City Planner: You
building city plans to express culture

Set B, Module 5: City Planner: You
by Ryan Bradeen, 2002
designed for students of world history, geography and Asian studies at the secondary level and beyond.
Estimated project time: 2 days


This activity provides and opportunity to apply the concepts developed in the previous models to another culture. It also is an excellent assessment tool of the techniques presented in CITY. In particular it assesses students understanding of:

  • city plans as expressions of culture;
  • the relationship between institutions and the stuctures which house and symbolize those institutions;
  • size and position as indicators of importance and relationship.

The activity also provides a opportunity to assess understanding of other cultures that you may have studied. The examples given here are for Hinduism and Buddhism but could easily be adapted for other cultures.

Day 1: Hinduism
Using the Hinduism WebGate, textbooks and other materials consider the Hindu religion. Hinduism, like any religion, describes the world and explains how the world works. This is called cosmology. The Hindu cosmology explains the physical world such as the sun, stars, the elements (fire, earth, water, air, etc) and unexplainable events such as lightning, death, decomposition, etc. It also explains the relationship between the gods, humans and other creatures. Finally, cosmology explains the relationship between groups of people within the culture and why they have the positions that they do in society.

WebGate: HinduismIt is common for this set of ideas, a culture’s cosmology, to be expressed in the culture’s art and architecture. When planning cities, it is not unusual for the planners to attempt to mimic the order of the cosmology in their arrangement of the streets, buildings and public spaces that comprise the city.

Design the ideal Hindu capital. Draw a plan for the city paying attention to the arrangement of space. Remember how size and position can be used to symbolism meaning (high, low, centrality, etc.) Plainly label the structures you create, indicating the function for which each of the major buildings is intended (a library to preserve and provide knowledge, hospital to maintain health). Consider where people of different positions would live, and think about how the physical geography of the place (mountains, hills, rivers, lakes) would be employed by the planners.

Label the plan with as much text as necessary to make clear how your plan expresses the Hindu cosmology.

Day 2: Buddhism
Buddhism was a reform movement which criticized many aspects of the existing Hindu tradition and cosmology. Buddhists, therefore, had problems with some of the common arrangements and understanding of the Hindu world. Buddhists would have been unhappy with a city planned according to the Hindu cosmology.

Using the Buddhism WebGate, textbooks and other materials, write a thorough Buddhist critique of the Hindu city plan you designed. What would Buddhists have diaapproved of in the Hindu city plan? Explain why they would not have approved. Suggest ways that the city plan could be revised to suit the Buddhists. Be specific as to why Buddhists would be opposed to particular arrangements or structures. You must prove that you understand the Buddhist philosophy by expressing Buddhist criticisms of HinduismWebGate: Buddhism.

Evaluation (100 points)

(15 points) • Institutions
Correctly identify at least five basic institutions in Hindu society;

(25 points) • The Plan
Place the institutions into logical locations on the city plan with the function of each institution labelled.

(15 points) • The Research
Clearly express how the city plan represents Hindu cosmology with labels and text attached to the plan;

(15 points) • The Design Award
Uses size and position to indicate importance and the relationship between the institutions you have identified;

(15 points) • The Critic
Correctly describe at least four major problems that Buddhists would have with your Hindu city plan;

(15 points) • The Solution
Suggest at least four appropriate revisions to the city plan that would suit Buddhist.

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