Cities and Towns in the Trees

Eleathean Life | Places | Cities and Towns

Building in the branches gives at least a possibility of urban planning taking place in three dimensions. In practice this normally happens only as towns grow larger, and villages, towns and cities can be thought of as being organised in three broad ways:

Flat Development

Most villages and smaller towns pick a level in the trees and treat it as "street level" - known as "boardway level" in Eleathean terms. Large trees may contain multiple small buildings, and large buildings may extend between several trees, but all are linked at this level. Individual dwellings might extend a story or two up into the trees from here, or down below it into "basements", but the overall plan is very much like that of a village or small town for ground dwellers.

This adoption of a common level happens for a number of reasons, including:

  • Convenience - wheeled carts etc. are easily used on a single level making day to day operation of the town simpler for everyone.
  • Administration and navigation - knowing what's where, and what space belongs to who is simple on a two-dimensional plan.
  • Sanitation - when there's a single level, sanitation is simple - there's no complex plumbing needed, and there are no arguments about who is "going" on the head of those with dwellings below...

Boardway level may well move up and down a little between trees, in a similar manner to going up and down hill, but the settlement can generally be mapped quite conventionally as a single layer.

Columnar Development

As towns grow, districts with different characters often begin to appear. In time these districts become bounded by others, either simply through convention, or by some more formal urban planning taking place. Then they wish to expand... If there isn't room to expand horizontally, when you live in the trees (assuming that they are sufficiently large) you can go up, or down! Once multiple buildings begin to be made in the same trees with multiple levels of independent entrances and exits, this is known on Eleath as "Columnar Development." Each district is a "column" of structures above and below one-another, but within a defined area.

Columnar development is a natural evolution in the expansion of many larger towns and smaller cities, and means that a 2d map can continue to be used to represent its districts, but those districts extend over multiple levels.

Depending on the district this can lead to an organic "cat's cradle" of boardways, ropeway, pulleys and climbable shortcuts defying any attempt at mapping or comprehension by non-residents. Or it may realise a beautifully planned vista of broad boardways on multiple levels with lightwells, ramps, and even lift systems for visitors and goods! Either way, visiting a columnar city can be enough to make first-time visitors from "flat" communities gasp in wonder.

Of course, columnar development means complex interrelationships between buildings and their owners, trickier navigation, and much more need for plumbing! (Poop generally travels downwards...)

However, it does lead to compact conurbations where for those who know the way crossing a mid-sized town can often be quicker than we ground-dwellers might typically imagine.

Stratified Development

The ultimate phase of urban development on Eleath is "Stratified Development". This implies that the zoning of the city is genuinely in three dimensions, with districts segregating vertically as well as horizontally.

The richest dwellings are often higher in the trees, enjoying the best light and air, while the lowest districts are often the poorest, having to deal with a good deal of "stuff" coming down from above (although sometimes one man's trash is another's treasure.)

Combine such considerations of comfort and perceived value with the accidents of historical evolution of the city and practical considerations (such as the desirability of having certain craft districts spreading out from the vertical face of a tepui, or the need to have tanneries on the downwind side of the city) and trying to map out the relationships between the districts can become close to impossible - several horizontal "slices" through the city are often the best maps that the city bureaucracy can produce.

One might imagine that any form of boundary between districts "stacked" above one another might be very porous to those able to climb, but well-considered pruning of key branches, the planting of thorny hedges (similar to those used on Veldbranches - see Farming) or the erection of fortifications around trunks can segregate areas from those approaching from below as easily as from horizontal travellers. (Visitors from above are, of course, much harder to prevent - another reason why the richest districts are also often the highest.)

If columnar development can lead to varied districts, stratification does so even more! The flat, sunlit gardens where the nobles walk the upper branches frequently contrast like earth to sky to the intricate knots of hovels and dives far below them in so many cities, where only a dim, greenish glow finds it way down through the cracks from the sky above.

A Sense of Place

Of course cities are even more different from one-another than the districts within them, and Eleath has many to discover. If you want to enjoy some of them, head over to Places? to find out more.

Page last modified on November 06, 2023, at 05:56 PM
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