Lecture 6. Road Networks in the Medieval World

This lecture argues that architectural forms were significantly impacted by the proliferation of road networks in the pre-modern world. Specifically three types of impact can be observed across the 5 case-studies: Changes in built form: 1) The expansion of empires along road networks precipitated the standardization and replication of certain built forms in order to create a homogenous visual order in the empire as well as provide infrastructure for the imperial subjects. One example is the construction of similar tambos (resthouses) and qolqas (storehouses) across the Inka empire. Another is the provision of resthouse temples and trapeangs (water tanks) across the Khmer empire. 2) As peoples, technologies, and ideas traveled across these roads, architectural ornament and form was significantly hybridized. One example is the square Kufic calligraphy and glazed tile decoration on the Gur-i Amir mausoleum in Central Asia (on the Silk Road) which was influenced by the aesthetics of Chinese pottery and Chinese seal inscriptions. Similarly the Great Temple at Petra (Nabatean) shows a mix of Roman, Assyrian, and Indian motifs. B) Symbolic Connections Road networks allowed empires to consolidate their territory geographically, however, architecture created symbolic connections between the hinterlands and imperial centers. An example of this is the replication of ushnus the ceremonial platform at Cusco—the Inka capital—in various other smaller administrative centers. Another type of symbolic connection was that between imperial nodes. An example of this is the Bibi Khanum mosque in Samarqand, Uzbekistan which was modeled after the Begumpuri Masjid in Delhi, India to signify Tamerlane’s sack of the latter city. C) Appearance of New Typologies The spread of religions such as Islam and Buddhism brought or precipitated new typologies of form (such as the mosque and the pagoda) to places such as China. Technologies of communication such as the postal system in China necessitated new forms such as the yamb (post office).

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Lecture Notes