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Thread: How to figure a large desert city (about 100,000 inhabitants) ?

  1. #21
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    100,000 is not impossible. 100,000 in 25 years probably is impossible (magic not included). One of those things will have to change, or a non-realistic explanation created. rdanhenry is also right - somewhere between 10-30,000 is also quite plausible.

    Waldronate, I should probably clarify what I mean by suburbs. I don't know how widely known this is, but in archaeology we often use the word suburbs simply to refer to the parts of a city outside the city walls. When I said 3/4 of the population could be outside the walls, I really didn't mean the suburbs that proliferate in America and Australia.

    I also didn't mean to suggest sprawl. The people living outside the walls will live in fairly densely packed clusters.

    The main point I wanted to make is that any city of this size will have many poor people, and probably some large slums; but no planned city will ever include slums as part of its planning. So, the poor people will come, and settle outside the walls. Their access to building materials will be limited, and they won't be investing in high-rise apartments. The houses would be much more haphazardly built, probably only one storey high (two at most) but also very tiny. The density would come from the smallness of the buildings rather than their height.

    I once heard that in Istanbul in the 1970s(?) the government wanted the city to grow. The policy they came up with was to say that if a person can build a house on some land, that land would belong to that person. This resulted in lots of poor people from the countryside arriving at the city with all their friends/family, and putting up cheap shacks overnight. There was no planning, no laying out of roads or infrastructure. The best places were near existing roads, but, naturally, houses spread out from those. That is how I imagine the 'suburbs' of this city to look.

    I may have used the word sprawl, though. What I meant was houses that spread (sprawl) along roads. Sometimes they will cluster, and sometimes they will be sparse. Sometimes they will form separate villages. As a caravan gets close to the city, it might be near dusk, and so rather than going to the gates, they'll stay at an inn. That means you'll have some people who set up their homes near the inns to try and sell odds and ends to the caravaneers etc.

    The multi-storey apartments that Waldronate mentions are quite plausible for inside the walls, but I suspect they would have a higher class of resident living in them.

    The wide boulevards I agree with. I originally posted a comment where I said that the European Baroque developed the notion of wide avenues quite late in history. This is not entirely accurate. Major avenues leading to important parts of a city existed in Roman, Egyptian, Chinese and Mesoamerican cities, but they were mostly processional ways (places for armies to make triumphal arches, or ritual events). The Baroque simply modified the idea substantially.

    Mornagest, that map of Lyons you found looks like a Braun and Hogenberg. They were mapping the cities of the world between 1572 and 1617. The style they use is quite indicative of that period in mapping (and they are works of art in themselves). I don't know how good you are at drawing, but I doubt anyone on the guild (with perhaps one or two exceptions) could rival that type of thing. It might not look as pretty, but I'd recommend you stick to top-down images, and follow Midgardsormr's advice.

  2. #22
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    I'm... a pure novice in drawing, so maybe it will be easier for me to draw a top-down map, then.

    Tonight it is late (23:30 PM for me), tomorrow I will make some sketch to figure roads, important buildings, gates and maybe some houses clusters.

    Thank you all for your precious help !!!

  3. #23
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    I do realize that the definition of suburb is "near the city". I was using suburbs in the modern post-WWII American pre-planned subdivision that is usually substantially outside the city. They are characterized (typically) by a grid of boulevards and then curvilinear infill of single-family dwellings. In short, a completely atypical layout in terms of human architecutre, as I understand it (mostly because it was a car-based plan and the car has been relatively unavailable in most of human history). A broad overgeneralization is that most of the folks who get into this sort of mapping seem to be the types of folks who are intimately familiar with this type of suburbs and so draw their cities along the same pattern. Symbol sets reinforce this sort of situation and I keep seeing whole city maps with walls that look like American post-war mushroom communities.



    One of the fun parts about magical communities is the large number of fun ways that magic can be turned toward the construction industry. Some amusing ways that we can up with 20+ years ago included:



    + Earth elementals can clear a building site in a day or two.

    + A Rock to Mud spell will basically provide you with large amounts of instant-set concrete. Find a rock outcropping, turn it to mud, transport the mud to forms on site, and Dispel Magic to turn the mud back to rock. City walls roughed in within a couple of weeks.

