals, dancing, and eating. The film takes these
discrete examples of whole or partial figures and composes them
into segments that underscore motion and constant flux into things
that are intrinsic to modern life. The cuts from shot to shot are
rapid and visible, and even the scenes of leisure are not allowed
to remain leisurely to the viewer. The pace of the cuts propels
us from image to image. Film narrates in time, and the motion of
the filmstrip controls our viewing experience. Film was at this
point the most modern visual form, and still relatively new. It
is quite likely that Ruttmann was highlighting the historical relationship
between cinema and the modern city through rapidly punctuated motion.
Crisis and Control
Acts Three and Four show the tension between underlying stress and
forces of order and control. Berlin was made approximately
seven years after WWI, during which period Germans had experienced
traumatic defeat, harsh and humiliating reparations, abrupt dissolution
of a powerful monarchy, an attempted revolution (brutally suppressed
by the SPD and military aligned to prevent Bolshevik Revolution),
a damaged economy, massive material shortages that continued after
the war, rampant inflation that escalated in 1923, and a young democracy
that was still fragile and in its infancy. To put it mildly, this
period was one of extreme turmoil and dramatic change, and it fostered
a sense of instability and fear of chaos that was threatening to
bubble over into the political, economic, and social spheres. In
1923, the government gained a handle on the massive inflation, and
subsequent international investments caused a period of relative
stabilization. At that point, nobody knew what was to come, but
the memory of past violence, stress, and national shame was still
alive. The SPD had not yet won firm public support, there was extremism
on the left and the right, and most hardships were not resolved
at this time. Germans lived in tension between chaos and tenuous
stability in their daily life, and it is this climate that underpins
the theme of crisis and control.
Mechanization and Rationalization
This film is permeated with machinery and rationalized processes.
On the one hand, machines served people, produced for the city,
and provided entertainment and light, and the film displays mechanization
as something beautiful and entertaining. But in this film people
also service machines. There is a fine line dividing people and
machines, and it is frequently blurred. Humans are juxtaposed to
machines in a way that doesnt quite separate the two. For example,
machines like the locomotive pant and sweat like humans. And so
while city dwellers arent ruled or suppressed in the same way
as in Fritz Langs Metropolis, it is not entirely clear
that humans are autonomous physically from the machines they work
with and the citys regulated and machine-like pace. The relationship
between individuals and technology is a central theme in Western
history, and continues into the twenties with the memory of the
most technological and destructive war ever fought not far in the
past. In the ordinary realms of production and work, German companies
were enthusiastically embracing rationalized production techniques
developed by Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor, and melting
work down to a science. So public awareness of the theories of rationalization
in the workplace was quite high, and the public was also exposed
to varying opinions on the actual process. The same public that
went to see movies most likely recognized the ambivalence of the
nature of the relationship between technology and rationalization
in human beings.
Juxtaposition of discrete shots that arent continuous in
space and time, but are made continuous in the film
Ruttmann uses this technique to make interpretive visual comments
on city life. For example, we have already discussed the class difference
in the cigarette-throwing scene. Another juxtaposition in the first
act took place when there was a sequence of legs, which cut to a
picture of cows, and then back to people, then to soldiers. There
are a number of issues like motion and regulated life, but there
is another issue that has to do with public feeling, resentment,
trauma, and anger towards the recent war. The cattle are symbolic
of that slaughter, captured in the German word schlachtvieh,
which literally refers to cattle going to slaughter but was used
during WWI and after to refer to German soldiers and young men who
had been grossly misled into war and then led to slaughter. The
juxtaposing of discrete and non-continuous shots is called montage,
or putting together, and refers to the editing and cutting
of yards and hours of footage and joining them to make a new film-strip.
The differences come down to the degree to which the montage is
highlighted. For example, the filmmakers use a montage technique
called memento, in which the viewer sees a very visible
montage which distorts our sense of time, space and progress.
In the late 1900s to the early 1920s, cultural discussions in Europe
centered upon modern life, and in particular how it had become so
dense and confused and, consequently, difficult to explain. In Germany
this sense had become heightened, and within this climate there
was a great suspicion of linear narratives, ones that have clear
beginnings and ends with understandable characters and clear visions
of life. Critics on the left called such narratives deceptively
dangerous and illusionist. The visual arts saw a rejection of naturalistic
representations and a dissatisfaction with anatomically correct
figures and the rejection of stable spaces and single moments in
time. These are the same sorts of techniques used by painters in
the late nineteenth century. German filmmakers and critics liked
complexity, and turned to montage. It emerged first in the Soviet
Union, in conjunction with post-Revolutionary art. Montage became
more than an expensive crafting tool. A refusal to use linear narrative
and instead to accurately represent the fractured and fragmented
quality of modern life became a widely used technique. Montage made
analytical and critical commentary, and demanded the analytical
and critical attention of the viewer, as well as an awareness that
the story was artificial and selected. A film put together with
visual montage could show images and ideas, which are more malleable
than simple images. It could demonstrate the power of the individual
to narrate new stories and to reconstruct social and cultural life.
Advocates of montage despised films with narratives (Hollywood films),
which lulled people into passivity with seductive, beautiful characters
and dramatic, resolved lives.
In making such deliberate and visible use of montage in Berlin:
Symphony of a Great City, Ruttmann was demonstrating his familiarity
with these theories and practices. The film was harshly criticized,
however, by German critics interested in social critique and sympathetic
to soviet montage theory. I want to read you one piece, by a critic
named Siegfried Kracauer, a regular contributor to a major Frankfurt
newspaper, in order to illustrate the investment that people had
made in montageas a means of social criticism, to illustrate
how important it was to them as a critical tool, and how important
they felt it was to get it right:
Ruttmann, instead of penetrating his immense subject-matter with
a true understanding of its social, economic and political structure
. . . records thousands of details without connecting them, or
at best connects them through fictitious transitions which are
void of content. His film may be based upon the idea of Berlin
as the city of tempo and work; but this is a formal idea which
does not imply content either and perhaps for that very reason
intoxicates the German petty bourgeoisie in real life and literature.
This symphony fails to point out anything, because it does not
uncover a single significant context.
Kracauer thought that Ruttmann had squandered montages potential
for making meaningful political statements about the social facts
he assembled on the screen. Instead of using its discontinuous effects
to cut through the myths of appearance and make a statement, he
had taken segments that documented the harshness of the city and
reassembled them back into a film that was purely formalhe
had made abstract music out of concrete social realities. He was
more interested in evacuated formal rhythms than in actual content.
Another way to see this is through the lens of Georg Simmel. Simmel
is considered by many today as one of the early figures of cultural
studies. He wrote many very interesting essays about aspects of
modern life, one of which is reproduced in your reader, called The
Metropolis and Mental Life. His concern in this essay was with
the effect of city life on the individuals psychic state. With
the emergence of psychoanalysis in the late 19th century, there
was an increasing tendency to perceive and analyze the mind as if
it were another mechanism. Like Kracauer, Simmel perceived the city
as having a deeply transformative impact on the structure of peoples
psyches. His argument in a nutshell goes as follows: The core problem
of modern life was the struggle of individuals to maintain personal
independence within social structuresto resist being leveled,
swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism (324). The
most intense characteristic of urban life was the relentless flow
of stimuli/sensory stimulation that assaults individuals daily,
throughout the daywith every crossing of the street, with
the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social
it creates a deep contrast with the slower, more habitual,
more smoothly flowing rhythm of the sensory-mental phase of small
town and rural existence.
In order to protect themselves against the onslaught, urban individuals
developed a mental shield between their outer and inner lives, and
this shield is manifested in a blasé attitude. People were
antagonistic and distant, and related to one another in rational,
calculating, and intellectual ways. At the same time, this attitude
granted people a higher degree of personal autonomy and independence
from old social traditionsindependence from constrictions of
habit and ritual. It allowed people the space and freedom to deconstruct
and reconstruct the complex, modern world and determine ones
place in it. It enabled modern urban dwellers to adapt. We dont
know whether Ruttmann read this essay. We do know however that it
was widely read, Simmel was well known, and that he too was part
of a broader discussion about the City, in which ideas of this kind
Id like to suggest thus that the neutralized, deflective feeling
of this film might be understood in relation to this idea of the
blasé urban demeanor. While Kracauer saw the pace of editing
as something that disabled the film, that distanced viewers from
the reality it represented, we could also read it as a technique
that in effect reproduced the effects of the mental shield, which
Simmel saw as a protective mechanism, as a way for individuals to
distance themselves from environmental stimulinot necessarily
as an escape from reality/modern life, but as necessary stage of
adapting to it.
Paris of the Impressionists
Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Art History, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
(The following write-up will best be followed by viewing the corresponding
paintings listed throughout: paintings in bold)
We will start with two paintings that are indicative of the kind
of paintings you think about when you think about impressionism.
Claude Monet, Regatta at Argenteuil, 1872
Edgar Degas, Backstage at the Ballet, 1870s
What appeals to viewers and what is famous about these paintings
is that they are exciting, vital representations of scenes of pleasure
and entertainment. The pleasures depicted are self-evident and on
offer in these two. In addition, a viewer can quickly see how the
pictures were made, creating a connection with the painting. However,
in teaching these paintings it is useful to ask whether they have
become naively cheerful. While it is still easy to fill a class
on the impressionists, students may not connect with these paintings
in the way they once did.
Now, lets compare these paintings with one by Jacques Louis
David, the kind of painting undergrads know they should not want
Jacques Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1785
This painting captures what painting used to be like. Seen from
slides one may miss the comparison of size between this and the
two impressionist painting, but the Oath is huge while the
Regatta is much smaller. Davids painting stands for
hierarchy, both social and aesthetic. Traditionally, the hierarchy
of genres was: history painting, genre painting (scenes of everyday
life), landscape, still-life, and portraiture. Davids painting
conveys a historical lesson. Men swear a dramatic oath while women
grieve in the background. You can tell that he is telling a story
and more importantly, one with a moral imperative. It says something
about loyalty to the larger good, family, and sacrifice.
So why are we not talking about Monet? Narrative is not exactly
the strength of Regatta. It shows a scene where the wind
blows and the sun shines, but it is more descriptive than narrative.
Monets painting describes the world as a natural place and
captures mans human activities, such as recreation and pleasure.
This is a primary reason why impressionist paintings can be alienating
to some. At the same time, they are radically less alienating than
a painting that requires you to know something and can make you
feel stupid in the process for not knowing. The hierarchy of painting
in the past required knowledge of the great stories, and painters
and the upper class alike needed to know them like the epic poets.
This means part of what impressionism entails is turning its back
on this hierarchy. The historical painting has been unable to survive
modernization (the French Revolution, industrialization, etc.) and
painters recognize they can paint their moment rather than history.
This makes painting a smaller and more casual affair involving easel
size paintings, paintings that could be bought and put over your
The lesser genres of everyday life could now be the subject for
modern painting. This is not to say this transition comes easily,
but rather painters such as Monet come to this realization kicking
and screaming. Monet started his career trying to do 60-foot paintings,
but found this hard to mesh with scenes of everyday life.
The 60-foot epic painting also clashes with the style of impressionism.
Monets and Degass brush strokes show us the easiness of
paintings. In general people like the feeling that I can do
that; and this is not the case with 60-foot monstrosities.
Monet, Boulevard des Capucines, 1873.
With Monet, one often thinks of suburbs or nature. The impact of
the city on Claude Monet is to send him out into the countryside
and make him the Sierra Club of painters. He recognized
recreation in nature as a way to leave some of the greater tensions
of the city and modernization behind. While this painting is of
the city, it captures some of his wariness with this modernity.
When he paints the boulevard he does so from a distance, capturing
a misty row of trees and recognizable homes, but the crowd from
a distance. This distance allows him to avoid social descriptions
and picture the crowds as peaceful and non-contentious. Class, social,
political, and economic differences disappear and the inhabitants
seem highly alike. He actively views them as a crowd rather than
Hippolyte Flandrin, Napoleon III
This picture of Napoleon III is a good entry into a period of powerful,
violent, dramatic urban transformation, also know as Haussmannization.
When Napoleon III came to power, he decided to change Paris and
make it a modern city. Together with Baron Haussmann, he created
sewers, public transport, and grand boulevards, which conveniently
were also hard to barricade. This was a modern city and governable
city, in essence creating a social contract; residents of Paris
got things like sewers and lighting, but in exchange accepted the
legitimacy of the Second Empire.
Charles Marville, before photograph (before 1862)
Marville, after photograph, Boulevard St. Michel, 1870s
Two contrasting photographs by Marville do a good job at capturing
Paris before and after Haussmannization. Marville was commissioned
to document the transition of Paris. In looking at his photographs
it is important not just to understand the images, but also to understand
the process of photography and how the images were created. Marville
used a long shutter that effectively eliminates the human presence
in Paris, as transitory people wont register on plate. That
doesnt mean there are no signs of humans. The sewage slowly
moving down the street in the before photo shows this is an inhabited
city. Marville creates a sense of history with dark winding streets
and a high level of texture and grit.
