Cities of Desire

Posted in: Ancient Near East Today
Tags: Anatolia, bronze age, Cities of Desire, Iran, Mesopotamia, Near East, Northern Syria, Ömür Harmanşah, Urartian Empire, Utopia

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By: Ömür Harmanşah

Cities Between Imagination and Political Desire

In his Invisible Cities, the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote that “cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”

Study of ancient cities has been dominated by talk of imperial projects and the will of rulers. Yet, understanding the city in any historical period would be deficient without considering the experience of its citizens and the myriad ways which urban communities transform and shape urban landscapes. Making special places in the city, notions of desire, memory, smell and sound, are as central to cities as the utopic projects of ruler who make the grand decisions.

Harmanshah cover

The origins of my book Cities and the Shaping of Memory in the Ancient Near East go back to my first year of college education in architecture at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. In the Basic Design studio, we were given Calvino’s fantastical book Invisible Cities and were asked to visualize his imagined cities. In the book Marco Polo recounts the cities he visited in the presence of Kubilay Khan, the great ruler of Central Asia, offering descriptions of fabulous urban landscapes. (more…)

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