A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Americas
eBook - ePub

A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Americas

Clare Cardinal-Pett

  1. 526 páginas
  2. English
  3. ePUB (apto para móviles)
  4. Disponible en iOS y Android
eBook - ePub

A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Americas

Clare Cardinal-Pett

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A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Americas is the first comprehensive survey to narrate the urbanization of the Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, making it a vital resource to help you understand the built environment in this part of the world. The book combines the latest scholarship about the indigenous past with an environmental history approach covering issues of climate, geology, and biology, so that you'll see the relationship between urban and rural in a new, more inclusive way.

Author Clare Cardinal-Pett tells the story chronologically, from the earliest-known human migrations into the Americas to the 1930s to reveal information and insights that weave across time and place so that you can develop a complex and nuanced understanding of human-made landscape forms, patterns of urbanization, and associated building typologies. Each chapter addresses developments throughout the hemisphere and includes information from various disciplines, original artwork, and historical photographs of everyday life, which - along with numerous maps, diagrams, and traditional building photographs - will train your eye to see the built environment as you read about it.

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Settings and Settlements 2000 BCE
People believed the ruins of Caral in the Supe River Valley on the Pacific Coast of Peru were natural hills before archaeologist Ruth Shady Solis had a hunch to dig in 1994.
A great diversity of people, environments, and ways of life has characterized the Americas from the very beginning of its human inhabitation. This chapter begins with a brief discussion of what is known about the environmental history of the early period and a general discussion of ecology, food systems, and social complexity as fundamental facets of urbanism. The chapter highlights the very first urban patterns in the Western Hemisphere: the Norte Chico region of coastal Peru; the Olmec Heartland region of Mesoamerica; and the early mound centers in the lower Mississippi Valley of Eastern North America. The Norte Chico region was the first urban phenomenon in the Americas. Like its later counterparts in Mesoamerica and in the Mississippi Valley, the Norte Chico was not one isolated “city” but a regional system of population clusters, civic-ceremonial centers, and sites of material production. These elements were all woven into patterns of managed, cultivated or domesticated landscapes, and systems of exchange. Each of these three early zones of urbanization is discussed as socially complex settlement patterns within larger, anthropogenic landscapes.
Challenge Questions for the Reader
• What do we know about when, how, and from where people first arrived in the Western Hemisphere? How did the environmental history of the Western Hemisphere affect human migration and inhabitation?
• What forms of anthropogenic landscapes did early Americans create? What relationships have been found between the first urbanisms and various methods of subsistence? How does agriculture fit into this larger picture?
• Why was social complexity a necessary precondition for construction of the earliest American monumental architecture and urban infrastructure?
• What are some of the differences among the earliest known complex urbanisms in Northern America, Mesoamerica, and South America? What are the various technologies used to build the earliest monumental architecture? Why do some archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians prefer to discuss monumental architecture within the context of local and regional settlement patterns and interaction spheres?
• What are some of the earliest known technologies of water management and irrigation in the Americas? How did water management technologies differ from ecoregion to ecoregion? What role did water infrastructure play in early American settlement patterns?
Ecological Settings and Settlement–Subsistence Patterns
By 8000 BCE people had occupied most ice-free places throughout the Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Patagonia, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. While the populations were small and relatively mobile at first, over time these people dispersed into environmental niches that served as loosely anchored home bases for hunting, foraging, and fishing. The great diversity of geography and ecosystems of the Western Hemisphere established a dramatic range of settings for locally divergent patterns of life. While global warming after 15000 BCE proved deadly for some species, many parts of the earth became more hospitable. Many groups of people thrived and populations swelled. In the context of challenge and opportunity, people everywhere adopted new subsistence practices, not the least of which was the domestication of plants and animals. People in the Americas made substantial contributions to early experiments in agriculture, developing some of the contemporary world’s most important domesticated crops such as corn and potatoes before 5000 BCE.1
In the wake of global climate changes, societies of highly mobile hunter-gatherers, epitomized by the Clovis culture, faced some hard choices. Most large mammals vanished from South America, and in Northern America some early species such as the woolly mammoth and the American mastodon also became extinct. Many of these animal populations were probably already stressed by human predation. Some hunters and gatherers moved on after the vanishing animals, towards the retreating edge of glaciers, into what are now Northern America’s vast prairies and boreal forests. Some of these people discovered rich resources in the emerging woodlands, such as deer, birds, nuts, and berries. The American bison appeared in huge numbers and its hunters formed cultures anchored in extensive grassland territories. Intentional burning kept forests from succeeding the prairies. People, plants and animals in these regions became one system in a fire-dependent ecosystem.
In the northeastern woodlands, burning the understory proved a useful practice, making hunting and traveling easier. While European colonists understood Indian burning as useful, William Cronon’s seminal work of environmental history Changes in the Land explains how they misunderstood the more profound ecological impact of the practice:
