Tag Archives: city planning

Urban planning with fire

In my readings for class this week we came across this awesome (and likely apocryphal) anecdote about the planning of the great walled city of Madinat al-Salam (Baghdad) in 762. I think I’ll use this technique the next time we have a spatially challenged director at work.

“When al-Mansu decided to build it he wanted to behold it with his own eyes, so he ordered that it be delineated with ashes. Then he began to enter from each gate and to walk through its passageways, its arcades, and its courtyards, which were a diagram in ashes… Having done that he ordered that cotton seeds be placed on those lines, and naphtha be poured on them; and he gazed at it as the fire was blazing up, and he comprehended it, and came to know its design; and he commanded that the foundation thereof be excavated according to the design. Then the work on it was begun.”