The after photo captures the incredibly changed Boulevard St. Michel.
The angle of the shot at a crossroads emphasizes the wide boulevard
and obscures the architectural specificity of Haussmannization.
During Haussmannization all of the buildings were built in identical
style, with the same height and same stone, imposing a uniformity
that tourists love when they visit Paris today. However, this cohesion
was not entirely aesthetic, it was also way of raising money. The
stone was one they could tax and had to be brought from outside
Paris. Corruption was a part of the narrative of Paris as well.
So what do painters do to capture this period?
Degas, Place de la Concorde; Vicomte Lepic and his Daughters,
The next Degas painting of the Place de la Concorde, which was
unfortunately destroyed in WWII, provides an excellent starting
point. One choice for painters, like Monet, was not to paint the
city, but rather go out into the country and paint the sailboats.
An alternative response, however, was to take it on and try to convey
an attitude of the period.
One pedagogical side note: slowing down and comparing what can
be conveyed in artwork should not be missed. Many students love
the act of translation between a visual medium and words.
Comparing the Degas to the David we find symmetry vs. asymmetry.
The David is a box-like space with figures organized into component
units parallel lines, etc.). In contrast, the Degas is extraordinarily
asymmetrical. The figures are oddly pressed to the edge of the composition
and you cannot see their full bodies. The man at the left edge is
wholly bisected. Looking at this painting the observer can revel
in the pleasure of cropping and its implications. This is a moment,
a contingent passing moment that we suddenly have access to and
there is a feeling that these figures were not organized for self-presentation,
these arent models posing. The David is based on preparatory
drawings, while the way the Degas is painted makes it more transitory.
This does not mean that less is conveyed. We see a father going
the opposite way from daughters in surprising lack of coordination
and may recognize what he does not.
Looking at Degass perception of the city, there is an emphasis
on the huge space and emptiness of Place. The theme of random movement
in the larger group space is a common one of the period, as painters
were interested in the psychological implications of this disorganization:
the momentary matters.
Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, 1863:
The crowd is [the artists] domain, just as the air is the
birds, and water that of the fish. His passion and his profession
is to merge with the crowd. For the perfect idler, for the passionate
observer it becomes an immense source of enjoyment to establish
his dwelling in the throng, in the ebb and flow, the bustle, the
fleeting and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel
at home anywhere; to see the world, to be at the very centre of
the world, and yet to be unseen of the world, such are some of
the minor pleasures of those independent, intense and impartial
spirits, who do not lend themselves easily to linguistic definitions.
The observer is a prince enjoying his incognito wherever he goes.
The lover of life makes the whole world into his family, just
as the lover of the fair sex creates his from all the lovely women
he has found, from those that could be found, and those who are
impossible to find, just as the picture-lover lives in an enchanted
world of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal
life moves into the crowd as though into an enormous reservoir
The above quote by Baudelaire captures a new model of the artists
job that is completely different from a Davidian conception. Here
we get the notion that literally wandering the streets is the job
and the privilege of the artist, the flâneur as artist. An
artist can move through the streets and social classes incognito.
You may notice that the above quotation does not once refer to painting
or that painting isnt the same as looking. The separation of
these concepts is suppressed during impressionism. Suddenly there
is a notion that looking makes their art. Impressionists are free
to roam the social world of the new city and what they see there
is what they can deliver up to art as prince incognito while the
observer is not necessarily observed.
Gustave Caillebotte, Rainy Day, 1877
Caillebottes Rainy Day is in many ways a strange painting
to talk about in the context of impressionism. Caillebotte was in
many ways too industrious to be a true impressionist, a trait afforded
him by his class as an aristocrat, which allows him to align himself
with hard work, a description many impressionists tried to avoid.
In addition his style was non-impressionist, using studies and painting
Putting these differences aside, Rainy Day provides another
view of Haussmanns Paris. You relate to people of the sidewalk
as if you might be on the sidewalk, seeing the space and the boulevards.
The place is a space of atomistic umbrella-defined wandering; how
bourgeois can you get? Each person in black has a space that is
his or hers. The painting also sets up a little bit of social tension
as the sidewalk cuts across the picture and forces us to feel ourselves
negotiating this sidewalk. Who is going to get by whom is still
in flux and we know that one of the two parties is going to have
to give. We are brought into that when we see the picture. These
are the types of interactions Monet ignores in his painting. From
Caillebotte there is a sense that public spaces are about negotiation
and he paints this with a refreshing playfulness: he uses lines
to paint a man hanging from an umbrella and the decapitation of
a carriage driver, enjoying the pleasures of this funny city.
The following quote by Mallarmé describes the modern pleasure
that is randomly cropping the world and creating visual games as
an observer. The site of our new art lies in suddenly looking, and
in doing so one finds surprising juxtapositions.
Mallermé, The Impressionist and Édouard Manet,
The secret of this is found in an absolutely new science, and
in the manner of cutting down pictures, and which gives to the
frame all the charm of a merely fanciful boundary, such as that
which is embraced at one glance of a scene framed in by the hands,
or at least all of it found worthy to preserve. This is the picture
and the function of the frame is to isolate it; though I am aware
that this is running counter to prejudice. For instance, what
need is there to represent this arm, the hat, or that river bank,
if they belong to something exterior to the picture. The one thing
to be attained is that the spectator accustomed among a crowd
or in nature to isolate one bit which pleases him, though at the
same time incapable of entirely forgetting the abjured details
which unite the part to the whole, shall not miss in the work
of art one of his habitual enjoyments
Caillebotte, Bridge of Europe, 1876
Another Caillebotte, Bridge, provides another celebration
of Haussmannization. It uses orthogonals to create a sense of plunging
of down to the horizon. The bridge is a celebration of engineering.
The painting also captures a modern city of different classes and
species (he added a dog late in the painting). We see a smocked
worker looking down over bridge at what would be a railway line
and a top-hatted man and a woman behind or next to him. The top-hatted
man is very much the flâneur/observer of Baudelaire. Caillebotte
is painting the very guy who is supposed to see, not be seen, and
this may be a bit of a self-portrait.
This painting also heightens our notion of women in this new city
space. The woman in the painting is by but necessarily with the
man. How close is she? Is she five feet away? The perspective and
the plunge make this distinction more difficult to discern. Given
temporal social conventions, a woman dressed like this should not
be wandering the street if she is a good bourgeois woman; therefore,
is she a prostitute? Prostitution and the availability of women
are dominant themes of this era. Are women wandering on their own
available or unavailable? Good women should not be wandering around
by themselves, period.
This is heightened because Paris has become a city of boulevards
and cafés that is about spectacle and walking to be seen.
Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863
Manets Olympia is another step in the development of
the sexualized female. Manets painting spices up the staid
genre of the female nude. In the past painters could get away with
painting nudes by pretending they were historical and Greek, though
there is no doubting the modernity of Olympia, even with a historical
Greek name. For one thing, she is highly conscious! The painting
pushes a sense that modernity was not a place were you could sustain
these anachronistic illusions, and ties modernity with the notion
of an illicit seizure of power by a modern sexualized woman.
Émile Zola writing about Haussmannization plays up the illicit
use of female sexuality during this period.
Émile Zolas novel The Kill was serialized in
a newspaper in 1871 (Sept. 29Nov. 5) and then stopped by the
government, then published as a book in 1872:
It was a tremendous gamble: the new neighborhoods were speculated
in as one speculates in stocks and shares. Center ladies were
involved, beautiful women, intimately connected with some of the
prominent officials; one of them, whose teeth are world-famous,
has eaten up whole streets on more than one occasion. Saccard
was insatiable, he felt his greed grow at the sight of the flood
of gold that glided through his fingers.
Degas, At the Ambassadors, 1877
Degas, The Glove, 1878
Degas, At the Café-Concert; Song of the Dog, 187577
Degas, Women on a Café Terrace, 1877
Degas is the artist who most clearly embodies the flâneur
spirit. Degas roamed around documenting modern Paris. In the Café-Concert
he captures women singing vulgar working class tunes and sought
access to all sorts of womens working class bodies and entertainments.
There is a sense in his paintings that he can move up and down the
social hierarchy and he sees it all from solid workers to prostitutes
(Women on a Café Terrace). This final painting is a
space that is full of the same kind of compositional surprises we
see throughout this time period. There is visual dynamism, visual
tension, and vitalizing surprise. Degas is riding on the starkness
of his visions and the innovations of the art and the subject go
hand in hand.
Berthe Morisot, The Mother and Sister of the Artist,
Morisot, View of Paris from the Trocadero, 1872
Morisot, Summers Day, 1879
Mary Cassatt, At the Opera (Woman in Black), 1880
Berthe Morisot, who was the sister-in-law of Manet and brought
him into impressionist circles, was one of the few women who showed
with the impressionists. However, she was a good upper-class women
and so the flâneur model from Baudelaire was not available
to her. She was in a sense shackled by chaperones.
Another painter of the time, Marie Bashkirtseff, wrote in her diary
at the time:
What I long for is the freedom of going about along, of coming
and going, of sitting in the seats of the Tuileries, and especially
in the Luxembourg, of stopping and looking at the artistic shops,
of entering churches and museums, of walking about old streets
at night; thats what I long for; and thats the freedom
without which one cannot become a real artist. Do you imagine
that I get much good from what I see, chaperoned as I am, and
when, in order to got the Louvre, I must wait for my carriage,
my lady companion, my family?
As this lament shows, this was an inhibiting period for female
painters. Consequently, Morisot does a lot of paintings from the
suburbs where she lived looking out toward Paris. Looking with a
longing view from a distance. Morisot was the opposite of the flâneur
as she tried to be proper, which foreclosed her options. If there
was one artistic benefit of her upper-class status, it is that she
did not have to sell her paintings for a living in the way that
Monet had to sell, which allows her to experiment with a more reckless/audacious
Our final painter is Mary Cassatt, who is largely exempted out
of the rules concerning female painters. As an American, extremely
wealthy, who never married, living in Paris, she had the liberty/prerogative
to take on things Morisot couldnt. Her painting, At the
Opera, shows a woman exercising the look over the crowd, while
another man looks at her in the same way. He hangs over his box,
staring at her with the same glasses she uses to watch the show.
Looking in the painting and during the period is something that
is highly charged and highly gendered, surprising for something
we take for granted today. During Haussmannization, all of Paris
was been made into a platform for this type of interaction (the
Opera was built during this time period).
Q and A:
What should we tell students who ask Why Art history?
Why cant we just look at it because it looks nice?
For the same reasons its important to learn and understand
history, you need sense of historical difference and to give context.
There is also a great balance between the power to read visual things
and at the same time the humbling notion that their visual sense
isnt enough. You cant just use your interpretation and
feeling to understand historical paintings. They are an incredibly
rich form of historical evidence that requires a different language
to talk about.
Extreme Urban: Mumbai City
in the Developing World
Tanu Sankalia, Visual Arts, University of San Francisco
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
A discussion of Mumbai can be organized into a series of themes
or guiding questions, which in turn allows application and comparison
to numerous other contexts. The first theme concerns the formation
of a city. Within this theme we should think about a number of sub-questions,
- Site and Situation
- The Fort Walled City Military Town
- Surplus and Trade Port City and Hinterland
- The Native Settlement and the European Town
- Industrialization, Modernity and the Growth of Cities
- Casting Empire Colonialism and State Power
The second theme involves the imploding center and expanding periphery.
In Mumbai, this theme corresponds with the period starting in the
1940s and continuing into the 1990s. More precisely, the beginning
of this theme can be linked to Indias emergence as a nation-state
in 1947 and continues in the present. One useful theory in considering
this theme can be borrowed from the Marxist geographer David Harvey
and posits that capitalism focuses on certain spaces, leading to
unique visions of growth. Other sub-themes within this section include:
- Uneven Geographical Development
- Center and Periphery
- Urban Migration
- Housing and Transportation the Backbone of Cities
- Grand Plans and Urban Expansion
The final theme is that of the Globalizing Megacity. For Mumbai,
what happens starting in the late 1980s and the early 1990s until
the present? As developing economies such as India have opened themselves
to foreign direct investment (FDI), the associating economic pressures
have completely changed the economy, society, and cities. More generally,
what does globalization do to cities? What makes a livable city?
Can livability be measured? How much space is enough? How do we
get to work? What kind of air do we breathe? What food do we eat?
- Neo-Economic Liberalization and its Impact on Cities
- Spatial Polarization
- Globalization and its Discontents
- Density and Livability
Theme 1: The Formation of a City
Let us begin with the first theme, the formation of Mumbai. Locating
Bombay/Mumbai shows a city on the Arabian Sea. One important initial
observation is that the city is a colonial city, not an ancient
Indian city, though it has ancient beginnings. The sites favorable
location as a natural port has made it useful to traders for years.
