Building regulations and urban form: from twelfth to early-nineteenth century
Different kinds of urban and building regulations have existed throughout history. Today, there is a trend in Urban Planning that uses building rules based on design principles to define and shape the urban form (called form-based codes), which get its inspiration from traditional urbanism. But, unlike planning laws and building codes for the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries (which became much more widespread and scientific), the building regulations in pre-industrial times remains a relatively unexplored historical subject. It’s true that these rules did not form a consistent planning code, since most of them were based on customs and social values that guided specific individual and community behaviour in relation to the built environment. However, in periods of great urban growth (like in medieval or modern periods) there was an increasing of rules established by central or local authorities in order to control the urban development. So, what were these building regulations? What was the physical impact of these rules on the urban form?
The aim of this session is to identify, analyse and compare the building regulations and its effects on the urban form, in several towns and cities, from twelfth to early-nineteenth century. The geographical scope covers Europe, and includes the East and South of the Mediterranean regions, as well the American territories. This session invites papers that deal with urban and building rules, whether they have had a prescriptive or a proscriptive nature. We are particularly interested in studies supported by written sources, such as: local customary laws, town council proceedings, legislative compilations, single norms, royal resolutions, real estate contracts, building contracts, building licences, inspections registers, and judgement records. Several key issues can be: protection of private property; public health concerns; standard dimensions for buildings, streets, or others physical elements; relationship between building facades and the public realm; building disputes between neighbours. Procedural rules, mechanisms and the agents that gave the building permits can be addressed as well. Within this framework, we also encourage papers that explore the following themes: the influence of the Classic and Late Antiquity building regulations in the medieval or modern rules; the copy or adaptation of rules from one place to another; the migration of the European rules to the new overseas colonies; the maintenance of ancient rules up to the Contemporary period; the range of performance-based rules in relation to top-down rules in the urban form.
Terry R. Slater
University of Birmingham
Sandra M.G. Pinto
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