Alessandria d'Egitto: la città come palinsesto. Per una lettura critica delle stratificazioni
In: U+D urbanform and design: 14, 2020
This paper collects the results of a study, soon to be published, which investigates the characters of the Hellenistic-Roman city of Alexandria in Egypt, as an archaeological substratum of the contemporary city, through three types of approach: philological-chronological, archaeological-compositional, geographical-topographical. This research intends to offer a contribution to the recovery of that cultural heritage, typical of the Mediterranean basin, to which the Hellenistic city also belongs, an archetype that cannot be ignored for the understanding of the characteristics of today’s urban fabrics and for the design of the future, in this geographic-cultural area. The Hellenistic city expresses the spirit of rationality of the Greeks, clearly evident in the architectural organism as much as in the city organism: every single part contributes to forming unity, in a close relationship of static, functional and expressive necessity. This is the paradigm of the Doric order; this is the principle that guides the urban planning of the Hellenistic period. A historical moment in which science changes the city and the very idea of the city: it no longer corresponds to that of the old polis, small, closed, spontaneous, disorderly, but to that of a modern city, dominated by order geometric, which can, “multiplying in series”, extend to infinity. The urban model, typical of the Aegean area, marked by Hellenic rationalism, was overcome by Alexandria in Egypt through the characters of the Rhodes school. We are faced with the first modification imposed on the simplicity of the Hellenic tradition; the first lesson of complexity in the urban landscape and monumental grandeur in architecture. Alexandria proposes a polycentric model structured by pre-existing settlements: a new urbanity, the trace of which is recognizable in the subsequent stratifications, based on the relationship between urban morphology and physical geography. The shape of the city becomes a rational, geometric transfiguration, relying on the construction of a regular grid, able to adapt,
from time to time, to the identity conditions of the place. Therefore, even if there is a rigid formal order imposed from the outside, the geographical
and topographical characters always manage to leave an imprint that indissolubly binds the city, like the single building, to the specificity of the place, in a constant dialogue with history.
Keywords: Alexandria of Egypt, Greco-Roman city, Hellenistic city, urban geography, topographic studies, stratifications.