4.241J | Spring 2013 | Graduate

Theory of City Form

Lecture Notes

Lec 2: Normative Theory I: The City as Supernatural

« Previous | Next »

Lecture Summary

In the cosmic model, the assertion is that the form of a permanent settlement should be a magical model of the universe and its gods. Such a crystalline city has all of its parts fused into a perfectly ordered whole and change is allowed to happen only in a rhythmically controlled manner. To achieve such form, specific phenomena are included, such as returning, natural items, celestial measurement, fixing location, centeredness, boundary definition, earth images, land geometry, directionality, place consciousness, and numerology. These are acknowledged in creating the city’s form by devising methods for finding a good site, making boundaries, subdividing land, determining a center, connecting to celestial forms, fixing coordinates, controlling change, determining social structure, codifying rules, coordinating physics and metaphysics, and reinforcing form through ritual.

Debate surrounds the origin of cities. For example, the spiritual significance in city genesis is argued by Adams, Rykwert, and Mumford against materialist arguments, such as those of Childe, Sjoberg, and Jacobs.


Handout for Lecture 2 (PDF)

  • Page 1: Matrix of the three normative models
  • Page 2: Elements and components of the cosmic model

Examples, Precedents, and Works

The Angkor Group (fourteenth-century Cambodia); ancient Athens (Greece); Çatalhöyük (southern Anatolia); Batang Benar (Malaysia); Kaaba (Mecca, Saudi Arabia); Teotihuacán and the Street of the Dead (Mexico City); Chichen Itza (Mexico); Masada and Jerusalem (Israel); Tenochtitlan (pre-Columbian Mexico); The City of the Dipper (China); Edfu (Egypt); Massa homestead (Cameroon); Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, Tiananmen Square, and the Imperial City (China); Vashu Purusa and Manduka/Chandita Mandalas, Jaipur, and Madurai (India)

« Previous | Next »

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights