URBNET: Biographies of Place

  • Dries Tys (Invited speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a workshop/seminar


International Seminar on biographies of Roman and medieval Towns Urban life, form and identity in the medieval Low Countries between social practice and iconographic identity Abstract: The late medieval towns of the Low Countries have an emblematic character. Since the late 19th century the iconic character of these towns is recreated in an early form of City-branding through images and architecture (for instance on World-Exhibitions), often from a conservative perspective. However, the iconographic representation of these towns started already in the late-medieval period, through representations on religious paintings, while the towns even ordered Town-portraits with an eternal value in the form of the First Town "Maps". These representations had a subtle changing character, depending on the perception of urban life and form by different social groups. this shows how behind the iconic character of these towns we find an ever changing urban fabric, life and organization. This is for instance very clear in the rise of the Market Places. These are considered as the theatres of the late-medieval urban identity and are often related to the origin of the towns. However, the marketplace as urban phenomenon is relatively young compared to the origin of towns and trade. The spatial setting for trade and exchange shifts gradually towards constructed squares with halls and market infrastructure, the urban markets we still know, between the late 12th and the early 14th century. These squares are called ‘forum’, referring to the Roman ‘villa fori’. It is an intriguing question why and how the mental concept of the “forum’ was re-invented at the dawn of the late medieval period, but is clear that we are dealing with a deliberate transformation of the fabric and spatial structure of the late medieval towns in the same period. We lack however data on the chronology of this transformation, on the gradual shift of the mental sense of place of ‘having a market’ towards the spatial development of the well known market places in the centres of the towns. It is also clear that before the late 12th/14th century, urban space had an entirely different character compared to later. This raises the question to which extent this went along with a different perception of urban life and the character of being 'urban' itself.
Period18 Jan 201620 Jan 2016
Event titleURBNET: Biographies of Place
Event typeWorkshop
LocationAarhus, Denmark