Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: Urban sprawl in ancient times

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Toledo, OH
    Posts
    60

    Urban sprawl in ancient times

    Here's a very interesting article on how Cambodia's 400 square mile, ancient capital city depleted itself of its surrounding resources by becoming to large. As a side note, Phoenix, AZ, is 500 square miles....

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/...oomedangkorwat

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Dixie
    Posts
    5,846
    I saw the article. There are other cities/civilizations that have done the same. I guess there in nothing new under the sun.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Davis, CA
    Posts
    27

    Shoddy comparison choices perpetuate myths

    Although I think this article was interesting, I was disappointed with this portion:

    "For comparison, Philadelphia covers 135 square miles, while Phoenix sprawls across more than 500 square miles, not including the huge suburbs. Each has about 1.5 million residents in the city limits."

    What is the relevance of city limits? The urban area of Angkor Wat was determined through a physical analysis of the area, not by looking at some lines someone drew on a map for political purposes.

    If they had chosen to use a similar criteria when examining Philadelphia and Phoenix, they would have noticed that Phoenix's three million people in 799 sq mi is more dense than Philadelphia's five million in 1799 sq mi (3600 vs. 2800 per sq mi, respectively).

    http://www.demographia.com/db-ua2000r.htm

    It's sad to see this news article perpetuating the myth that the social, ecological and economic system that is a "city" somehow stops at the city boundary, especially when the analysis they were reporting on so clearly demonstrates a better way to do it.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Toledo, OH
    Posts
    60
    First off, it is hard to compare two cities separated by hundreds of years in time. Moreover, its probably true that Angkor Wat did not have a distinct line designating its boundaries.

    Secondly, if its hard to compare these cities based on limits alone, how can you compare a city to other metropolitan areas? Angkor Wat was not a metropolitan area because it had one nucleus with no surrounding suburbs, edge cities, etc. It seems rather unfair to compare it to population densities of metropolitan areas.

    The author of the article used city limits to justifiy what Angkor Wat really was. Therefore, they compared its size to cities that are experiencing the same problem. It was a city, not a metropolis.

    In any case, I don't think its possible that our cities today will suffer the same fate as we have better technologies and at least a general awareness of what sprawl is and can do.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,826
    Quote Originally posted by rsmith23 View post
    Here's a very interesting article on how Cambodia's 400 square mile, ancient capital city depleted itself of its surrounding resources by becoming to large. As a side note, Phoenix, AZ, is 500 square miles....

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/...oomedangkorwat
    The article about this I read in the LA Times says the city covered 115 sq. miles, not 400. Additionally, this was a pre-industrial city where most residents were cultivating within the urban context, which by definition would require more space per household. In many ways, I found the example similar to the type of Spanish agrarian-based urbanization found in the New World and structured under the Laws of the Indies, though certainly none of these settlements reached the scale of Angkor. The similarities being the use of small irrigation canals that extend the riparian area and which are integrated into an urban fabric of streets. Although the physical form was urban, the economy was agriculturally based.

    Just one more reason why it is not particularly constructive to compare this to contemporary cities that clearly separate agricultural uses to outside the urban fabric.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 31 Mar 2008 at 1:12 PM. Reason: plannetizen links removed
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Davis, CA
    Posts
    27
    Quote Originally posted by rsmith23 View post
    Moreover, its probably true that Angkor Wat did not have a distinct line designating its boundaries.
    This is precisely my point. They did not designate the area of Angkor Wat by looking at artificial lines on maps, so why did they do that for Philly and Phoenix?

    Secondly, if its hard to compare these cities based on limits alone, how can you compare a city to other metropolitan areas? Angkor Wat was not a metropolitan area because it had one nucleus with no surrounding suburbs, edge cities, etc. It seems rather unfair to compare it to population densities of metropolitan areas.
    The author of the article used city limits to justifiy what Angkor Wat really was.
    He did not use "city limits" since no such thing existed in the context of Angkor Wat. "City limits" are an artificial political construction, lines that people draw on maps to designate whose taxes will go where.

    They determined the extent of what they considered the "Angkor Wat city" by looking at physical evidence of the extent of the social, ecological, and economic system centered on the temple. The social, ecological and economic extent of an urban area is what we today refer to as a metropolitan area. So the area they are talking about in the Angkor Wat context is more analogous to our metropolitan areas than our cities.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oklahoma City
    Posts
    2,904
    Quote Originally posted by unless View post
    What is the relevance of city limits? The urban area of Angkor Wat was determined through a physical analysis of the area, not by looking at some lines someone drew on a map for political purposes.

    If they had chosen to use a similar criteria when examining Philadelphia and Phoenix, they would have noticed that Phoenix's three million people in 799 sq mi is more dense than Philadelphia's five million in 1799 sq mi (3600 vs. 2800 per sq mi, respectively).

    http://www.demographia.com/db-ua2000r.htm

    It's sad to see this news article perpetuating the myth that the social, ecological and economic system that is a "city" somehow stops at the city boundary, especially when the analysis they were reporting on so clearly demonstrates a better way to do it.
    THANK YOU! Someone finally said it, not just about ancient cities but current population and density calculations. Think regionally (in this case, at the urbanized area/metro regional scale). Central cities rarely have a majority of their metro population, so why would they exert the greatest ecological footprint?

