John Reps: Glorious Bastides: A Journey Through Time

AAP Exhibitions and Events

This exhibition features photographs, taken in 1966, recording the appearance of some of the most important French bastides — the 13th century newly planned towns in southwestern France. Founded after 1229 by kings, dukes, and counts (and, on at least a dozen occasions, by their wives), these new towns helped populate the then lightly settled region extending east and south from Bordeaux and the Dordogne River valley. Despite the presence of walls and gates at many of the bastides today, these towns were not intended as military strongpoints. Their founders — rivals for political dominance in the region — hoped that by creating prosperous market towns they could attract additional settlers to the region and extend their influence and power.

In bastides it is the market square — not the church — that occupies the most prominent location. This was the site of daily trade and weekly markets. Residents of the bastide could sell their produce at these markets, but those living elsewhere who wished to participate were charged a special fee for the privilege. In most bastides, the buildings lining the sides of the market square open at ground level to a covered way. Although these are usually called arcades, not all are arched but are constructed in a simple post and beam pattern. However designed, arcades provided a sheltered place for the display of goods for sale and offer shoppers protection from rain and sun.

By the 14th century, market buildings occupied the center or one side of many bastides. Those that have survived are preserved with special care. Some of the best can be found at Cologne, Monpazier, Beaumont-de-Lomagne, and Villereal. Most bastides were planned with some variety of a gridiron or checkerboard street system, and in this they differed from all other places in the region. Such a pattern of straight streets intersecting at right angles works well on level sites — as at Monpazier — but it is less appropriate for a steeply sloping location like the one selected for Monflanquin.

A leading educator and historian of urban planning, Professor Emeritus John Reps headed Cornell's CRP department from 1951 to 1964. In 1996, citing him as "the father of modern American city planning history," the American Planning Association designated him a Planning Pioneer. His groundbreaking book, The Making of Urban America, still in print, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.