… most failed to see its subtler ecological effects. In the first place, it increased the rate at which forest nutrients were recycled into the soil, so that grasses, shrubs, and nonwoody plants tended to grow more luxuriantly following a fire than they had before … fire created conditions favorable to strawberries, black berries, raspberries, and other gatherable foods … The thinning of the forest canopy allowed more light to reach the forest floor … the soil became warmer and drier, discouraging tree species which preferred moister conditions … and favoring drier species like oaks when regular burning was allowed to lapse. Burning also tended to destroy plant diseases and pests, not to mention the fleas …
Selective Indian burning thus promoted the mosaic quality of New England ecosystems, creating forests in many different states of ecological succession. In particular, regular fires promoted what ecologists call the “edge effect.” By encouraging the growth of extensive regions which resembled the boundary areas between forests and grasslands, Indians created ideal habitats for a host of wildlife species … the enlarged edges areas actually raised the total herbivorous food supply, they not merely attracted game but helped create much larger populations of it.2
The Blackfoot people migrated to the Northern American Great Plains from the Great Lakes Eastern Woodlands sometime before European contact. The Blackfoot brought the more settled village traditions of the Woodlands culture to the Great Plains, where cultural traditions had remained consistent with the ancient nomadic hunting ways of life. The Blackfoot became hunters of bison also, using techniques learned from other pre-contact Plains groups. One technique involves adaptation of landscape features to trap and kill large numbers of bison. Many such features remain and constitute important archaeological sites. One of the most famous, Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump near Lethbridge, is a sacred site for the Blackfoot Confederacy, a Canadian historic landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Figure 1.2). Other indigenous groups used the jump long before the Blackfoot arrived—for sure by 4000 BCE—but perhaps as long ago as 8000 BCE when grasslands had begun to replace the boreal forest ecosystems and woolly mammoth extinctions set the stage for the ascendance of the modern American bison.
As in the prairies and forests of Northern America, early peoples in other parts of the Americas learned to manage landscapes, often through selective weeding of undesirable plants and sometimes by transplanting desirable plants to more productive locations, frequently closer to home. The ecosystems in some parts of the Americas became anthropogenic, more cultivated than wild. Scientists estimate, for example, that at least 11.8 percent of the Amazon forest is an artifact of human engineering over a long period of time.3
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Bernard Pelletier 2000. About this painting, Bernard Pelletier has said, “While what you see today at Head-Smashed-In is only the landscape, I wanted to respect the history of this park as much as possible. Since I chose not to paint any recreations in this series, instead of showing bison falling off the cliff I hid one in the clouds.”4
The complex relationships among groups of people, wild environments, and anthropogenic landscapes constitute one fundamental set of ideas that we can use to understand urbanism. The city’s ecological footprint and its fundamental resource cycles (energy, food, water, garbage) characterize every settlement pattern, from the very earliest to the most contemporary. These systems have spatial, biological, and cultural consequences—some more sustainable over the long term than others. While the earliest settlement patterns—relationships among people, their dwellings, animals, gardens, orchards, and managed landscapes—formed within particular ecological contexts, environmental forces did not necessarily and exclusively determine these patterns. People transformed their physical and biological settings according to various criteria, some with no bearing on nutritional needs or practical advantage. These criteria were then, as now, indicators of community and individual priorities, values, and beliefs.
Agriculture and Urbanization
Agricultural practices first appeared, independently and at relatively similar times in history, in five regions of the world: the Fertile Crescent (an area of western Asia that stretches from the Nile delta to the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), Southeast Asia, Mesoamerica, South America, and the eastern United States. All over the world, those first important centers of agriculture were also early centers of permanent settlement patterns. Although it isn’t always clear which came first, the settlement or the garden, the eventual inextricable relationship between sedentary lifeways and cultivation or domestication is well established. Agriculture appeared alongside cities in many parts of the world.5
In the beginning, once situated in a location best suited for cultivating certain plant species, people tended to stay put, intensifying their efforts, expanding their gardens, tinkering with their horticultural techniques, developing new tools to improve methods of both cultivation and cooking. Cultivation of plants and animals, in many cases, led to domestication. Tending a wild plant or animal does not necessarily change its genetic material and evolutionary trajectory. Domestication modifies the DNA of the wild form. The first plant breeding experiments probably occurred in domestic garbage piles that happened to sprout. The wild bean or squash seedling carefully tended in the compost proved both convenient and more productive. These first gardens provoked hybridization among plant species that might not have been located near each other in the wild. The fecund household trash heap may have been the great instigator of one of humanity’s most important technological revolutions. Once fully developed, the capacity to feed increasingly large numbers of densely settled people became one of the great achievements of humanity.
Jared Diamond, a science historian, argues that ancient farmers had a distinct advantage over hunter-gatherers.6 Food surpluses could be stored and, with the advent of new, more time consuming and immobile techniques of cooking, more nutrition could be derived from raw plants. The closer association of people and their domesticated...


  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Table of Contents
  6. Dedication
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Introduction
  9. Prologue: Origins
  10. 1 Settings and Settlements 2000 BCE
  11. 2 Early Urban Realms and Ideological Landscapes 0 BCE
  12. 3 Cities, States, and Empires 1000 CE
  13. 4 Patterns of European Colonization and Building 1600 CE
  14. 5 Key Colonial Towns and Regional Architectural Elements 1760 CE
  15. 6 Architecture and Identity 1800 CE
  16. 7 Transportation and Industrialization 1860 CE
  17. 8 Beautiful Cities and New Technologies 1900 CE
  18. 9 Varieties of Modernity 1930 CE
  19. Epilogue: Futurama
  20. Image Credits
  21. Bibliography
  22. Index