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Chapter 2

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Andre Sorensen

GGRA03: Cities and Environments Professor: Andre Sorensen Chapter 2: Environmental Issues in Cities- A Brief History The First Cities  Ancient cities began to emerge some five or six thousand years ago in various regions around the world  The earliest cities were found in Mesopotamia  Agricultural surplus did not create cities, cities created agricultural surplus  Water was one of the most critical elements  Water management was an important ingredient in the development of centralized power  Large-scale engineering projects were only possible with centralized planning and hierarchic authority  The early cities referenced nature within the city walls  Humans transformed the environment by creating the earliest cities The Rise and Fall of Mayan Cities  The Maya were highly accomplished in astronomy with an intimate knowledge of the calendar  At the heart of the Mayan city existed large plazas surrounded by the most important government and religious buildings  The most important religious temples sat atop the Mayan pyramids, which were impressively decorated  The great Mayan cities were abandoned, as wars raged and people fled  “Mayan collapse,” is one of the enduring mysteries of pre-Columbian America Urban Design  Most urban design resulted from the desires and decisions of a few powerful individuals  Two land use patterns that have endured since the earliest cities: walls and grids o The walls served as military devices, a way to protect a city’s market privileges, and a way to control the urban population o City walls are important for they show an exercise of control over the physical environment o Walls inherently convey the message that urban space is separate and apart from the countryside and the wilderness  Another common feature shared by cities around the world is the imposition of the rectangular street grid on urban space o The grid is a simple, rational order of packing the land, setting streets at right angles to one another  One of the most striking examples of the use of the grid system is found in the Forbidden City, located at the exact center of ancient Beijing  Many cities on the grid share common design features: a lack of sensitivity to the physical environment, the imposition of the gird regardless of topography, a focus on the geometric (geometry over geography) and an underlying sense of the control of people-made space  This crucial intellectual shift, which Merchant calls “the death of nature” is characterized by accelerated exploitation of human and natural resources in the name of culture and progress 1 GGRA03: Cities and Environments Professor: Andre Sorensen  The development if another political capital, Washington, DC, underscores the attempt to embody political ideals with a developing sensitivity to the natural world  It was a design intent on celebrating a ceremonial city, the center of national government and culture  The plan was on an immense scale, far beyond the size or even expectation of the government at the time  L’Enfant’s plan embodied the history of the founding and early organization of the federal government, paying attention to the balance of power o But L’Enfant also included green space- a
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