I had fun creating the logo for this blog. Can you identify the places? (I almost wrote, "can you identify the CITIES". Oops. One of them is not a city. Oops, maybe THREE of them aren't cities. How do we define cities? Well, that will be another post).
These are the places in the logo above:
1. Chichen Itza
3. A generic Medieval European city gate
4. New York City
Now Stonehenge was definitly NOT a city. So what is it doing in my logo? This is actually a serious question. I didn't pick Stonehenge for aesthetic purposes (well, not entirely for aesthetic reasons). Its inclusion can be viewed as an intellectual statement about comparative urbanism.
Stonehenge is relevant to comparative urbanism because as a large public monument, it shares physical properties, and social implications, with urban public monuments (such as the other elements of the logo). Monuments communicate information about their builders and about their social context, and they have an influence on individuals and society. These issues are part of architectural communication theory, a body of thought associated with Amos Rapoport (his best book, in my mind, is The Meaning of the Built Environment: A Nonverbal Communication Approach, Univ. Arizona Press, 1990). Or see my paper on urban theory, where I cover this and other theoretical approaches to ancient cities.
Cities are complex and messy things, and it is difficult to compare them. As a scholar, I find it far too complicated to make big comparisons of whole cities. Much more useful are comparisons of specific parts of cities (housing, or streets, or parks), or comparisons of specific urban processes (transportation, or manufacturing), or specific urban conditions (homelessness, or health care, or symbolic meaning, or poverty).
Stonehenge was not a city, and it was not part of a state-level society. As such, whole-settlement comparisons of Stonehenge with, say, the four cities in the logo, would not be very informative. On the other hand, specific smaller-scale comparisons of the monument of Stonehenge with some ancient urban monuments could be enlightening and might help us better understand the role of monuments in society. So Stonehenge, while NOT an urban feature, is relevant to research in comparative urbanism that focuses on a smaller scale than whole cities. It is definitely relevant to the wide urban world (and it looks pretty good, too).