Human cultures do not die at a certain point like biological organisms. This was the observation made by Mumford. Though the various parts form the whole, the individual parts may continue functioning on their own even after the whole no longer exists. This expression applies to realization of the new nation hood as seen and that component parts of the medieval city were sustained in to subsequent phases of civilization with some remnant pieces of this reality existing up to this day. The Church of Rome has for instance stood the test of time and continues to stand today. The institutions of the medieval city simply realigned themselves with the new reality of the capitalist city and economy. Streets sizes were adjusted to improve their security due to the rise of increased lawlessness in the commercial city. While the streets were adjusted, there was no complete overhaul of the medieval city but rather subtle and continuous changes in the nature of the city. While the modern planners did not attempt to harmonize their new creations with the old ones, the result was a rich, complex order often more aesthetically pleasing than the uniform single-minded creations of later periods.
Baroque also goes on this line of continuity from the medieval city. While baroque employed various instruments of subjugation and control over the people, and the influence effected to already existing institutions and mechanisms of life. In order to make the residents governable, the presence of the court had to be impressed into their every sphere of life. Architecture and city planning were accentuated with symbols of power and authority. This is evident with the creation of parks within city spaces. Subtle messages were passed to the people such as ‘do whatever you wish, as long as it pleases the prince’. Medieval cities had open spaces in their dwelling where people had the chance to mingle communally while life was much more liberal than in baroque city. The introduction of the city park was just a continuation in another way of the need to reserve space for social use practiced in medieval times. The subtle warnings ‘do whatever you wish, as long as it pleases the prince’ was a gentle way of easing authority on the people without displeasing them.
As rightly noted by my friend, the development of cities continued to encroach on space that was previously dedicated to human social functions. These were areas which enacted the spirit of the village in the cities as it allowed for socialization during events. Spaces maintained in medieval cities behind the main house were essential in allowing for the wider community to keep in touch with what was happening in the lives of everyone else. In contrast however, the development of modern cities such as New York and Washington led to the rise of concentrated settlement areas with barely enough living space leave alone public space. This led to the deterioration of the social fabric due to lack of sufficient interaction between people. Progressively, urban planning completely ignored the human aspect for architectural and functional design of the city. The continued ignorance has progressively transformed the modern city into a semblance of Rome as envisaged by Mumford, the dehumanized city. People are after their own interests without the feeling of the need for common growth as a city and the continued improvement of life for all within the city.
The conceptual market of antiquity had many traits similar to the markets of a modern polis. The main aim of congregation to these markets was the exchange of various items in way of trading. The ancient market had a more humane feel due to the way people were relating to each other in those times. The market was mostly patronized by people who were familiar with each other thus it served some level of social purpose by congregating people and disseminating information as it happened in the ancient cities. The modern market however has transformed itself into almost a strictly commercial entity with the majority of transactions in the various city markets happening between total strangers. This is mainly due to the increased dehumanization of transacting business from a model of mutual utility to one of capitalization of each instance. The various services and products previously found in a centralized market place are nowadays highly specialized and far removed from each other to increase their value.
The free city died with the rise of consolidated power. While previously the people acted on intuition and for the common good of the society with self-regulatory measures only, the centralization of power to several people gave rise to the laying down of policies to guide the direction the city took. While growth in the medieval city happened by manifestation of stronger communal values and deeper humanity, the modern polis bred a generation of people who were taught to obey authority, and must work extremely hard in contribution to the building of the city in the way laid down by the authorities. The era of the free city was truly over.