The The Symbol of the City: Utopian Symmetry
The idealisation of the city as a symmetrical motif, both in art and literature, has endured through the millennia. In Plato's Critas the city is depicted as five concentric rings of land and water surrounding the citadel. Roman mosaics portray the labyrinth as a city and these labyrinths have a relatively perfect, four-fold symmetry. Town planning and religious traditions of Rome were expressed symbolically in this geometric layout of the Roman labyrinth. Both the earthly and heavenly city were reflected in this motif since the microcosm reflected the macrocosm. In Revelations, the Heavenly Jerusalem has four-fold symmetry, the design of its gates, foundations, and measurements reflect the use of Pythagorean numerology. Utopian visions of the city from the Renaissance through to those of James Silk Buckingham in the nineteenth century involved planned cities with strict symmetrical designs. With this symmetrical geometry order would prevail, improving not only the aesthetics of the city but also improving the way of life of the population who lived in the city. Jung used the image of the symmetrical city as a Mandela, a symbol of contemplation. The motif of the symmetrical city crosses time, cultures and religions. This paper traces this conception of the city through its development and presentation in art and literature.
Keywords: Symmetry, City Plan, Symbols
Dr. Tessa Morrison
Research, The School of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Newcastle