There is evidence of the site as an ancient port as far back as
2500 BCE. During the time of Alexander the Great (300 BCE) it was
a Greek trading port named Sopus (now Nalla). Part of this is a
result of the prevailing currents. One can easily get on a dao (a
local boat) in Oman and get to Bombay very easily. You can also
arrive from the Southwest. These favorable conditions have long
made Mumbai/Bombay an integral economic cog of numerous earlier
Before going further, it may be useful to ask why all of this confusion
over the two names? When the Portuguese took over management of
the site in the 1500s, it was little more than a series of fishing
villages. The locals knew the region as Mumbadevi, after the local
goddess. The Portuguese, attempting to cast the name in their own
image, called the port Bombaim. This is quite similar to the name
used for the city in Hindi, Bambai. When the British gained control
of the port from the Portuguese, they changed the name to Bombay.
This name stood until 1995, when right-wing Hindu-militants gained
political power in they city and changed the name back to Mumbai,
which is derived from the local language, Marathi. Nevertheless,
both are still used, and Bombay is frequently the preferred term
in Hindi Bollywood songs.
The story of Mumbai starts to gain speed in the early 1500s, when
the Portuguese acquired the site from the Sultan of Gujarat. In addition to its
use as a port, the site contained numerous religious and cultural
features, including the Elephanta caves and the Walkeshwar temple
complex. Mumbai was originally a series of seven different islands,
which have been pieced together over time.
Bombay was given to the British in 1660 as a part of the dowry
chest from Catherine de Braganza to King Charles II. This was not
the only city transferred as a result of the union, as the British
also got Tangiers in the deal. It was almost immediately leased
to the British East India Company, which had been granted a royal
charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. The company quickly began
trading in the region. While other nations had territories in South
Asia, the British dominated the region during this period.
The next sub-theme in the citys history is the formation of a
settlement. In general, we can ask how settlements form and what
direction do they take? Why do people choose certain methods of
development? Spiro Kostof has created a typology of settlement development,
in which Bombay is classified as a natural harbor. The potential
for Bombay as a harbor was missed for a while, but after gaining
control the British quickly wised up to this fact. From Bombay they
could trade and dominate the hinterland, acquiring goods from inland
to ship back to Europe.
After its development as a natural harbor, Bombay morphed into
a fort/walled city. The combination of natural harbor and fort was
really the genesis of Bombay as a city. We can connect these beginnings
with different European cities of the time, asking how were other
cities being created during 1800s? Bombay during this period has
many of the same features of other cities. Looking at Copenhagen
in the 1800s we see a further fortified site within a larger fort,
similar to Bombay. This means that Bombay was based on what the British
were used to seeing. It fulfilled the concept of protection of trade
and allowed the settlers to guard what they had obtained from inland.
Another feature of note in the early city is the field that separates the
walled city from everything around it. A fort with a surrounding green
(esplanade) allows space for cannons to fire in case neighboring
populations challenged the fort. This esplanade concept is also
repeated numerous times in other cities of the period.
Returning to Bombay, we see the creation of space to separate the
natives from British. Skipping through the century of the 1700s,
we find a Bombay with a fort and a lively trade in opium and cotton
(opium to China, cotton to Europe). From 1861 to 1865 the American
Civil War caused American cotton production to drop, providing a
boost for Indian cotton, though this boom was followed by a predictable
bust when the Civil War ended. Bombay also possessed trade in other
commodities, such as spices. Along with trade, we must present the
idea that there is surplus, and it is the surplus that is generated
that starts the economic engine of the city: surplus allows the
city to grow.
An illustration of the city during the period from Malabar
Hill shows the fort and gives the impression of the city as the
focus of the surrounding hinterland. This view is similar to illustrations
of San Francisco from the same time period. In California, the Bay
Area was a similar locus of surplus in commodities, primarily gold,
and a natural gathering space for people coming to make money in
the bay. Both cities show the necessity of understanding the notion
of hinterland. Both Bombay and San Francisco develop based on their
The relationship of city and hinterland is not exclusive to bay
cities, as we see comparable dynamics in inland cities as well,
such as Chicago. In William Cronons Natures Metropolis, he describes
how grain, lumber, and cattle from outlying areas make Chicago the
city it is. In many ways Chicago parasites off the hinterland, but
at the same time both are mutually dependent. At one point in Chicagos
history, the Montgomery Ward building was the largest in the world,
a market for goods from surrounding areas. Bombay has this parasitic,
dependent relationship with hinterland in much the same way.
From 1800 to 1850 we see a clear separation of fort and town, essentially
two unique spatial formations in one geographical area. Elsewhere
in India, the same thing happens in New Delhi where the new and
old are separated by a swath of open space. Looking again at temporal
images of Bombay we see the mint off to the side (the city must
make money from all the goods coming in) and a plethora of ships
in the port. How this space is used changes over time.
During this period there is still a clear separation of the old
fort area of town and the growing surrounding areas. This separation
is forcibly achieved through ramparts and a moat. The buildings
inside the enclosed fort look very European with small Indian touches,
which are mostly climatic adjustments. The streets have sidewalks
and other subtle amenities indicative of what you get inside the
fort. In contrast, in the native part of town there are no sidewalks,
the roads are not paved, and the city is much denser. This breeds
questions about how these separations occur and what kinds of spaces
are perpetuated on each side.
Also during this time Bombay was a focal point for a diverse group
of people flocking from the hinterland. These groups spanned numerous
religious and ethnic divides, including Jews, Hindus, Muslims, East
Indians (many of whom where Catholics), Berbers, Manashtu, and Brahmans.
All of the ethnic and religious diversity contributed to an increasingly
A big shift in the city occurred in 1857, with the transfer of
India to the crown and the end of the British East India Companys
power in the region. Thereafter, Bombay experiences a more colonial
relationship of empire and dominance. This power shift was in response
to an attempted Indian mutiny, which the crown deemed unacceptable.
The changing power structure contributed to tangible changes in
the city. The walls that had once separated portions of the city
came down and the city began encroaching on the oldest sections.
In place of the fort walls the empire built massive edifices, impressive
buildings to the glory of the empire. These buildings included the
Gate of India to welcome King George V to Bombay Bombay University,
the High Court, Victoria Terminal, the Central Telegraph Office,
the Prince of Wales Museum, the Municipal Corporation Building.
All of these buildings were grand and contributed to Bombays new
place in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a powerful and wealthy global
city. The shift did not really open opportunities for Indian businesses.
As the empire took over from the East India Company the economics
of the region became less mercantile and more top down
Many of the grand buildings adopted a Saracenic style of architecture.
Europe was currently experiencing a Gothic Revival architectural movement
and this was blended with more local styles, creating a unique and
Economically, the control of the crown led to an increase in manufacturing
also in India. The empire set up numerous new mills and in the
late 1800s textiles were the economic engine of Bombay. Industrialization
goes hand in hand with cities and as manufacturing moved out of
Britain smokestacks began to spring up across India. In later sections
we will discuss how these smokestacks are today being replaced by
high-rise residential buildings. One resource for understanding
this time period is The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester,
by Friedrich Engels, which while written about Britain mirrors what
is happening in Bombay during the period.
The architecture of Bombay continued to evolve during this period
and by the 1920s1930s Art Deco buildings had replaced the Saracenic
style as the dominant form of new constructions. The Marine Drive
Slide was built (an iconic waterfront space of Bombay), also called
The Queens Necklace after Queen Victoria due to the lights resemblance
of a string of pearls at night. Bombay continued to thrive, and
had become a global financial and trade center.
Theme 2 Imploding Center, Expanding Periphery
Starting in 1947, the creation of a new secular democratic nation
state created a whole new set of issues. A diagram of city growth
shows the explosive expansion to the north of the city. This growth
is in opposition to income levels and property values, as the old south
(old town) continues to be the wealthiest portion of town. This
relationship structures many features of the citys dynamics, for
instance, the commute always occurs from the north to the south,
creating numerous hardships in travel to the south. These differences
are only exacerbated by policies and urban planning during this
period as an urban-periphery divide continued to grow. Workers travel
every day from far-away towns like Kalyan and Bhiwandi,
similar to commuters from Martinez to San Francisco, but under much
Photographs from the 1930s and 1940s show a Bombay with lots of planned
areas and slums to the north. They also show in the north Mahime
Bay, which was surrounded by fishing villages. This traditional
arrangement ended with the damming of the bay and the fishing folk
lost their livelihood as it dried up. Almost immediately different
migrant groups moved in and took over this space.
During the early periods of independence, there were also numerous
attempts to create a system of public housing. These buildings are
by and large in terrible condition today. Modern and period photos
show some of the problems with this growth. Water pipelines designed
to carry water to the wealthy southern city developed surrounding
slums. In general this period was marked by the inability of the
city to cope with the massive migration that took place. This was
in many ways true of India more generally, which struggled with
modernization. Indicative of this was Indias inability to remain
self-sufficient agriculturally and the corresponding wheat loan
from the U.S.. To this day the Library of Congress still gets every
book that comes out of India as one part of the repayment of this
While Bombay still has poverty, it is rarely as hopeless as it
was during this period. A Fine Balance is a book that
captures the hopeless poverty in the villages during the 1950s1970s
and the seeming hope of the cities.
A following theme of the 1970s and 1980s was deindustrialization.
This theme was punctuated by a strike in 1982 that put many of the
mills out of business. Manufacturing began to shift
elsewhere in Asia, to Taiwan and other developing nations. Simply
put, Bombay could not compete and this created a derelict and scary
inner-city landscape with thoroughly depressed areas replacing the
Many workers live in chawls (worker housing), which are in many
ways very nice. While small, long corridors with rooms all along
them allow breezeways and social spaces. However, what happened to
these in the 1970s1980s was not very nice as many fell into disrepair
and squalor. Later example of chawls in 1970s are often built out
of mortar and brick, which means less breeze and poorer living conditions.
During this period, the island city of Bombay continued to increase
its density, which has risen to around 15,000 inhabitants per square
mile. This means space is at a premium and interior design is a
hot industry in Bombay. While many rapidly constructed buildings
are ugly outside, they are usually very nice inside, putting even
Pacific Heights to shame!
Looking at urban migration, many migrants move to the center of
town, erecting slums wherever they can find space. The disparity
between north and south has been only worsened by policy. The southern
regions have consistently received funds for investment, reclaiming
land and creating development and infrastructure. This means that
northern commutes have only gotten worse. Since jobs are heavily
based in the south, all of the staff workers must come from far
to the north, primarily by train. Executives and directors commute
by car, normally from short distance in the south.
What is development? It is not only a physical process, but also
a mental state. In Bombay packed trains from the north often carry
passengers outside and workers scramble across the tracks to find
places. Annually, 15002000 people die from train-related accidents.
(At the same time, Bombay has a lower homicide rate, in total numbers,
than East Oakland.) How is the city willing to tolerate this?
Trains are not the only types of commutes. Cars are also present,
often in familiar models. From 1950 to 1990 European cars were nonexistent
and only two cars were produced in India, the Ambassador and the
Fiat the premier.. With FDI and globalization,
this has changed in the last 20 years.
Photos over time show this incredible transformation of the city.
Reclaimed land pushed government and white-collar jobs to the south.
Many planners suggested they should move to the East, but why would
the government want to leave to south? Other plans suggested the
idea of creating a twin town to the south, but this was by and large
ignored. One thing that did move was that port and container traffic
now largely occurs across the bay, much in the same way the port
moved from San Francisco to Oakland.
This was not the anticipated vision of Bombay. Le Corbusier, theorizing
about the form of the modern city, correctly captured the idea of
high-rises, but missed the idea of slums. Much of this oversight
is a structural blindness. Since the educated made the plans they
often missed the slums in their conception of society. One thing
that was created was a basic model of construction, concrete slabs
with concrete pillars, which has become landscapes of deindustrialization
and begun to replace the derelict industry.
Theme 3 The Globalizing Megacity
An Office of Metropolitan Architecture map shows population change
per hour, with Bombay increasing by 43 inhabitants every hour. How
is this influx coupling with globalization to change the city?
For one, the mills are leaving and massive residential towers are
taking their place. The older fort area is now filled with mixed-use
buildings housing Western institutions like Citibank and McDonalds.
Mumbai has become One City, Two Worlds.. In a good building
an apartment costs a million dollars, while at the same time slums
spring up overnight. Looking at Mumbai today, you get two worlds
slums and riches and the cranes replacing the mills
signal more to come. The chawls are still there, but the
gentrification of the inner city continues unabated.
This is not to say there are not anomalies. For instance, the dhobi
colony in the heart of the city, workers who do lining washing,
marks a system that has persisted for years in the heart of Bombay,
However, more common are sights of the gleaming city in the south,
such as the cricket club and other extreme examples. One example
is the slums of Dharavi. Some people want to just knock them down
and put in high-rise buildings. If this happens, what is going to
happen to the jobs contained within? Looking at a satellite photo
of Berkeley versus one of Dharavi taken from the same height shows
contrasting populations of 20,000 and 2.5 million.
In the last fifteen years modernization has also fostered extreme
and divisive politics. Hindu right-wing parties seek to push people
out and religious tensions abound. The book Maximum City
(though a bit of sensationalist gonzo journalism) does an admirable
job of walking an observer through the city sociologically. It finds
despite all of the problems a strong thriving spirit. Markets pop
up all over the city and commerce is thriving. While life is tough,
people not only make do, they are excited to do it.