  8. #8
    And actually, often it's the outlying suburbs that cause the biggest ecological footprint, not only because of their physical size, but also because of the amount of cars, the amount of energy needed to sustain them, amount of land taken up by development.

    While urban areas sometimes have higher pollution levels, it's often because the pollution from the suburbs drifts into the city, and/or the traffic jams and congestion occur in the city (since that is where everyone is commuting to).

    It is interesting though to find out about Angkor Wat. Does anyone know how many lived in Ancient Rome, Jerusalem or Constantinople a couple thousand years ago? I'd like to see how they would compare with modern urban centers.

  9. #9
    I just did a little quick research, and apparently Rome, in the 200-300s A.D. held about 500,000 people. The Aurelian Wall was constructed around the city, encompassing a total area of... Just 5 square miles!

    It's just hard to imagine how dense it was in Caesar Augustus' times when it held 1-2 million...

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Toledo, OH
    Posts
    60
    100,000 people per sq mile in Rome. That's pretty interesting. I don't know too much about Roman History, but it seems Rome was much more successful than Angkor Wat according to ancient standards.

    Theory: (If someone provides a little more history to back it up)
    One factor creating Rome's success and Angkor Wat's failure was that the population density in Rome was greater.

    Why did this create Rome's success? No clue. However, Angkor Wat's loosely populated empire failed.

    Maybe the author should have compared Angkor Wats destruction as a sprawling city to Rome's greater success as dense city.

    I don't know the history so don't gang up on me, but for what he have here, it sounds like a better argument than comparing ancient cities to contemporary cities.

    This is getting pretty interesting, I hope some others will chime in.

  11. #11
    Ancient Rome was actually pretty advanced, and had many things that we in modern times believe didn't ever exist until the last 200 years. (they or the greeks even had the first computer, in a sense)
    So I'm sure the advanced nature of Rome contributed to it's success. Keep in mind as well, that 1/3 of Rome's citizens were slaves, which would be about 300,000-700,000 people. They would have probably been in more cramped quarters.

    I find it kind of interesting that cities with midrise to lower highrise buildings can have populations and densities far above even that of Manhattan.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    272
    Interesting, but as Wahday reminds us, this was a very low density 'city' where people were cultivating the land with kitchen gardens, rice and livestock, so its not really 'urban sprawl' in the modern sense of the word is it.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Davis, CA
    Posts
    27
    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post

    I find it kind of interesting that cities with midrise to lower highrise buildings can have populations and densities far above even that of Manhattan.
    Apparently Paris had a pop. density of 250,000 per sq mi in 1637.
    http://www.demographia.com/dm-par90.htm

    The Lower East Side of New York peaked at 400,000/sq mi in 1900-1910. Not that I would call that the peak of civilization...
    http://www.demographia.com/db-nyc-ward1800.htm

    As much as I detest Wendell Cox's views on smart growth, I love all the stats he has compiled.

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Haarlem, The Netherlands
    Posts
    3

    Is density a parameter for success or not?

    It appears to me that overall density is not a very good indicator to what actually happens in a metropolis. The overall density of São Paulo, my place of residence, varies strongly considering it a metropolitan region or a city, even within the municipality limits the overall number doesn´t say much, since the area includes two gigantic water reservoirs and an indian reserve.
    Paradoxically the urban sprawl of 20 years ago (mostly informal settlements) is now the most densely populated part of the city, contrary to the high-rise central area that has lost population. The central region accomodates the main financial centre of South America, while at the same time you can find people planting corn at empty lots along central avenues. In this context it is impossible to say whether the density makes São Paulo more or less successfull. For one, the concentration of people in the suburbs and the concentration of capital in the centre is causing major traffic jams. On the other hand, if this sprawl model would be completely unsuccessfull, why doesn´t it stop growing?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    43
    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Ancient Rome was actually pretty advanced, and had many things that we in modern times believe didn't ever exist until the last 200 years.

    I find it kind of interesting that cities with midrise to lower highrise buildings can have populations and densities far above even that of Manhattan.
    When early Romes population was 1 million, many people lived in tenament houses that were approximatly six stories. My favorite advance was the public restroom, provided by and maintained by the tannerys, who collected the urine for tanning.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 16
    Last post: 17 Sep 2013, 10:38 PM
  2. Founder of The Urban Times
    Introduce Yourself
    Replies: 0
    Last post: 17 Apr 2011, 7:05 PM
  3. Urban sprawl
    Economic and Community Development
    Replies: 11
    Last post: 31 May 2010, 3:04 PM
  4. Replies: 4
    Last post: 31 May 2006, 6:32 PM
  5. Ancient Urban Planning
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 7
    Last post: 12 Feb 2004, 12:44 PM