    + Some of the potentially nastier monsters can work to great advantage converting random organic materials into usable forms. A specially-bred member of the pudding family could produce a leather-like material at a huge rate. Sessile fungoid creatures could produce wood or wood-like sheets. Even trolls could be turned to producing large amounts of bone that could be inactivated by fire. The input organic materials could be whatever you have, including sewage, unusable forest products, or even kelp.

    + Increasing plant growth rates could allow for the production of trees at a huge rate.

    + Imagine a special breed of ivy that grows at high rates and fuses the stems together. A simple form and a season's growth gives you a basic structure.

    Some day, I'll probably post the devil-grass doomsday scenario, which is basically about a fast-growing perennial grass that fruits several times a year. This grain would allow the production of huge amounts of food on otherwise marginal lands.

    If a god commanded the construction of the city, there will probably be special treatment given to the temple(s) of that god. There will also likely be special considerations given to hygiene, especially water in and sewage out. With magic, there might not even be sewage output from the city: it might all be captured and repurposed (here's where that pudding thing comes in again: random organic material in, cheap meat for the poor folks / heretics out).

    I really would like to second the examination of Timgad as an example of what happens to a standard Roman layout as it grows organizally outward from the walls and central grid.

    An example of the pre-planned, god-driven, forced-growth city might be Amarna, in Egypt.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdanhenry View Post
    Cairo was a much older city than this, the largest thing west of China, and a key trading center.
    If I recall correctly, Cairo actually wasn't all that old when its growth exploded. It was, however, built around an existing town, which, I believe, grew up around a Roman fortification. When the Fatimids moved in, mid 10th century, they established it as their new capital, although it took them something like 150 years to actually move into it. I don't remember exactly what happened there, but it involved them retreating from their existing capital in the face of Crusaders and finally moving into Cairo, which had been better fortified, I guess. The key here being, I think, that the bulk of the population relocated from another city that had been destroyed. I don't know how large the city was around 1100. The only population figure I remember is the one from around 1350, which was 300,000. And… I don't remember which side of the Black Death that number came from. So it may have been much more, if the number was post-plague.

    Something about that timeline doesn't feel right. Did the First Crusade involve Egypt? I thought that didn't happen until the Second, which started in the middle of the 12th century. Or maybe it went on between the two, after Ascalon. I guess that would make sense, if the Crusaders chased the Fatimids back to Egypt after the battle. That's completely beside the point, though.

    The point was, if I can remember it, that the city might have grown to its present size because of some kind of forced migration. And it raises a question: If this land is capable of supporting such an enormous population, there was probably a settlement there before the city was built. What happened to the structures that predate the new city? Were they destroyed or incorporated? If they were incorporated, you might have some opportunity to build in some idiosyncracies, like a small walled ghetto where the natives still live, or a nearby mass grave where they were laid to rest after their town was taken by force. Maybe a small fortress that used to be the administrative center of the town, and is now the ruler's vacation home, or the army's headquarters.

    That's actually a notion that I used for a city I developed a while back: after conquering some choice land, the newly self-appointed Emperor built himself a lavish capital city, but he left the previous city intact and awarded certain prominent citizens from the native population titles in order to appease them and discourage revolts. After a couple of generations had passed, it became very fashionable to live in the Old City, even though it's cramped and outdated, because all of the aboriginal families had held onto their property there. Having a residence in the Old City meant that you were part of the superior, elder culture, and not one of the outsiders.

    I am rambling, which I suspect means that I should think about going to bed.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
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  5. #25
      Mornagest is offline
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    Hi,

    Well, here's a new sketch taking into account your advices (when it is possible to do so...).

    The key of the map :

    • in blue, the main river and irrigation canals. The little blue spots are supposed to be fountains...
    • On canals, the light green are fields (vegetables, wheat, wine and so on). I don't know if they are large enough ?
    • In grey, walls and gates.
    • In black, roads.
    • Red rectangles are for the temples. The biggest one dedicated to the divinity that ordered the building of the city was recently destroyed (the god is dead and other cults took advantage of that to attack the temple). This is the rectangle stroke with black.
    • In dark green, this is supposed to be grass, trees, gardens and so on, in the rich governement district, where nobles also lie.
    • In orange, these are administration and rich buildings (palace, mansions, and so on).
    • Yellow clouds are for marketplaces, that I placed near and around fountains. That seems to be logical...
    • And finally, black crosses figure crypts. This is not a christian city, but I didn't want to spend much time to figure tombs, pyramids and things like that just for a sketch




    Hope this is clear enough...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails How to figure a large desert city (about 100,000 inhabitants) ?-croquismelandis2.jpg  

  6. #26
      waldronate is offline
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    In a world with magic, crypts will likely be behind walls. Undead are always a real threat when there's magic running loose. Cremation and scattering are safe; crypts behind tall and sturdy walls are not as safe, but much safer than crypts behind city walls.