One final thought on globalization and the city turns closer to
home. In the coming years, San Francisco will change too. Already,
the transit (Muni) does not work and there is no parking, yet people
want to add more high-rises. In many ways we are facing the same
sorts of issues as Mumbai. Both cities must grapple with globalization
and the image it casts our cities in. How do we view it? How do
we face it?
Modernization of Seoul, Korea
Hilary Finchun-Sung, Institute of East Asian Studies, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
Most Americans do not know much about Korea and if they know something,
it is about the Korean War. This means education about both the
history and modern conditions in Korea are important to give more
context to Americans knowledge.
The Korean peninsula, which the Koreans think of as shaped like
a rabbit, is both very mountainous and beautiful. Today South Korea
is wholly unlike the desolate world most Americans expect given
the war. One veteran at the U.S.O in Korea was surprised to see trees
because he did not think they were indigenous to Korea.
Looking at a night view of the Korean peninsula two features stand
out. The first is the extremely bright patch in and around Seoul.
The second is the nothingness in North Korea.
Basic Facts about Seoul
- Seoul is the Capital of South Korea and has been a capital for
about 600 years, since 1392
- It is on the Han river
- Located 30 miles south of the DMZ
- A population of approximately 10 million within 605 sq. km
- Has always been the seat of power on the Korean peninsula
- One of the worlds most densely populated cities; also one
of the most wired
- The greater Seoul metropolitan area includes the major port
city of Incheon and has almost 23 million inhabitants
- Almost one-fourth of SK entire population lives in the Seoul
national capital area, and nearly one half in the greater Seoul
area, making it the countrys political, cultural, and economic
- Divided into 25 administrative wards (gu)
Each region of Korea has its own image, accent, and prejudices/stereotypes
of other regions.
Korea is a rapidly changing country. One anecdote to show the range
of this change concerns deodorant. While deodorant was nearly impossible
to find in Seoul even 10 years ago, today ads for new deodorants
permeate Seoul. Similarly, tastes and products in a variety of realms
are rapidly changing.
Seoul is the center of this rapid change and has become a dense,
vibrant city. The lights of Seoul are so bright that within the
city you cannot see the stars at night.
Geographically, the city is bisected into north and south regions
by the Han River. While the northern half is the older, more traditional
part of town, the southern half is now more affluent. Two gu
capture the extremes of the north and the south: Gangbuk-gu and
Gangnam-gu. Gangbuk-gu is in the far north of the city and is indicative
of the older and impoverished inner city. In contrast Gangnam-gu
is wealthy and developed, but looks more Western than Korean and
has been criticized for an apparent absence of traditional Korean
The History of Seoul
The birth of Seoul occurred in the 14th century when Yi Song-gye
and his compatriots designated it the site for the capital of their
new dynasty, the Choson (also known as the Yi Dynasty). The Choson
Dynasty arose after the fall of Koryo Dynasty, which lasted from
918 to 1310.
Why did the Choson dynasty need to create a new capital? The Koryo
Dynasty was quashed; the new leaders of the country needed to discredit
the old regime while simultaneously establishing their own power.
Part of this process included separating the two eras geographically
by relocating the capital.
The new capital was a symbolic move in creating a new government,
which was neo-Confucian (the Koryo dynasty was primarily Buddhist).
Since this point, Korea has been in many ways more Confucian than
China. Confucian ideas were taken very seriously in Korea, and during
the Choson dynasty men dominated and a caste system developed, though
this happened gradually. This new Confucian caste society developed
with its center in Seoul, and placed men and first-born sons at
the fore of Korean society.
The site for the city was chosen for its excellent location
the mountains to the north and the Han River to the south. This
allowed the Choson royalty to look down on the country, both literally
and figuratively, from the mountains. With the mountains to the
north the city was also highly defensible. The main royal residence,
Kyongbokgung, faces south with the city at its feet..
A wall was erected to enclose the city, primarily a royal residence
and seat of government power. The wall housed a series of gates,
many of which were reserved for state functions. The three main
symbolic gates were erected to the north, south, and east.
The city was called Hanyang for centuries, while the name Seoul
is new and derived from the Korean word seorabol meaning
Kyongbokgung, the royal residence, existed as an important symbol
of the power of the royalty during the dynasty. The traditional
heart of Seoul is in the valley of the Cheonggyecheon, a stream
that runs from west to east between Pukhansan and Namsan before
emptying into the Han River. The residence and palaces are built
in this central area, which also houses most government and corporate
offices. This is still where foreign embassies are today.
The landed aristocracy, the yangban, were dominant during
the Choson dynasty. Except for the royalty, they were the highest
rung in the caste system, and they owned all of the land. One could
only become a yangban through birth, which was also true
of chungin, or government employees. In China you could advance
to government service based on merit, but not in Korea. Below the
yangban and chungin were sangmin, who were
laborers/peasants and chonmin or slaves.
At the height of the Choson the yangban dominated Korean
life. However, with invasions and a general weakening of the class
structure, peasant culture and the merchant class both rose to replace
the dominance of the yangban.
Korea in the Choson was a neo-Confucian system that practiced primogeniture
and a patrilineal succession system. Accordingly, if a family was
not blessed with a son, people would adopt males (either orphans
or favorite nephews) in order to have male heirs. Early in the Choson
yangban men would have two or more wives, the first of which
normally would be an aristocrat (a first wife must be yangban),
while the second wife could be from the lower classes. Succession
went from father to first-wifes son, although, in rare cases,
second sons were chosen to inherit a familys property. Normally,
the second son would become a civil servant.
Developments during the Choson
The new Confucian Choson Dynasty took about 200 years to catch
on. In the 15th century under King Sejong, Korea experienced a cultural
renaissance. A unique system of writing and music was developed
and scholarship flourished. This renaissance came to an abrupt end
in the late 16th century with Hideyoshis invasions from Japan.
The Japanese wanted to get to China to gain influence and open trade
and the Koreans were not interested in being used as a stepping
stone. While the Koreans eventually succeeded in repelling the Japanese,
it was not without great cost. In addition to the cost of the war,
the Japanese captured numerous Korean scholars and musicians, taking
them back to Japan.
The Japanese invasions of the 16th century were followed by Manchu
Chinese invasions in the early 17th century. While up to this point
the Koreans had shared a special relationship with the Chinese;
the Manchu invasion ended this and afterward the Koreans viewed
the Chinese as rivals more than friends.
In response to both sets of invasions, Korea adopted an isolationist
policy. Korea became a veritable hermit kingdom during the period,
not altogether different from Japans policy established at
about the same time. An example of the great lengths Koreans went
to in sealing their kingdom came when a Dutch merchant, Hendrik
Hamel, crashed on the coast of Korea and was not allowed to leave
for 20 years, eventually escaping. He became the first westerner
to write about Korea and her people.
Throughout the Choson, there occurred a weakening of the court
and the aristocracy with a corresponding increase in the power of
the merchant class. This shift in social hierarchies unfolded primarily
because the aristocracy, although learned, did not have the practical
knowledge about issues such as land development that was required
to strengthen the country. Many merchants at this time, as well,
surpassed many yangban families in income level and influence.
The Japanese and Chinese invasions also indirectly supported the
rise of a middle class. Since the invasions caused numerous social
problems such as famine and the destruction of villages, displaced
peasants flocked to the capital where the government provided food
aid. Slowly, a middle class grew up to support these people and
a merchant class provided goods for the city. The wealth earned
by these merchants turned society on its head. While some yangban
were impoverished, merchants could support and thrive in a market
Seoul at the end of the 19th century was a growing city of mostly
small thatched-roof houses. It was a vibrant community of people,
although most women were not active participants in social life
outside of the household. Constantine Taylor, a westerner who visited
Seoul during the 1870s and 1880s, producing drawings of her visits,
and depicted women covered head to toe when out of the house. Streets
were not yet built up during this time and it was common to see
small streams running through town. These streams served as an important
part of social life; a place where women met to do laundry and collect
water for the needs of their households.
Modernization of Seoul
The modernization of Seoul, and Korea more generally, took off
like never before during the reign of King Kojong, who took the
throne in 1863. King Kojong implemented an aggressive policy of
modernization to increase commerce, widen the streets, pave roads,
and clean Seoul. Seoul had begun to expand at this point and now
extended all the way south to the Han.
Isabella Bird Bishop, who visited Seoul in 1894 and again in 1897,
was amazed by the dramatic upheaval in Seoul. From her first visit
to her second it went from being what she perceived as a cramped,
smelly, provincial little town to a bustling, clean city. During
this period electric wires were built up, cable car tracks laid
down, and the streets widened.
Seoul, in many parts, specially in the direction of the south
and west gates, was literally not recognizable. Streets, with
a minimum width of 55 feet, with deep stone-lined channels on
both sides, bridged by stone slabs, had replaced the foul alleys,
which were breeding-grounds of cholera. Narrow lanes had been
widened, slimy runlets had been paved, roadways were no longer
free coups for refuse, bicyclists scorched
along broad level streets, express wagons were looming
in the near future, [
] shops with glass fronts had been
erected in numbers, an order forbidding the throwing of refuse
into the streets was enforced [
] and Seoul, from having
been the foulest is now on its way to being the cleanest city
in the Far East!
Similarly, according to Angus Hamilton in 1904, Seoul was
the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, water,
telephone and telegraph systems all at the same time. Much
of this was due to trade with the United States, and the Seoul Electric
Company, Seoul Electric Trolley Company, and Seoul Fresh Spring
Water Company were all U.S.-owned.
This trade was spurred for a number of reasons. First, led by Kojong,
Korea, although initially forcibly opened, sought modernization
by interaction with foreign countries eager to invest in the peninsula.
Next, it held numerous natural resources. Finally, it held a geographically
strategic position between China, Japan, and Russia, serving as
the trading post of the Far East.
Significant dates in Seouls modernization process:
- First telegraph in 1885
- Electric lighting in Kyeongbok Palace in 1886
- Tram service in 1899
- Streetlights in 1900
- Commercial telephone service in 1902
- Train line (Seoul-Incheon) in 1899
- By 1906 one could travel from Sinuiju to Pusan by rail via Seoul
- Public water system in 1908
Markets have always been a hub of community in Seoul and the Namdaemun
market (by Namdaemun gate) is the longest running open-air market
in Korea. While the shape of these markets may have changed, their
function was largely unaffected by modernization.
The question Whose modernization is it? is a thorny
one among scholars and Koreans alike. Since Japan established a
protectorate in Korea in 1905 and annexed Korea from 1910 until
1945, the Japanese certainly played a role in Korean modernization.
However, looking at the dates above, clearly a lot of development
happened before the Japanese annexation, partly as a domestic response
to growing Japanese ambition in the region. Even Namdaemun market
was unrecognizable after the Japanese improvements, with
streetcars, electric wiring, and removed walls.
Richard Kim has written a novel, Lost Names, about the Korean
experience during the period, which is an excellent resource for
During this period, Seoul became a densely populated city. To compensate
for the burgeoning population, construction occurred both above
and below ground. Underground markets developed as planners used
space in both directions. While by 1912 the city boundaries remained
above the Han River, this was about to change radically.
The Korean War and The Miracle on the Han
The Korean War changed everything. When the North crossed the border
Seoul emptied out as nearly everyone fled to Pusan for much of the
initial years of the war. During the war, many of the monuments
and historical buildings in Seoul were flattened.
After the war, there was a focus on rebuilding, which was especially
intense in the period from 1953 to 1961. During this period, modernization
was conceived of as synonymous with Westernization and things that
were traditionally Korean were considered to be base, including
traditional dance and music. These vestigial cultural elements were
seen as antithetical to modernization. At the same time the strong
involvement of missionaries in addition to that of the U.S. government
led many Koreans to embrace Christianity.
The primary leader of Korean modernization after the war was Park
Chung-hee, who ruled as an authoritarian president from 1961 until
he was assassinated in 1979. While many Koreans disagreed with Park
Chung-hee, he is still seen by many as a savior. Park Chung-hee
developed industries, increased income, built highways, normalized
relations with Japan (which was important to develop regional trading
relationship, although problematic since he was accused of being
a sympathizer), and was the leader behind the Miracle on the
At the same time he had an authoritarian style of ruling, legalized
tyrannical dictatorship, sent troops to support the U.S. war in Vietnam,
and limited personal freedoms.
The building up and tearing down of Seoul continued unabated during
his rule. Traditional thatched-roof family dwellings were not seen
as modern. The New Village movement encouraged all families to replace
their thatched roofs with tiles. Many historical structures were
torn down in large numbers to be replaced by new, modern buildings.
During the 1980s, high-rise apartment building began to dominate
the horizon of Seoul. Socially this meant that the nuclear family
has come to dominate Korean family relations, even though traditionally
multiple generations had lived under one roof. Today, this is unusual.
In addition to housing, big business began to dwarf traditional
sijang (markets), shifting the interaction locus of communities.
