“before the city, there was the hamlet and the shrine…”: a visual supplement

The initial chapters of Lewis Mumford’s epic 1961 inquiry into urban origins and prospects, The City in History, contained highly quotable and inspirational characterizations of human settlements (previewable here). Mumford built urban origins around a basic human social disposition to gather. He then evoked an evolution from caves to crossroads, premised on the two poles of human life: “movement and settlement”.

Picture the high ground above such crossroads, with physical forms reflective of protection and worship, two elements central to evolution of human settlement, whatever the duration.

While Mumford offered some black and white photographs to illustrate his original work, current photography can further “supplement” such classic treatises on urbanism, as a tribute to their ongoing life.*

As examples, the following original images convey elevated focal points, with settlements below.




*Disclosure: this idea derives from heredity. See Wolfe, Myer R. (1965) A Visual Supplement to Urban Social Studies, Journal of the American Planning Association 31: 1; 51-62:

“Many social studies of communities refer implicitly or explicitly to urban form without so much as a picture, map or diagram. Yet visual material can make a contribution to understanding the urban environment itself, the interrelationship of society and environment, and the development of techniques for study and communication.”

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