    Do you have a sense of scale for this map? Is it 1km across? 5 km? 20km?

  7. #27
      Mornagest is offline
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    A point to you, indeed

    I don't really know for the scale. I know the size of the quarters in Lyon figured on the map I linked before, I would say one kilometer and half (so one mile in american metric system) ? I think it would be credible.

    I could also figure more landscape outside the walls... but with that size (4000 X 3000 pixels), this is already quite big. It will allow the map to be quite detailed...

  8. #28
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    This really will be a short post (I hope).

    Your latest map is much better in terms of layout. A few things I noticed:

    - the crypts inside the city walls did look unusual to me, but there's nothing wrong with it (except of course, the slavering hordes of walking dead that Waldronate pointed out)

    - when building the wall around the government precinct, the builders would want to minimise the cost and time. Where suitable, therefore, the city wall could double as the government district's wall. As it is you have that strange space squeezed between the two walls on the left and top of the gov. district. (That may be a bit confusing so if you don't understand, say so).

    - you might want to show the direction that the river flows. The palace will be upriver (to avoid the smells of dirty water); the port will be downriver (assuming the trade partners of this city are also downriver). It might be you've already got those things correct, in which case the placement of those buildings is also suitable.

    - the suburbs aren't bad, but I think they could be improved. Rather than explaining what suburbs on a medieval town looked like, though, why don't I show you: this map (http://historic-cities.huji.ac.il/br...berg_I_A_b.jpg), from the same city-atlas as the Lyon one you found, shows London. Look carefully at the areas outside the city walls. All of those houses outside the walls are, technically, suburbs. Of particular note:
    - the suburbs follow the main roads to and from the city
    - the main roads often follow the river
    - in some places (perhaps not as many as you would need) there are farmhouses among all those green fields)
    - in some areas (notably Smythe Fyeld in the north) what probably began as a stretched out road begins to form a larger cluster
    - and last, at a certain distance from the city, whole new villages appear (eg. West Minster). Spitel Fields is probably another example of a village on the outskirts of the metropolis.

    Braun and Hogenberg's London map is actually a really good source for medieval suburbs. The difference between your city and London is that yours is in a desert. All those roads leading away from London go to various towns and cities in the English landscape; your city won't have so many other towns and cities, so you will have fewer roads leading from it (the three that you've got is probably about the right number).

    The other difference is that London is not a planned city, and yours is, so London's roads are more twisted and chaotic.

    The other thing worth noticing about the London map (I swear this is the last point) is that there is a mix of densities - some places are very crowded, others much less so. Yours being a planned city, the architects would probably have wanted to avoid making anything overcrowded, but they'd also try to make the best use of their space.

    Well, I kept that fairly short, didn't I?

  9. #29
      Mornagest is offline
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    Hi,

    You did it !

    The crypts are part of the city because of two of the previous members of the council, that were undead themselves. So they decided to improve the crypts and leave them inside the walls (that's what really happened in our roleplay in writing). So I'm not sure I'll figure walls around them, as it is not the case in writing...

    About the inner walls, yes, I understand your explanation and it is logical ; didn't think about that when I draw this... I will correct it.

    The direction of the river flow will be shown by the direction of the block letters of its name... ah. I guess this is not enough, eh ? actually, I refer to the map of the continent where lies my city, that river is figured on it. Would this be sufficient ?

    And lastly, the suburbs... well, I think I had no idea how they could look (in terms of display) so the example you give is quite enough for me maybe the suburbs of Melandis shall be less expanded, as the city has... 20,000 inhabitants, finally ! But the general idea is good for what I expected.

    Thank you !

    PS : please point me out if my English is really too poor... I'm not sure to be understandable all the time...

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    No worries Mornagest. If you want to post any more maps (for this city or others), or have any questions, I'll try and give what advice I can (as I presume will other members of the website), but for now I'd say you're on the right track. Good luck.

    (And your English is understandable, which is what matters)

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