Given the massive upheaval of modernization, the government decided
to pass cultural properties legislation to balance the intense growth
with the preservation of traditional cultural heritage. Specialists
were designated to preserve culture in both intangible and tangible
Today Seoul is a modern international city full of high-rise buildings.
At the same time, many of the traditional foundational buildings
have been preserved and reopened for residents. The palace remains
and Seoul has recently reopened Namdaemun gate, which had been closed
for 100 years to pedestrian traffic. Life in Seoul is a high-rise
lifestyle, with families very condensed.
In older parts of town, urban decay has created a conflict between
remembering the roots of traditional Korea while still modernizing.
In older parts of town winding crowded streets with cramped apartments
and older houses are more common. The city is full of churches and
temples as about 25% of the population is Christian and another
25% Buddhist (50% claim to remain uncommitted to religion).
The amazing growth of the city can best be captured in its relationship
to the past. Namsan, the mountain that used to mark the outskirts
of the city, is now in the middle of Seoul and is dominated by Namsan
Tower (called Seoul Tower). The Seoul subway is massive and it takes
about two hours to go from one edge to another.
Looking at direction for the future, programs have been established
by the city government to create a clean, attractive, global
city. This includes a 4-year plan that espouses goals such
as a citizen happiness upgrade. The 4-year plan focuses
primarily on creating a green city that still has productivity,
promoting a family environment, and fostering cooperation between
the public and private sectors.
Seoul is also one of the most wired cities in the world, creating
the potential for unusual developments. One of these is the creation
of a U-City or ubiquitous city a digital city where
residents lead a wired life. Each resident would carry a card that
allows you to be recognized everywhere and gives you points for
various activities. While Americans quickly shudder at the lack
of privacy Koreans find this prospect exciting and an important
way to prove Seouls place in global society as a technology
The New Town development project seeks to solve interregional disparity
(like Oaklands). City planners are trying to balance development
between the northern and southern parts of the city, which is difficult
given the crumbling areas of town. Social problems such as street
children (abandoned by families), floating communities of merchants,
and slums exist throughout the city. Projects such as the New Town
Development project aim to resolve these problems and return traditional
values to the metropolis.
One way the city hopes to achieve a balance between modernization
and tradition is the revival of markets, specifically Namdaemun
sijang. Another sign of this balancing is the reformation
of Cheonggyecheon. Cheonggyecheon was a filthy stream poisoned by
development that city planners paved over and built a highway on.
The development of the highway was unsound and it eventually developed
cracks and threatened to collapse, a result of the get it out
culture promoting development as fast as you can despite the cost.
Today, Seoul has recreated the stream, promoting it as a green project.
As always development has its costs, and squatters who had lived
over the stream needed to be persuaded by the government of the
streams benefits and relocated. It remains controversial and
is unclear how green it is, but many residents are proud of its
new look. Fish are coming back and the temperature in the area has
dropped several degrees.
While this does not necessarily apply to Seoul currently, one concern
in East Asia given current demographic trends is the Shrinking
Cities Phenomenon. For more on this topic visit:
From Paris to Phnom Penh: The City
Penny Edwards, South and Southeast Asia Studies, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
The genesis of this talk about cities was Professor Edwardss
underlying interest in national and racial identity. As she began
to view colonial cities, she began to see colonial examples in which
the way cities were laid out and planned in the colonial period
would have a critical impact in the way in which people came to
think about identity, race, and religion.
This way of thinking can be thought of as material culture:
the way in which people move through spaces habituates them to seeing
in a particular way. In colonial spaces, the potential of this method
of thinking is particularly dynamic.
Background Information: Cambodia
Cambodia was a French protectorate from 1863 to 1954 (along with
the colonies and protectorate of Vietnam and Laos, all part of French
Indochina), though each bear different imprints of French power
and remember colonialism in different ways.
Many scholars gained an interest in Cambodia less because of French
colonialism and more because of the Khmer Rouge. From 1975 to 1979,
a small Communist party took power and dramatically changed the
landscape of Cambodia. On gaining power on 17 April 1975, Pol Pots
first move as leader of the Khmer Rouge was to drive everyone from
the city of Phnom Penh out into the countryside. The Khmer Rouge
entered power with a burning hatred of the city. They saw city dwellers
as corrupt and indicative of the bourgeoisie.
This makes Phnom Penh unique within Southeast Asia as a city that
has been emptied. Except for political leadership, the city pretty
much stayed that way for three years. It was only when Pol Pot fell
from power that people eventually began coming back.
What is striking today is the rate at which the city, country,
and region are becoming modernized. However, none of the other cities
in the region have had this experience. This is especially tragic
given that in the 1960s Phnom Penh was known as the Pearl of
Asia and Singapore looked to it for a model of development.
It was not the only region set back in this way: Burma also went
from leader to laggard during the late 20th century. Fast-forwarding
to what is going on today in Phnom Penh, we find people working
in buildings that were modern and cutting-edge in the 1960s and
are now slums or crumbling.
Today, we can go back through the colonial history of Phnom Penh
to study the notion that urban planning has an impact on the way
people come to look at national identity, race, and culture. Phnom
Penh was created with segregation in mind, something that has left
its imprint on the city. As a comparison, Singapore was originally
planned in a similar way.
Phnom Penh has been the capital of Cambodia since 1434. One reason
it was selected was its strategic location at a confluence of rivers,
including the Mekong. It covers around 375 sq. km and is organized
into 7 districts. Today it has a population of more than 1 million.
Watching a propaganda video put out by a recent government gives
a sense of how much Phnom Penh has modernized in recent years and
how far it still has to go before it should be seen as a truly modern
city. The video makes a point of bragging about the newly created
The politics of Phnom Penh cannot be taken as separate of the urban
planning. Regime change is often a determining factor for which
buildings are saved and what style of buildings continue to be built.
After watching the video, a distinct sense of Phnom Penh emerges:
- It is an open city with a low population density
- It seems fairly non-distinct in planning until more closely
- The parks have numerous European accents (lamp posts etc.)
- Cambodians want to put forward an image of a clean city. Every
few years, no matter who is in power, the regime promotes a beautification
program. In Cambodian, the words and conceptions for clean and
beautiful are the same, so they see cleaning as a way of beautifying
- Phnom Penh is a very low city without a lot of high-rises. For
long periods, there were regulatory limits on heights. However,
the new government has a new conception of the modern city and
the inspirations for Phnom Penh are now Singapore, Hong Kong,
and Chinese cities. Indicative of this, the government has announced
a competition to build the highest skyscraper.
Other points to consider when viewing Phnom Penh:
- The road system has been completely reworked and is now highly
- The snakehead theme (nagas) often with five or seven heads is
a common one, with sculptures throughout the city
- There are lots of associations with luxury goods and France.
The Eiffel tower is ubiquitous and is used to promote goods such
as cigarettes and liquor all the time.
Looking at a photo of Phnom Penh in 1906 shows a canal that separates
the European quarter from the Chinese business district and a bridge
spanning that canal. Today, the new mayor of Phnom Penh has a plan
to rebuild this bridge (though thecanal has been filled in). This
part of Phnom Penh hasnt changed much. A turret long seen in
the European quarter is still standing and now part of the oldest
building in Phnom Penh.
In order to understand the past we must understand the ways in
which cities have developed and changed. Studying this change in
the past can help us understand the present and the possibilities
for the future. History is not just text and documents and traveling
through cities provides clues to the past to supplement these. The
geology of the different parts of Phnom Penh can be seen in architecture
and zoning. These are particularly interesting in Phnom Penh due
to the numerous radical regime changes and the corresponding changes
in planning style. For example, for Pol Pot, beautification meant
nature. In addition to getting people out of the city, the Khmer
Rouge planted plantations and trees all over the place. To this
day you still see coconut trees and bananas throughout the city.
As we begin to study the history of the city, numerous questions
arise. Were the characteristics of modern Phnom Penh present before
colonialism? If not, what was the impact of Europeans moving into
Southeast Asia with their particular conception of the city? Did
this really change the way in which spaces developed in Cambodia?
In asking this, we must look not just at the buildings for evidence,
but also the zoning, shape, and direction of the city.
One thing that comes up constantly today throughout Southeast Asia
is the idea of the urban and rural as separate concepts. However,
this is a Western, not a Cambodian, idea. The idea of organizing
a city to keep certain things separate originates with colonialism.
Reading French accounts from the 1880s shows some of their horror
that there could be a pig, or even a vegetable garden, in the city.
Obviously this notion is changing today, even in the West.
However, in Cambodia, then and even in the 1980s, this wasnt
true and a pig might wander around the city as easily as a person.
By contrast, this was certainly not true of Singapore in the 1980s,
though it was in the 1880s.
So what impact did colonialism have on city life?
Cities such as Rangoon and Phnom Penh were originally developed
as military cities. In the first stage of colonialism, cities were
developed as military centers. This meant that cities must be able
to provide strategic advantage and surveillance. Colonizers needed
to be able to survey and dominate the hinterlands. In Rangoon, the
most obvious place to do this was a sacred pagoda on top of a hill,
which allowed surveillance and controlling presence of the surrounding
Consequently, in 1824 and again in 1852, the British took this
over this pagoda, a very sacred site for Buddhists. Of course, the
British occupation led to high levels of tensions. What is interesting
is that these tensions changed the importance of the site into a
nationalist symbol and the Burmese nationalist movement was initially
based from this site.
In Cambodia, the French sought a similar site and found it on a
hill in Phnom Penh. After doing so they negotiated with the king
to move the Cambodian seat of government to this site, which used
to be near but not in Phnom Penh. Like earlier Cambodian leaders
the French saw the strategic and economic potential of a site on
a confluence of rivers.
If the initial phase of colonial cities is about commercial, naval,
or military conquest, the second is about bureaucratic development.
The most interesting thing about the second phase in Cambodia was
its timing. Bureaucratic development occurred during a period in
which urban planning was a fledgling concept. In the late 19th century
new modernizing ideas were buzzing around Europe and reform movements,
social ideas, and even the theory of evolution were being translated
into city planning.
The next picture we see is a model of Angkor Wat. However, it is
not in Cambodia, but rather in a colonial exhibition in Paris around
the turn of the century.
In Cambodia, Angkor Wat is a unifying theme, a motif that is used
over and over, including on the national flag. In Paris during the
early colonial period the French erected models of Angkor War for
colonial exhibitions, wherein Cambodia often took center stage despite
the fact that it wasnt that important economically. This was
due to its heightened strategic position. In addition to its proximity
to Thailand (a British colony), Cambodia was a cultural and symbolic
manifestation of Frances colonial empire. The French never
quite forgave the British for winning in India and being able to
use the Taj Mahal as a symbol of the colonial power. Therefore,
the French used Angkor Wat as a response.
Because of its symbolic significance, when the French were planning
Phnom Penhj, they intervened more in planning than in other colonies,
especially in architecture. The French planners decided that all
new buildings should have a Khmer character and include particular
motifs. Bridges could only be a particular type. This elevation
of Khmer culture in Phnom Penhs planning was one supporting
factor in the ideology of Khmer superiority and heritage adopted
by the Khmer Rouge. Even though Pol Pot wanted to wipe out culture
and start anew, he, like many of his followers, still held the idea
that Khmers were superior. Many scholars, such as David Chandler,
attribute this to his upbringing in the royal palace environment
in Phnom Penh before going to Paris, an environment that reinforced
the notion of Khmer culture.
This is not to say that Europeans always captured the essence of
Khmer culture faithfully. When Europeans replicated Angkor Wat the
result shows as many similarities to Notre Dame in its presentation
as it to actual structure.
All of this begins to show the relevance of looking at buildings;
architecture is a clue to cities and the mindset that makes them,
though we should be careful not to assume that these universally
impute governmental preferences, as individual influences often
play a role. However, in a colonial regime the dominant mindset
of the country may be played out in buildings.
One thing the French built was monuments. One of the earliest public
monuments in Cambodia was built to commemorate Cambodians who died
in WWI (it was built in the early 1920s). This monument differs
from early Cambodian monuments in a number of ways. It looks very
European (though it has touches of local style), it is a military
monument, but most importantly, it is secular. The very idea of
having a monument to people who are anonymous was very new, not
only in Cambodia, but also in Europe and the U.S.. Previously monuments
were normally erected for someone, however the WWI memorial was
the first major secular commemorative monument in Cambodia. Again
this is not unique to Cambodia, but part of a larger movement transmitted
to Cambodia through their colonial government. A good deal of scholarly
writing has examined this shift in monuments more broadly. We see
it in places like France as well, from statues of Joan of Arc to
the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Throughout Cambodia, France invested a lot of time in museums and
monuments, hoping they would develop good will. In contrast, the
British in Burma did a lot less of this.
Urban planning also takes on numerous ethnic dimensions during
the colonial period. Europeans left their mark throughout their
colonial possessions with their obsession with race. Quarters populated
primarily by a single ethnicity may occur as part of a process of
natural gathering, but Europeans reinforced this segregation with
laws and planning policies. In the 19th century, Europeans were
obsessed with race and the colonial ideals about the superiority
of the white race informed urban planning.
Sometimes these concepts went well beyond the bounds of good planning.
