Saturday, July 9, 2016

CFP: Urban Planning: Buildings, Planning, and Networks of Medieval Cities

by Rachel Hiser
CFP: Urban Planning: Buildings, Planning, and Networks of Medieval Cities,  International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo MI, May 11-14, 2017, AVISTA sponsored sessions (
Broadly defined, urban planning is today a process one might describe as half design and half social engineering.  One engaged in this process considers not only the aesthetic and visual product, but also the economic, political, and social implications, not to mention the underlying or over-arching environmental impact of any given plan.
While it appears that this sort of broad, multifaceted planning did not take place in the middle ages because we do not have left to us the tangible evidence—the maps, the drawings, the reports, recent scholarship employing the methodological lens of Cultural Geography seems to suggest otherwise.  Monastic historians, archaeologists, and art historians have long demonstrated, based on the famous plan of St. Gall, that monasteries, particularly those of the Cistercian order, were very much concerned with planning in the rural sense. From the intricacies of the water infrastructure, to the ordered logic of the space, to the esoteric qualities of metaphysical light, to the seasonal inter-dependence of pigs and pollarded oak trees, there is ample evidence to support a claim that the various components of an “urban plan” were understood within the monastic realm during the Middle Ages.  
But what of the integration of these various parts? This session seeks to explore and expand our comprehension of how those in roles of authority—both within the monastic confines and the more secular enivorns--saw the big picture.  Was there a plan or a planning process?  What can we say by way of an analysis of architectural complexes beyond the monastic enclosure about this planning process?  Are there hints in literary sources that indicate sensitivity to the correlation between climate, architectural orientation and positive social interaction, or indications in religious documents to illustrate a planned confluence between visual or aural stimulation, water features and physical well-being?  In the broader context of the secular built environment, where historians frequently demonstrate the economic and political interaction between monastic leadership and the local or regional authorities, can we detect a specific replication or modeling of the integrated concern with materials and aesthetics seen in the monastic complex?  Similarly, where philosophic and religious scholars highlight the mirrored nature of heaven and earth in medieval texts, can we find evidence of this theoretical “ordering” being planned or integrated into the secular world in the same way we can see it in the monastic enclosure?   What can we learn by bringing together the views of the architect, the archaeologist of infrastructure, and the environmental biologist with those scholars of literature, sculptural ornamentation and liturgy?  With these questions in mind, we seek papers from the broadest interdisciplinary point of view, where we can identify glimpses of a plan or, in the modern sense of the term, a planner.
In the Middle Ages European and eastern Mediterranean/western Asian cities developed from myriad situations, their cityscapes exhibiting a variety of types, as Wolfgang Braunfels outlined in Abendl√§ndische Stadtbaukunst: Herrschaftsform und Baugestalt(1976; English version, Urban Design in Western Europe: Regime and Architecture, 900-1900, 1988). While much scholarship still focuses on archaeology and individual sites, since Braunfels's publication research with a greater breadth of perspectives is being tackled. This examines not only the role of ecclesiastical architecture within civic society, but also on secular building, the functions of which always interacted with religious values of medieval culture. The proposed session invites papers showing innovative research and discussing specific examples or topics understood within a broad framework, on such issues as the forms that medieval cities and buildings took and why, what infrastructure was necessary to facilitate cultural growth, what pre-existing buildings and spolia conveyed to the social network of urban development, and why, as well as how, people moved about and operated within urban contexts (including the ex-urban and rural Hinterland). Within an urban setting--whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or some combination thereof--structures that might be investigated include city halls and courts, market halls, shops, merchants' hostelries (fondaci), entertainment venues, hospitals, prisons, etc., as well as infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and hydraulic elements, and natural features such as topography, geological phenomena, and environmental impacts, which might question how the rural was integrated and/or maintained as attributes of the urban. 
Papers that view specific constructions as part of the whole social fabric are welcome, as are those that consider how political, geographical, economic, and social issues affected the built environment, or conversely were affected by it, during this period when a public sphere was emerging for the first time since the Roman Empire.
Send abstracts of 300 words to:
Mickey Abel, University of North Texas, Denton

Deadline: September 15, 2017

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