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City Planning in Middle Earth

Cardinal

Cyburbian
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10,080
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34
So, now having seen all three movies in the LOTR series, why not stop to consider the issue of planning and city form in Middle Earth. Were the cities of that time really much better than our own? Think about it....

Hobbiton

Vernacular architecture of the Hobbits - LEED certified? Score one for the hobbits.


Note the scattered housing - the beginnings of urban sprawl?


Industry encroaching on a pristine shoreline, and ecological damage caused by damming of stream.



Rivendell

This is a fairyland more than a city. Note the general lack of industry in sight, and the buildings poorly-adapted to a mountain environment. It is no wonder that Rivendell was abandoned once the elves left. At best, it was suitable for re-use as a resort or theme park.




Edoras

This is the hall of the king of Rohan. Can't he afford some decent landscaping?


What is the design life of a thatched-roof building?



Minas Tirith

Urban growth boundaries have contained development within the walls of the city, perserving the surrounding countryside.


The great city is built on seven levels, spiraling upward. As an architectural statement it may be impressive, but what effect does it have on residential and commercial patterns? If you live on level 2 and the grocery store is on level 5, there is no short way to get there. Wouldn't a system of interconnected streets make more sense?



Gondor does at lease have several small courtyards that could be the basis for an urban park system, or perhaps open-air markets.

11MT3-med.jpg

The architecture is certainly grand, but is it human-scaled? Note the lack of windows and general inaccessibility of spaces from the street.



Again, here is the hall of a king, and what do we have for landscaping? A hot tub and one dead tree. Did anyone note that concrete had been poured right up to the roots of the tree? It's no wonder it died. Try some nice vines to add greenery, along with flower urns, benches to sit on, and maybe some street vendors to bring life to the place.

 
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I can't say what my reaction is to most of it but your comment about thatched roofs caught my eye. I do not know what the "life" of a thatched roof is -- I imagine they have to be repaired or replaced a lot. But it is my understanding that the great fire of London that burned so much of the city to the ground was so bad in large part due to the thatched roofs spreading the fire rapidly in a densely packed urban environment. As I understand it, following that fire, they outlawed thatched roofs in the city and you can now only have them in the country. As an aside, it is also my understanding that the great fire of London was also what allowed London to suddenly become the most modern city in the world.

Sorry, I don't remember where I read it, nor do I even remember what year the Great Fire of London occured. I just thought it might interest you, given your comment.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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10,624
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Card - great thread.

MZ - modern thatched roofs (and they do still exist) have over 70-80 year life expectancies and they have flame resistant coatings. A friend of mine has a cottage of about 900 s.f. in Ireland and just spend $40k US to have his thatched roof redone.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
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13,852
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39
I think Rivendell is a great city. The Elves just buy all the manufactured goods they need from the Dwarves, and let them deal with the pollution. Zoning, ya' know...
 

boilerplater

Cyburbian
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916
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Holiday in Middle Earth

This is a good example of why I feel dubious about the ability of modern planning and building codes in creating beautiful places. I started thinking about middle earth in planning terms while watching the movie...I think I'd like to live in Minas Tirith! Sure, you have no private outdoor space, its a little cramped, parking is non-existent, but you have this amazing landscape just outside the city boundaries! Plenty of open space to wander around in (provided there's no Orcs around).

I may become a LOTR Geek yet!

So...anyone need a hobbit house built?

Thanks for posting these cardinal.

Zone, the fire of London was 1666. I used to be a firefighter and once had a calender that noted the dates of the great fires of history. Ever heard of the Peshtigo, WI peat bog fires that killed much of the town's population? That's one for the planning texts.
 

Cardinal

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Re: Holiday in Middle Earth

boilerplater said:
I started thinking about middle earth in planning terms while watching the movie...I
Tes, me too. I wanted to see more of how the cities were laid out. You don't get much of a feel for it in the movies, but the web site is somewhat better.

Minas Tirith is an impressive city from a distance, but I was disappointed that everything was such a monocolor of stone. I have seen more landscaping in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
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13,689
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53
To be a little tooo serious

Well, we have to think about the level of transportation technology of Middle Earth.

What we have is essentially crica 1200 AD technology (with magic and wizards and elves, of course).

Hobbiton is nice and I think far from being the beginnings of sprawl. Everyone walks or uses donkey carts, and everyone grows there own food on vegetable patches.

I would chose Hobbiton, if it were within a donkey cart ride of Minas Tirith

The hobbit houses must be great for energy efficiency. :)
 
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Tom R

Cyburbian
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2,274
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25
lotr

I doubt that any of it is ADA compliant. And, what about WWT? Where does everybody "go".
 

SkeLeton

Cyburbian
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Ah.. that Starbucks sign is priceless! :p
Hobbiton would be ok if I could fit in one of the houses without hitting my head everywhere all the time...

Minas Tirith would be a cool place to live,although the monotone of the stone structures could become boring, but many mediterranean cities/towns have places that are both colorful and quite crammed.

I wish there were cities like the old Greek cities, where the purpose of living in a city is to socialize (unlike Suburban Sprawl™), and you also had your "private space",(your house) where you could rest. Afterall human beings are social animals, hence we should live in places where it's easy to socialize, rather than the opposite.
 

Rem

Cyburbian
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SkeLeton said:
Minas Tirith would be a cool place to live, .....
I am very concerned about access for mobility impaired people. Although such people would probably be abondoned at birth on the mountain side, a la Sparta. There also seems to be a floodway at the entrance to the City that may make emergency access difficult during flood events.

My preference is for Hobbiton - a sentimental reminder for me of one of the places I lived in while I was a student.
 

Markitect

Cyburbian
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110
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6
Re: Holiday in Middle Earth

boilerplater said:
I used to be a firefighter and once had a calender that noted the dates of the great fires of history. Ever heard of the Peshtigo, WI peat bog fires that killed much of the town's population? That's one for the planning texts.
Which killed more people, and covered a much larger area than the Chicago Fire, which was happening at the same time, on the same night.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
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3,232
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25
The Hobbits are almost totally agragarian, the shire reminds me a lot of Ireland, so it'd make sense that their dwellings would be dispersed.

Also, the books describe Gondor and Minis Turith in much more detail. They say there was a huge plague in Gondor between the time when Sauron was first beaten and the events in the books. The real capital city is that stuff next to the river (the books gave it a name but I can't be bothered to find my copy and look it up). Minus Turith was just the citadel. After the plague, the population of the capitol city was small enough to fit in Minus Turith, so they abandoned the city for the fortress when Sauron started attacking.
 

Trinity Moses

Member
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229
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9
Well, what about the other locales in the movie?

I'm thininking Isengard has serious brownfield issues.

And mordor...siesmic and volcanism hazards?
 

JNL

Cyburbian
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2,449
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Wow, I missed this the first time round - great thread Cardinal! :)

It's such a shame that they didn't retain more of the structures as tourist attractions after filming finished :( One of the castles was constructed in a former quarry site, quite close to my work - I used to drive past it every day. How's that for brownfields redevelopment!
 
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