Barracks for soldiers meant to protect the European quarter were
kept outside the quarter since they housed colonial troops. Phnom
Penh had French, Khmer, Chinese, and Vietnamese quarters. The European
obsession with race in Cambodia was also reflected in architectural
policy. The aforementioned monument from WWI, which melded European
style with local touches such as with elephants heads, was
criticized by plenty of planners due to its hybridity (though they
certainly used nastier words). Many architects thought cultures
should be kept apart and wanted cultures to be kept apart in planning
as well as in style. Part of this reflects a colonial fear as a
minority of being absorbed and lost in the more populous areas they
Segregation was not limited to Europeans vs. non-Europeans or to
planning policy and architecture. There existed legal segregation
as well. Vietnamese and Chinese living in Cambodia had different
rights from Cambodians (as Asians). Cambodians were tried in Cambodian
courts. And while France was more tolerant in general on conferring
citizenship than other colonial forces, Cambodia was a protectorate,
so Cambodians did not automatically get citizenship.
Ethnically in Cambodia, the Khmer dominate, though there are numerous
other presences including an Islamic presence (ethnically Malay),
a Chinese presence, and Vietnamese. The non-Khmer ethnic groups
were concentrated in the city, which fed anti-foreign views of groups
like the Khmer Rouge. Many groups perpetuated these fears by staying
distinct. The Chinese had their own schools, clubs, temples, etc.
Consequently, in the early 1970s the Chinese language was banned
(ostensibly for being Communist), and then again later by Pol Pot,
for not being Khmer.
Q and A:
So how do Cambodians feel about the French today?
This is a complex question as sentiments are quite mixed and tied
up with the politics. A lot of Cambodians left during Pol Pot, many
going to France to settle, and many of these émigrés
are now returning, as are those who went to the United States. Each
group of Cambodians has different identities. The French Cambodians
are associated with royalism (elite sense and status) and there
exists a lot of resentment toward them, primarily due to a sense
that they were not there in the 1980s when the country was rehabilitating
and that they did not struggle (though this isnt true).
Increasingly, the French are seen as commercially, culturally,
and economically irrelevant, despite the French putting lots of
money into French education through the Alliance Française.
English and Chinese (especially) are becoming the most important
languages to learn and parts of Phnom Penh are really becoming a
Chinese city, including a Chinatown residential area. Politically,
the new leaders are also tied more to China.
Why did the French glorify Khmer culture?
Partly because it was amazing. The French colonialists wanted to
take the incredible sights of Cambodia back to France and educate
people about them. They were often won over by the cultural beauty
of Cambodia and it was quite radical to try to educate the French
like this. Different people tried to bring to Paris a sense of what
was happening elsewhere as well as showing off for the British.
The relationship in Cambodia was also less contentious than many
colonial ones. Apart from one uprising in the 1880s, tensions were
pretty quiet in Cambodia, hence the French did not need forts and
esplanades and worried as much about canals and sewers. They did,
however, want roads for rapid response outside Phnom Penh.
The complicated separation between cultural legacy and modern inhabitants
is also an interesting theme. The discovery of Angkor Wat blew French
minds so to speak. In response, the French had to build narrative
that this was from time past. In addition, the French could then
view themselves as rebuilding Cambodia to this time of glory. They
held the notion that if Cambodians were descendants of this glorious
past that Cambodia had gone to decay and ruin and that they could
uplift the Cambodians. At the same time, they couldnt
completely uplift the Cambodians or the Cambodians couldnt
become modern, creating a complex and convoluted logic.
Dubai: A Local, Regional, and Global
Perspective (Urban Research Panel)
Reem Alissa, Architecture, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
The first speaker for the Urban Research Panel focuses on urbanization
in the Arabian Gulf region, particularly on how the sudden and enormous
amount of oil wealth has changed the urban landscape dramatically.
The United Arab Emirates is on the west side of the Persian Gulf.
The UAE is part of historic Oman, and since ancient times served
as an informal trading post; it was subsequently ruled by the British.
Historically it occupied a strategic location at the edge of the
Arabian Peninsula and the entryway to the Persian Gulf.
In the 1800s the region was primarily controlled by independent
tribes. When the tribes chose to ally with each other the British
saw this as a threat and the tribes were defeated. A series of treaties
between the British and sheiks formed the basic foundation of governance
and British rule in the region lasted until its independence in
1971. The UAE is now organized as a group of smaller sheikdoms.
The peaceful transfer of territory allowed British firms to maintain
control in the region, which was divided into two zones, Oman and
UAE; the UAEs smaller sheikdom has led to further segmentation
and divergence of economic outcomes. The hierarchical relationships
between and within tribes form the basis of the current power structure
of the UAE.
Dubai was one of the sheikdoms to sign an 1820 treaty with the
British and in 1833 Dubai split from the sheikdom of Abu Dhabi in
political turmoil due to a power struggle. The tribe occupying the
region around Dubai derived its wealth primarily from fishing and
Dubais strategic location quickly made it an important trading
area due to its comparative stability in the region and its favorable
tax structure. This economic prosperity also led to waves of migrations
from all around the gulf. Dubai became a free port and abolished
its 5% sales tax, making it more attractive to business. It was
originally divided into two sections, mercantile and government.
During its rise it replaced Sharja, a neighboring Emirate, as the
seat of British power in UAE.
Dubais position as a center of trade was also furthered by
British development projects, such as electrification in 1961. These
projects were enacted in the expectation of oil, which was discovered
in 1966. Upon the discovery of oil, labor was recruited both within
and outside the region, and within 10 years 50% of the population
consisted of foreign workers. When the British peacefully withdrew
they ensured British oil contracts would remain intact and that
British firms would be called in to help in various projects.
In terms of city planning, the narrow walkways flanked by extended
family houses gave way to a new master plan in 1960 and a newer
one in 1970 based on the potential of oil wealth. The 1960 plan
called for a new town center and a system of roads while the 1970
plan called for a tunnel connecting the port with the city center.
Dubai currently has the largest man-made harbor in the world and
is a free zone, providing an abundance of low-wage non-unionized
workers for businesses. Dubais loose regulations also allow
business to avoid high taxes and environmental regulations. These
opportunities set the stage for Dubai to become a global economic
Present-day Dubai was built on initiatives due to declining oil
resources. Dubais oil production peaked in 1991 and Sheik Mohammad
Bin Rashid Al-maktoum spurred a major diversification movement.
Oil now accounts for less than 10% of Dubais GDP.
Dubai is seeking to be a modern advanced economy, on par with Western
Europe or the United States, by 2010. It is increasingly populated
with modern high-value firms participating in tertiary activities
or seeking higher-value-added manufacturing. In particular it is
a hub of producer services, such as insurance, banking, and finance,
though manufacturing and trade remain important. In the future,
the tertiary sector remains the biggest growth arena (hotels, housing,
construction). While Dubai has only 1.5 million people, it has the
worlds second largest construction site and countless cranes
dotting its skyline.
Sheik Mohammad Bin Rashid Al-maktoum is seen as the city planner
of Dubai. While he officially just took power he has long been the
driving planner of the city. His envisions Dubai as a hub for leisure
services and products. Some of the important construction projects
in Dubai include:
- The Burj al-Arab Hotel. The hotel was built in 1999 and designed
by the international design firm Atkins and KCA. It proclaims
itself the most luxurious in the world and is built to represent
the sail of a boat. Its 180-square-meter atrium space is the worlds
- The Palms and The World are series of man-made islands in the
shape of a palm tree and the world, respectively. They include
residences, hotels, beaches, services, and shopping. The incredible
success of the first Palms has given rise to two more.
- Hydropolis is the worlds first underwater hotel, with a
train that connects it to the mainland.
- By end of 2008 Dubai will have the worlds largest freestanding
dome, the Snow Dome, which will be used for indoor skiing in one
of the hottest regions in the world. The dome harnesses solar
energy for power.
- In 2009 construction will be completed on Burj Dubai, the worlds
tallest building, the height of which is being kept secret for
competition purposes. As designed by the architects Skidmore,
Owings, and Merrill, the skyscrapers form is by the unraveling
of a desert rose.
Dubai has also started building Cities, which house business
communities, such as textiles, technology, etc. The Dubai Internet
City is emblematic of Dubais Cities projects. It is located
next to the main highway and comprises office buildings, gardens,
and lakes, resembling a business park in any high-tech region of
The Dubai marina consists of numerous residential high-rises and
is built along an artificial marina. It is the regions first
intelligent city, with each home highly wired. The planners
hope to create distinct neighborhoods within the high-rises.
Juxtaposed to these ambitious developments is the phenomenon of
the labor camp, home of the expatriate construction workers,
Dubais craftsmen, who are strategically disciplined to invisibility
and forced to live in squalid housing conditions on the citys
periphery. Fortunately, human rights organizations have helped demolish
many of these housing establishments and new ones of more acceptable
standards have been built.
In addition to the large portion of Dubai committed to commercial
space, Dubai also has a human space where social interactions take
place. There are many consequences of globalization in Dubai as
it fulfills a need that used to be met by Beirut as the financial,
commercial, and economic bridge between east and west. Other cities
in the region, such as Cairo and Beirut, have emulated Dubai-type
development, resulting in the displacement of local residents, as
the houses of the poor are often bulldozed for larger modernizing
Increasingly, neighboring cities are feeling the Dubai effect
pressure to create unique niches to capture value from globalization.
Doha and Abu Dhabi in particular have attempted to carve out space
for themselves, Doha as the regions political center
and Abu Dhabi as a cultural center.
Dubai is often paired with Singapore or Las Vegas, as a port city
in the former case and a city based on corporate-controlled mega-projects
in the latter. These cities can be seen as post-urban,
as they adopted the framework of marketability in the image of the
city: the city itself is now a tool for attracting people and business.
One major difference between Dubai and Las Vegas is the illegality
of gambling and of spectacular building explosion.
Singapore is the busiest port in the world and a main competitor
of Dubai. Both serve as links between east and west, and Dubai is
trying to rival Singapore and Hong Kong as a hub in a network of
ports and transport links between the Far East and the West. As
a part of this rivalry Dubai has been buying ports around the world.
Its efforts in the U.S. were thwarted when political controversy forced
Dubai to relinquish control of major U.S. ports.
To call Dubai an emerging global city is an understatement. At
the local scale it comprises a global populace, as the presence
of its expatriate population outnumbers the locals and these populations
are served by various architectures. At the regional scale, Dubais
relationship with its neighboring Gulf countries and greater Middle
East is as the new playground of the Middle East, whose ostentatious
forms of development are emulated regionally. And at the global
scale, Dubai is emerging as a global competitor vis-à-vis
Las Vegas and Singapore. These three scales of analysis formulate
the framework for a socioeconomic spatial approach in which Dubais
urban landscape is simultaneously exported to regional cities and
imported from global ones.
Urban Informality in Lagos, Nigeria:
A New Paradigm? (Urban Research Panel)
Joseph Godlewski, Architecture, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
The second speaker for the Urban Research Panel centers his research
on informal economies and the urbanization associated with it, particularly
in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos provides a violent contrast to Dubai, while
it is in many ways similarn; while both are cities with a basis
in oil wealth, port cities, and colonial cities, Lagos today looks
nothing like Dubai.
In order to understand why this divergence exists, we need to look
at the history of the city and ask how it arrived at this structural
outcome. Lagos provides an intriguing example among the cities in
the developing world which, while being celebrated by architects,
face unique challenges as they move forward in the global environment.
Lagos is spread out on a uniquely enormous scale, creating unique
problems not easily solved on the basis of past experience.
One of the foremost scholars on Lagos is the Dutch architect Rem
Koolhaas, who designed the world-renowned Prada store in New York
City, the Seattle Public Library, and now teaches at Harvards
Project on the City. This talk will be a critique of Koolhaass
approach, both because of his belief that because architects can
design buildings they can solve problems of the developing world,
and because of his limited understanding of that world.
On a panel at the Harvard Design School that included information
about Rome and Lagos, no one had anything to say about Lagos, while
the Rome section was dominated with questions and anecdotes. This
oversight is a product of Euro-American-centered architecture, which
as far as the developing world goes understands the pyramids and
Koolhaas and architects like him are often strangely positive about
Lagos, inverting the traditional knowledge of the city. Koolhaas
suggests that Lagos is a city at the forefront of modernity, offering
a paradigm for the future of the modern city. However, at the same
time he casts Lagos in the traditional role of the other
for the Western observera city in the heart of deepest darkest
Africa. He describes a city that is almost disconnected from the
global system, distant and alien. This is problematic. How can a
city be a new paradigm of modernity if it is the romanticized exotic
other on the dark continent, outside of history?
Background on Lagos:
Lagos is in the southern part of Nigeria and is a port city. The
name means lake in Portuguese and was given by a Portuguese
explorer based on the regions many lakes.
Lagos frequently comes up in international discussion because of
its recent population explosion: it is currently home to 15 million
people and will soon have 24 million, making it the worlds
third largest city, behind Mumbai and Tokyo. For the sake of comparison,
by 2015 Lagos will be the size of New York and London
Nigeria is currently the worlds tenth largest producer of
oil, adding to the list of bad neighborhoods in which oil exists.
