Cities and Urban Spaces / Urban Planning and the Instruments of Planning

As city planning involves the provision of public and private spaces for the city’s inhabitants, thus changes in society and lifestyle naturally alter the texture of urban environments and methods of planning. Architects use plans to shape their ideas and constructions, while maps are created to document, represent and provide orientation.

The location, and the shape of public and private places in the urban texture, must necessarily therefore respond to several concerns: the local climate and environment, the materials available there, the needs of the community, the economy, and even military, and other symbolic representations of the society and its leaders. Modern urban planning was born in the 19th century and can be seen to have begun with the reshaping of Paris by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who looked back to the architectural vocabulary of European Absolutist power in order to reflect the contemporary emerging hegemony of industry, trade, commerce and banking, and their trustees, the bourgeoisie. He created the new Paris on a grid pattern, with wide, open, axial boulevards, streets and squares, which were lined with majestic-looking public and private buildings. The new city plan, characterised by impressive public buildings and separate residential areas, reflected the constantly moving rhythm of life in the service of commerce and consumerism.

Haussmann’s work represents a turning point in European town planning and was also extremely influential in Arab and Ottoman city planning; however, city planning in Ottoman and Arab lands was also informed by the transmission of ideas of European architects and directives that came via Ottoman mediation.

Working NumberNameHolding MuseumDateMaterialsCurator Justification
DE 011Outline map of Damascus in 1918Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum, State MuseumsMap made in 2005The map depicts different sections of the city according to diverse social, cultural, economic, public and private purposes.
LB 028Street map of BeirutKhalil Itani's Archive1902A new map-form that depicts the trade and commerce facilities of Beirut.
GR 023View of SmyrnaBenaki Museum1845Engraving on paperA topographic view to show the commercial and cultural sites and districts of Smyrna.
SP 054Project for a Garden or ParkNational Museum of Decorative ArtsEnd of the 19th centuryPaper; ink, watercolourThe water supply system of course is fundamental to the city plan. Fountains are not only functional but have recreational and aesthetic appeal as well: the Neo-Mudéjar decoration of this fountain appeals to a commonly shared history and national identity.
LB 023Beirut Port during its expansionKhalil Itani's Archive1892This view of the Port documents work in progress.
TR2 111The Ottoman BankIstanbul University, Nadir Eserler Kütüphanesi (Rare Books Library)1856PhotographBoth the position and the architectural features of the Bank are designed to represent the power and stability of the Ottoman Empire.
LB 034Map of Beirut portKhalil Itani's Archive1890A map to document the structure and system of the Port of Beirut after expansion.
ET1 012The Egyptian Stock MarketBibliotheca AlexandrinaUnknownThe location, height and architectural features of the Bourse ensured the building’s landmark status in modern Alexandria. The impact of European architecture is clear, but it seems appropriate to the building’s function as well.
PT 014Rossio Railway Station1886–1890While the Neo-Manueline style in Portugal reminded the Portuguese people of their Manueline past it also reflected the contemporary vogue for Romantic architecture.
MO 014Bab Boujloud1913The city gate serves a functional and aesthetic purpose, but it has a symbolic meaning as well, as a confine between rural and urban life and culture.
DE 018Monument commemorating the installation of the Hijaz-Damascus telegraph connection, BeirutMuseum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum, State Museums1910The monument is a prominent landmark, symbolising the municipal administration and also embodying a strong political message. The bronze column, erected at the centre of Merje Square, was designed to represent the power and greatness of the Ottoman Empire.