December 11, 2007

Hippodamus of Miletus

Hippodamus of Miletus (sometimes also called Hippodamos, Greek: Ἱππόδαμος), was a Greek town planner of the 5th century BC. He created plans of Hellenic colony cities that featured order and regularity, in contrast to the more common intricacy and confusion common to cities such as Athens, and he is seen as the originator of the idea that a town plan might formally embody and clarify a rational social order. According to Aristotle (in Politics), he originated the art of Town Planning, and devised an ideal city to be inhabited by 10,000 citizens, divided into three classess (soldiers, artisans and 'husbandmen'), with the land also divided into three (sacred, public and private). He also evidently had a reputation as a lover of attention. According to Aristotle's description in Politics, "Some people thought he carried things too far, indeed, with his long hair, expensive ornaments, and the same cheap warm clothing worn winter and summer."

For Pericles he planned the arrangement of the harbour-town Peiraeus at Athens in the middle of the fifth century BC. When the Athenians founded Thurii in Italy in 443 BC he accompanied the colony as architect - although he was not actually an architect in the sense of a building designer. He is credited with, in 408 BC, the building of the new city of Rhodes, however as he was involved in 479 BC with helping the reconstruction of Miletus he would have been very old when this project took place.

His grid plans consisted of series of broad, straight streets, cutting one another at forty-five and one hundred thirty-five degree angles.

From Hippodamus came the earliest notions of patent law. Hippodamus proposed that society should reward those individuals who create things useful for society. Artistotle criticized the practical utilitarian approach of Hippodamus and implicated the inherent tension in rewarding individuals for doing good; i.e. that by rewarding individuals for doing good, the individuals will do good for the reward over the benefit of the state. The state could actually suffer because of the allure of individual rewards, since individuals may propose notions that weaken the state. Aristotle essentially foreshadowed the inherent tension between private rewards for social benefits--the potential diversion between individual and societal interests.

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