While oil has brought tremendous wealth, the nation and the city
are still in dire straits. Since the U.S. began needing to diversify
its energy strategy Nigeria has come to the forefront of U.S. visions.
In 2001 the National Energy Strategy report called on the U.S. to
diversify to Nigeria. In many ways Nigeria is a microcosm of the
scramble for resources under globalization and the military and
economic changes that occur. Michael Watts (UCB Geography) thinks
that Nigeria may very well be the next Iraq.
Tied into the population explosion, slum living in Lagos has expanded
dramatically in recent years. The largest slum in Lagos is a patch
of swampy land containing 1.5 million people. As with many colonial
cities, the central core, Victoria Island, is the wealthiest and
oldest part of town. Outside of this central region everything else
is slum expansion on swampy real estate.
Since many of the jobs are in the center of town, this makes for
a hellish three-hour commute for many city residents. In addition,
slums and developments often clash: in 1998 300,000 slum dwellers
were evicted. Where do they go? In general, they move to the edge
of the city. While American cities have suburban sprawl, Lagos has
One of the best teaching tools on Lagos is the book and corresponding
DVD Mutations by Rem Koolhaas. While Mutations does
a good job describing and showing the city, it suffers from Koolhaass
problematic presentation. Koolhaas doesnt exactly engage
the city, as many of the pictures are taken from car or helicopter.
When he ventures out of his car he finds organization
and processes in garbage heaps underneath viaducts, where garbage
is transformed and sorted.
In another instance he finds what appears to be a burning garbage
heap but turns out to be a village. One thing Koolhaas focuses on
is how organization works in this otherwise dysfunctional city,
citing the conjunction of gridlock and the marketplace. The horrible
gridlocked traffic of Lagos is filled with entrepreneurial self-promoting
entities. Even in the face of huge traffic jams he sees this as
proof that a city can survive and live under these conditions as
they are colonized by market activities. However this approach has
more in common with sound bites than with sustained empirical analysis.
One thing that is hard to miss in any account of Lagos is the informal
economy, which is estimated at 90% of the total economy. This compares
to a possible 15% in the developed world, though precise statistics
are hard to compute given the nature of the subject. The Alaba Market
is one of the largest of these self-organizing entities. It is the
largest marketplace for electronics in West Africa, with $2.8 billion
in goods exchanged each year. There are few stalls and no boxes
for products, but it exists and keeps thriving. In the absence of
government characterizing spaces such as these, the markets and
the city have created their own institutions.
There are signs of more traditional commerce in Lagos, including
a Prada store that fascinates Koolhaas. He sees the existence of
this type of boutique as equaling progress, though Prada is a client
of his, making his analysis suspect. In one of his few personal
communications in the video he talks with a woman who states that
while the city used to be about money, now theres lots of money
but no order and lots of crime. The only place the city works is
This causes Koolhaas to believe that traditional planning may make
little sense, given the self-organization of the city, and that
any planning should work in tandem with this self-organization.
However, his distance from and exoticizing of the city result in
a lack comparative context and result in old conceptions of an Africa
outside of history. No mention is made in the DVD of the citys
history, its ecological crises, oil production, or the structural
adjustment programs made by the IMF and World Bank. It simply celebrates
informal economy and self-organizing institutions.
Some final statistics may help give an impression of Lagos. The
surplus rural labor living outside the city means that 80% of Nigeria
lives in slums. Between 1975 and 2000, the number of people living
on $1 a day has increased from 19 million to 90 million, while per
capita income has declined by 15%. During this time Nigeria earned
almost $250 billion dollars from oil.
Clearly, free market globalization and profit have not helped the
average citizen. The citys colonial period has made accumulation
very individualized. Because of this, the informality of the city
should not be seen as a new way of life, but rather should be viewed
as a product of economic and social phenomena (such as globalization)
that perpetuate income disparity and inequality. Informal self-organization
is not a solution but simply a coping mechanism.
Istanbul: The Bridge and the Mosque
(Urban Research Panel)
Kathryn Schild, Slavic Languages and Literatures, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
Turkey, much like Russia, is a country stuck between Europe and
Asia. So how does Turkey deal with this dual identity and adapt
to its environment? One way to answer this question is to look at
the past cultural claims on the city of Istanbul and examine how
it deals with its mix of cultures today. Istanbul, or Constantinople,
or Tsargrad, has had lots of names and rulers over time, each of
which reflects the tension of this dual identity.
Nobel prizewinning author Orhan Pamuk, writing about Istanbul
today, argues that the greatest modern tension is between the nationalist
Turkish identity and Istanbuls cosmopolitan identity. In order
to understand the city, we need to look at its culture both through
a Turkish lens and through a Western one, as the Turks are constantly
asking how they are viewed from the West.
A Western speaker citing Pamuk pointed out recently that the best
view of Turkey is from neither Europe nor Turkey but from a bridge
between them. Turkey is full of people exactly like you, and we
should view Turkey not as a clash of cultures but as a unique culture
of its own.
Istanbul is where the East meets West and either recoils or rejoices.
Constantine founded the city as a New Rome in 324 and
it was the capital of Byzantine Empire. For a while it held the
distinction of being the largest city in the world, but it had declined
from this status by the time the Ottomans invaded in 1453. The Ottomans
never took a strong stand on the name of city; Istanbul
is a local term meaning the city. Istanbul fell into neglect
when the Turkish government moved to Ankara in 1922 after independence.
Pamuk writes, You can often tell whether youre standing
in the East or in the West, just by the way people refer to certain
historical events. For Westerners, May 29, 1453 is the Fall of Constantinople,
while for Easterners its the Conquest of Istanbul.
Spaces throughout Istanbul reflect the clash/celebration of cultures.
You find numerous churches that have been turned into mosques and
then stripped back down to the original mosaics, all the while surrounded
by skyscrapers and ads for European firms.
San Francisco Golden Gate is named for Istanbuls Golden
Horn, and like the Bay Area it was a brilliant place to settle,
providing a reliable harbor. The Greeks settled along the peninsula
with a port at the horn and built the city outward from this in
European maps from the 16th century show that much of this was
on European side of the Bosporus; the bustling Asian side was not
even on many maps. Across the bay on the Western side of the Bosporus
there was a small European settlement called Pera, the Greek for
over there. Foreigners settled this region, especially
Genovese and Phoenician merchants. After the fall non-Musrlims
were not supposed to stay in the city, though many did. The Western
region of the city provided a counterpart to the mosques and the
For a long time, no bridge existed across the Golden Horn. Interestingly,
Leonardo Di Vinci drew up the first plan for a bridge, though it
was never seriously considered. (They later built a model of it
in Oslo.) The first bridge across the Horn was built at the very
top of the strait and was not very useful. Finally in the mid-19th
century the Galata bridge connected the old city to the European
settlement, bridging East and West, both symbolically and figuratively.
The Galata Bridge officially connects Europe . . . to Europe. The
bridge that connects the European side of the Bosporus to the Asian
side was only finished in 1973. This bridge was of course destined
to become a metaphor for larger cultural forces. It looks a surprising
amount like the Golden Gate Bridge, though without the paint. This
is not the image, however, that is used to represent the East-West
divide, rather it is the image of the bridge and the mosque.
The Bridge and the Mosque
The Bridge and the Mosque provides a convenient juxtaposition of
the old versus the new, religion versus science, tradition versus
progress, or basically any other divide you want. All in all it
is a very loaded image.
The power of the image notwithstanding, the facts make the story
less clear-cut. The Mosque is not ancient, but is rather a neo-Baroque
building, built in the 19th century and designed by an Armenian
architect. Nevertheless, it gets loaded with old-versus-new imagery.
To give a speech citing Pamuk, President George W. Bush positioned
himself in front of the bridge.
A previous visit by a previous Bush exhibits some of the double
vision the Turks experience. Bush Sr. was visiting the Dolmabahce
palace. Concerned that he would have to use the eastern style squat
toilet that everyone else uses, a European toilet was added and
promptly removed after his visit. This shows the tension residents
of Istanbul face by constantly viewing themselves through Western
eyes: there is always something lacking.
The city today is a mix of traditional and tourist neighborhoods,
though tourists do not mix much with people in the buildings, even
in tourist neighborhoods. Each quarter has a distinct feel and culture
and what you wear in one neighborhood will get you in trouble in
other neighborhoods. Many of these mix East and West in unique ways.
In one part of town there is a Catholic church where Muslims go
to light candles and make wishes, much like a wishing well. While
at the turn of previous century there were still more Greeks living
in Istanbul than Turks this is no longer the case and the citys
Turkish population is increasing.
The problem with the Bridge and the Mosque metaphor is
that while it is loaded with symbolism, you can do anything with
it and cannot always capture the unique dynamics of a changing city.
The population of Istanbul has tripled in size since the early
1980s and there are now 12 million residents, up from 1 million
The Asian side looks more like the European side than the old city
as you move up the Bosporus. The Asian side as we think
about it is really on the European side of the strait, while the
part that is really in Asia is a quiet place where people go to
avoid bustle and get cheaper housing.
The tremendous growth of the city has led to predictable growth-associated
problems such as traffic, overcrowding, and a rising cost of living.
While these problems are often blamed on Turks from the East causing
problems in a Western city, in reality the term urban-rural
divide better describes the problems and tensions of the city.
This is the type of relationship that the Bridge and the Mosque
Perhaps a better metaphor for the city is found at Miniaturk, an
official museum run by the Turkish Government consisting of miniature
building models and designed to show off Turkey. Miniaturk blatantly
strips the context from what you are seeing. While small labels
that tell you what they are and where, they are easilyand usuallyignored.
The museum includes models of buildings from across Turkey and beyond.
If we want the bridge and the mosque, we can find it here, in the
form of a bridge from Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Dome of the Rock
mosque in Jerusalem. These miniatures lack context for Turkeys
historical empire as well. They dont mention that Bosnia-Herzegovina
is no longer in Turkey, in essence denying the role of empire in
putting them there. The name, Miniaturk, implies they are still
Miniaturk provides a way to view the city and its architecture
without the hassle of actually having to experience them. As such,
it is not a top tourist destination, but largely a way for immigrants
to see the city without the hustle and bustle. For rural immigrants
coming to the city, there is no danger of being overwhelmed by a
sense of grandeur or history.
These are an internal representations of the city and of Turkey.
The goal is not entertainment, but to display Turkey. The lack of
history is not a problem, but in fact its strength. These monuments
can be embraced, photographed, and forgotten. In a sense, it creates
cultural harmony, because everyone is exactly like you. There are
no cultural conflicts in Miniaturk. It has churches, synagogues,
and temples, but without their context there exists no tension.
The metaphor of the bridge and the mosque is great for teaching
as long as you remember it is a myth. It is powerful and seductive
as long as we remember its placeit can tell us something, as
can understanding why it is appealing to use. At the same time,
we should not rely on it to tell us everything we need to know about
Tokyo Stories: Tales from the Four-Hundred-Year
History of Japans Capital
Cary Karacas, Geography, UCB
(Summarized by Bartholomew Watson)
The title of this talk is a riff off the movie Tokyo Story
and the content will be an account of the human geography of the
creation and development of Tokyo. More precisely, it will use a
handful of narratives about what made the city what it is today,
organized into a cycle of the creation, making, and unmaking of
Creating the City:
If Tokyo had to pick a founding father, it might be Tokugawa Ieyasu,
the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the 3rd
in a line of warlords that unified Japan after a series of civil
wars. Prior to the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan was broken into a series
of feudal domains, each ruled by local daimyo (warlords).
Beginning in the 1550s, the most powerful of the daimyo
began to enlist the help of other daimyo in unifying the
country. This movement culminated in 1600 with the Battle of Sekigahara,
after which Tokugawa Ieyasu became the most powerful daimyo
in Japan. Since his traditional center of power was in Edo (the
name of Tokyo until the Meiji Restoration in 1868), Tokyo became
the administrative center of the country.
During this period Japan was organized into a series of castle-towns.
Depending on which of the roughly 250 daimyo had backed
Tokugawa, these towns began to rise or fall during the Tokugawa
shogunate. The following fourteen generations of Tokugawa shoguns
brought 250 years of peace to Japan, based in and administered from
Edo. This peaceful period was marked by an unprecedented, intensive
construction of cities. Except for Kyoto and Osaka, there were few
major Japanese cities prior to this building explosion. Edo was
at the center of the city network: as had been the case in Rome,
all roads led to Edo. While the Tokugawa also controlled Osaka,
Edo continued to be the primary center of power.
One question facing the Tokugawa shoguns during the period was
how to control the daimyo and the samurai they controlled.
They adopted the basic policy that the samurai had to live in the
cities, which made them easier to control. In addition, this swelled
the number of city dwellers, as the samurai needed people to serve
them. In essence it created cities based around a caste system.
