From  Labyrinth to  Hezar-Too', Two Interpretations of a City
Since the first decades of 20th century, one of the most repeated attributions to the morphology of the cities in MENA region by Western scholars is the concept of ‘labyrinth’. It seems that this attribution is the result of interpreting special form of the streets and alleys in these cities, by the scholars who belong to a different life- world. The term labyrinth and its manifestations were emerged for the first time in southern parts of Europe as the symbol of complexity, mystery, ambiguity, and so on. In fact, by employing labyrinth in defining the MENA cities a special merely formal complexity and ambiguity have been meant that address to the geometry of street networks and bear some negative hints. On the other hand, because of the distinct life-world of Iranian people which is rooted in their historical background and could be traced in their literature, art, and philosophy, the concepts such as complexity and Labyrinthinity could be interpreted in a different way. The synonym word of labyrinth in Persian is Hezar-Too that means ‘thousands of within-s’ and mainly points to not a formal complexity but a conceptual positive one. This matter can implicitly hint to the differences in perceiving the complexity in these two life-words. Since this difference has not been clarified for Iranian readers in terms of meaning and structure of the term labyrinth, referring to just some general presuppositions in this field can lead to some misunderstandings or misinterpretations, which consequently may impact critiques and analyses of the texts on the subject of MENA Cities. In this regard, this text reviews the history of labyrinth, its emergence, and its different patterns over the history. As it is discussed within the text, the concept of labyrinth appeared for the first time as some graffiti and petro glyphs during prehistory era. Till Renaissance its pattern followed the general rule of unicursality and in each period it was interpreted through different metaphors and symbols. By Renaissance the multicursal pattern was manifested for the first time through visual embodiments. Nowadays it is applied in two far different categories: 1) for meditation, psychological treatments, and so on; 2) as a pure metaphor in analyzing the structure of phenomenon. In all these manifestations labyrinth has or connotes those patterns none of which has existed in MENA Cities.
Journal of Architect, Urban Design & Urban Planning, Volume:3 Issue:4, 2010
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