An archetype is a “pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based.” (dictionary.com) Spatial archetypes are shapes that have been repeated throughout history. An archetype often bring about a psychological association. Much can be learned about a monument, city, piece of art, or just about any object based solely upon the spatial archetypes that are present in they specific item. Two cities that serve as perfect examples of spatial archetypes are New York City and Rome.
“All roads lead to Rome,” is a classic and famous phrase. In ancient times, the phrase was quite accurate. Rome utilized the spatial archetype of the radiant axes, which involves “rays emanating from a central point.” (Lobell) In the case of Rome, the roads lead towards the center of the city.
Not only does Rome fit the physical aspect of the spatial archetype, it also matches a number of the traits that are usually associated with radiant axes. The largest similarity with the archetype is the empirical drive of Rome. Rome was the largest and greatest superpower in the world at the height of the empire. Rome was also the capital city or the empire. Rome’s empire was able to grow largely due to their military expansion, which is another major trait of radiant axes archetypes. The Roman empire also hosted grand games involving gladiators and wild animals in a massive display of wealth. This trait is also on par with the radial archetype.
New York City veers away from the archetype of radiant axes and moves towards an orthogonal grid. The majority of New York City is a grid pattern. The streets increase in numbers as your move North, and the avenues increase as you go west. The presents a very logical and well conceived urban planning.
New York also fits quite well into the traits associated with the spatial archetype of the orthogonal grid. New Yorks economy is based primarily on trade and mass production. Jobs often are highly specialized. Also, the political system is try to move away from a central figure. There has also been quite a large movement towards an increased standardization or nearly everything we do. These traits are distinctive to the orthogonal radiant.
New York City and Rome are perfect representations of the radiant axes and orthogonal grid archetypes, however spatial archetypes exist all over. Often recognition of each archetype is merely a subconscious recognition. Many of these archetypes can be viewed all over the world in a variety of time periods and cultures. Their existence alone can often provide quite a bit of information about the specific monument.