But how to control the daimyo? For one, cities took tremendous
resources to build and Tokugawa demanded other warlords help him
with the building of cities, particularly Edo. This diverted resources
they could have been used to rebel against the regime. Edo became
an impressive castle-town, with rings of canals used to protect
the castle and Edo as a whole from invasion.
Edo quickly grew into the largest city in the world. Where different
groups of people were allowed to live affects the geography of Tokyo
up to this day. Another method of controlling the daimyo
was a law that required warlords to live in Edo every other year
and the warlords wives and children to remain at all times.
The shoguns gave them space to build mansions, which they built
with great zeal and inter-daimyo competition. Again this
construction diverted resources away from the ability to resist
the shoguns power, while wives and children acted as permanent
Elsewhere in Edo, the commoners had their own districts, which
were incredibly densely populated. The influx of daimyo
and their accompanying entourages sparked a flourishing of culture
in and around Edo. When the daimyo showed up every year,
they would come with enormous processions in a display of wealth
One final thought about the creation of Tokyo from this period
is that it was constantly destroyed by fire. Edo, and later Tokyo,
is largely a city of wood, with strong winds that come down in the
winter. This meant that one small fire could destroy huge chunks
of the city, causing it to be remade over and over.
Collapse of Edo:
The collapse of Edo came with the disintegration of the Tokugawa
shogunate. In 1853, the arrival of Perrys black ships marked
less a knocking and more a kicking on the door of Japan. The Americans
demanded that Japan be opened up to outside trade, which generated
high levels of dissension and caused the shogun to lose a lot of
face. The dissension was particularly acute from the samurai, who
were banished to outer regions at the beginning of the Shoguns
regime and who still resented their exclusion. They decided there
was an urgent need to modernize in order to compete with the West
and in 1868 a group of young samurai overthrew the shogunate and
seized power. With the ouster of the Tokugawa shoguns, the Tokyo
population suffered an immediate drop and the city took a hit in
Once in power the young samurai decided they needed something to
unify the nation under their new regime. This involved rethinking
what the city of Tokyo was supposed to be. Until 1868 the Japanese
Emperor had been based in Kyoto and during the shogunate was not
a major player in Japanese life. However, the young samurai decided
to use him as a symbol of Japan, re-inserting the Emperor at center
of social life. To do so, they decided to move him from Kyoto to
Edo and put him where the Tokugawa Shogun had lived. While it took
some time for this switch to take hold, after a generation or so
the Emperor was fully entrenched as a symbol of the Japanese nation.
During this period, the modernization of Japan was in fast-forward.
The Japanese began selling silk around the world and building train
lines; they created a constitution and experienced rapid industrialization.
Soon, Japanese foreign policy and international ambitions began
to match this economic expansion. Fukuzawa Yukichi, an influential
Japanese intellectual of the time, argued that Japan had to break
out of its traditional formations and behave in the same way as
the Western nations. Specifically, it must treat China and Korea
like a Western nation would. This type of thinking spread in Japan
and colonial ambitions followed.
Thought turned to action with the Sino-Japanese War of 189495,
which resulted in a Japanese victory and numerous territorial concessions.
Tokyos rise continued during this expansion and became a center
of Japanese growth, spawning modern industries to fuel development.
The next Japanese flexing of power came during the Russo-Japanese
War of 190405, a surprising victory for the Japanese over
a traditional power. This victory only furthered industrialization
and modernization and supported the notion that Japanese policy
was on the right track to overtake the West.
In 1923 a powerful earthquake leveled Tokyo. Fires quickly spread
and devastated the city, causing 110,000 deaths. In particular,
one area of town stands out as emblematic of the tragedy. In a densely
populated working class area of town workers unable to escape congregated
in a park, where 60,000 people burned to death. More than any other
disaster up to this point, the 1923 fire destroyed and reshaped
After the earthquake and resulting fire, Crown Regent Hirohito
toured the city and was presented and received as a living god.
The city was rebuilt and the fire marked the advent of modern Tokyo.
In 1930, now-Emperor Hirohito celebrated the reconstruction of the
city, touring the place where so many people had died, which was
turned into a site of remembrance. On the park the city built a
charnel house to hold the urns of those who had died, and on the
anniversary of the fire, families of the dead can go and pay their
During the 1930s signs of modernization permeated Tokyo. The city
created Asias first subway system, had modern electricity,
transportation, cars, buildings, phones, and radios. In addition,
modernization meant the adoption of Western cultural trends and
kimonos lost ground to suits. Throughout this period, however, there
was a foreboding sense of what it meant to live in the city as a
real shift occurred in how Japan and Tokyo found their place in
Destroying the City:
Also during the 1930s, Japans military started setting out
again. In 1931, coupled with a political move toward fascism, Japan
invaded China. Between 1936 and 1956 Japan planned the emigration
of 5 million Japanese to Manchukuo, a Japanese territory in Northern
These wars of conquest did not allay Japanese fears about the city.
Unno Juza captured this fear in a series of science fiction stories
about the destruction of Tokyo. He was strongly influenced by H.
G. Wellss The War in the Air and presciently described
the destruction of Tokyo by enemy bombers. He was not alone in envisioning
this scenario, as the interwar period was an era when many people
were imagining cities destroyed by aerial attack. The German artist
Otto Dix portrayed some of the terror of an aerial attack on a city
in WWI in his paintings of the period.
These fears were well founded as military strategists had to begun
to focus on the city as a central target in modern warfare. Giulio
Douhet, an Italian air-power theorist, argued that the key to winning
modern wars was attacking civilians in cities.
Juzas book The Imperial Capital Under Attack, written
in 1932, was couched as fantasy, but the author was increasingly
convinced that it was going to happen and he almost left the city
numerous times. In the story enemy bombers burn Tokyo to the ground.
Juzas stories made him a best-selling air-raid novelist, employing
the constant theme of Tokyo being attacked. Over time the stories
become more fantastic and militaristic as civilians worked together
to protect Tokyo. The enemies changed, from the Chinese to the Americans,
but the themes were the same.
Eventually, the local government picked up the idea of civilians
as the defenders of the city. At the time city planners were thinking
about how to protect the cities in the advent of total war. They
decided that they had to make sure the civilians protected them,
which meant they couldnt be evacuated (except for children,
the elderly, etc.). So not only should civilians stay, they should
learn to put out fires. Throughout the 1930s, city organizers had
civilians run fire drills.
In 1937 Japan invaded China again. A contemporary propaganda poster,
Air Defense Brigade Protecting the Emperors Land,
depicts the role of civilians as envisaged by the government. In
it men are conspicuously absent and it is women who are putting
out fires. In many ways, the fire brigade was Japans Rosie
the Riveter. Looking at the poster now, their efforts seem heroic
but naïve: in the face of modern warfare, the women have buckets.
In the end civilian fire brigades was not a solution at all, simply
a ruse to make the people feel prepared. It was not until late in
the war that the government even began building air raid shelters
and the government never evacuated the cities.
During World War II, after the fall of Saipan, all of industrialized
Japan came under the range of new B-29 bombers. Subsequently, a
young U.S. Colonel named Curtis Le May, advised by Douhet, came up
with a strategy: destroying the cities and targeting the civilians
might force Japan to capitulate. At this point, the Japanese leaders
knew they could not get back Saipan and that the war was over, but
they nevertheless refused to capitulate.
At this point they started evacuating the cities of school-age
children and one quarter of the children were evacuated.
The Americans decided to attack the most densely populated areas
of Tokyo. They knew if they could light some fires the wind would
help the fire to spread and these fires would help guide more bombers
to their targets.
Of course, the portion of Tokyo targeted was completed destroyed,
creating a barren landscape. While the first attack was just the
beginning it was one of the most devastating and over 100,000 people
were killed within 5 hours.
The dead were quickly buried in large parks, both for sanitation
and to remove evidence of the failure of the government to protect
its citizens. After the bombing, Hirohito went out into the city
again, as he had after the 1923 quake. This time, however, he was
not received as a god, and the people were cursing him. A government
that cannot protect civilians quickly loses respect.
Between March and May of 1945 bombing raids destroyed almost all
of Tokyo. The government responded with a page out of one of Juzas
books and told residents to start living underground. (In one of
his final science fiction novels, Juza ended with the vision of
Tokyoites living underground.) Luckily, in 1945 the government surrendered
before this happened.
Remembering the City:
There is a great deal of collective memory in Japan related to
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but what about Tokyo?
At this point it might also be good to ask: Beyond the question
of atomic bombs, is the bombing of urban populations ever appropriate?
The war was followed by seven-year occupation of Japan based in
Tokyo. Because this occupation went exceedingly well (compared to
our recent ones) it had a profound affect on the city and its planning.
In addition the large numbers of U. S. soldiers in and around Tokyo
affected the citys growth. The soldiers brought their lives
with them, including wives, children, and Cadillacs.
General Macarthur ruled in Japan for a number of years, holding
more power than the Emperor.
Life for American occupiers was the high life. The Americans took
over major sports and cultural facilitiesplacing ice-skating
rinks in former sumo stadiumsand officers took over nice houses
in town. Life was very different on the Japanese side. Residents
without houses were still living in underground shelters and Tokyo
remained a destroyed landscape.
The planners who started planning a grand new Tokyo began thinking
about the future more than remembering the past as the population
by and large wanted to forget the war as quickly as possible. However,
this ignores the question of those who survived and are maimed.
How are they remembered? Also what happens to all of those people
who have been buried? What happens to the bodies, of which there
are well over 100,000?
For a handful of years they simply remained where they were while
decisions were being made. As with many post-war decisions, in 1950
the choice fell to a young American soldier who was part of the
occupying force. He decided to put them in the same memorial house
as the victims of the 1923 fire. This was tough work and it was
hard to exhume them all as the bodies had been in the ground for
many years, but eventually they are added to the 1923 memorial charnel
This mixing up of memory, a man-made disaster versus a natural
one, has really confused a lot of people. Today, the door to the
monument opens only twice a year and families of the victims will
come for both, which causes confusion. In Japan, people feel an
obligation to pay respect to their loved ones, but normally they
have a place with a gravestone, while victims families have
to come here.
Throughout Tokyo there are other smaller memorial sites. Where
the bombings occurred there are still plenty of small shrines and
But what about an official remembrance? Hiroshima has had a lot
of those. While in Hiroshima official remembrance remains contentious
it is clearly very important. What about Tokyo? Tokyo was rebuilt
very quickly and the city creates a narrative of Tokyo rising from
the flames. This narrative, however, doesnt discuss why the
flames were there in the first place.
Tokyo quickly regained its status as an international city, culminating
with the 1964 Olympics. The survivors of the fire bombings, however,
continued to wonder why they were being forgotten. In order to exact
a response, this group, around the same time as the Olympics, became
politicized. They felt there should be an official remembrance.
Also during the 1960s, Japan gave its highest domestic award to
Curtis Le May, the strategic planner of the bombings, because he
helped establish the Japanese defense forces. In McNamaras
Fog of War he argues that if we had lost we would have
been prosecuted as war criminals for this bombing. By awarding him
this medal the Japanese government was essentially agreeing to ignore
This official snub prompted a popular movement to remember the
bombings and its victims. Families brought photos and increasingly
demanded an official response. The interaction between these individuals
and government has changed a lot over the past thirtyyears.
During the 1960s, the man who became governor, a self described
Socialist Utopian, gave the protestors funds and helped them publish
their photos. By the early 1970s, the survivors began to demand
a museum, which the mayor claimed he could not build due to the
financial woes of the city. A new candidate promised just such a
museum during his campaign, but while re-elected three times he
did not build it during his sixteen-year term. Finally, when he
buildt an Edo-Tokyo Museum, he said he would give them a corner,
which they agreed to, while continuing to demand a museum to be
able to tell their own story.
When the major finally relented he was ousted by a coalition led
by Socialists who took over the Tokyo legislature. While they finally
planned a museum it was again sidelined due to lack of funds.
The Socialists finally decided they should build the museum underground
by the other memorial of the dead. This proposal was met by scorn
from the survivors. Not only would it destroy the previous site,
the idea of building underground carries plenty of bad symbolism.
The current governor ended talk of the underground museum and decided
to build a monument by the other memorial. The city chose an artist
and erected a memorial with flowers growing from the rubble. Inside
is an intense space where the names of the dead are written in books,
an effort started by the citizen group and taken over by the city
of Tokyo. While the designer did not have this in mind, one criticism
of the monument is that it looks like the air raid shelters.
So how effectively does this monument respond to the needs of Tokyos
collective memory? For many, it is just as ineffective as the air
raid shelters. While it looks like something it doesnt really
help one remember what happened. They were in such a rush to build
the monument that the planning was sub-par. In fact, people are
not even allowed into the monument because it doesnt have a
fire exit and is not up to code!
Right now Japan is passing out of the period during which the generation
who experienced this is still alive, which increases the pressure
to do something quickly, while the rise of nationalism is obscuring
many of Japans past transgressions and their resultssymbolized in Koizumis visits to the controversial Yasukuni
Not daunted, the citizen group is storing material in a building
where they are holding the memory of bombings, continuing to demand
that Tokyo does something. They refuse to let Japan and Tokyo forget