I am practising for the GREs and have not written essay in 30 years. Here goes..
To understand the most important characteristics of a society, one must study its major cities.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
The statement that the lifestyle of the citizens and the values they hold, can be gleaned by the architecture or town-planning of the city, is arguable. Do cities today reflect the belief-system of its citizens? Any major city one visits today, has the same skyscrapers, administration buildings, Presidential or King's palace, tall apartment buildings. Cities are very keen to impart how advanced technologically, how successful financially and how efficient its administration is.
However in ancient times, great cities like Angkor in Cambodia, and Borobudur in Indonesia would have reflected the belief-systems of her people. Those cities were built full of palaces, administrative buildings and temples, replete with carvings of The Lord Buddha, and Rama the IV, their revered king. Rock carvings, paintings and sculptures represented the deeds and lives of Buddha and the achievements of King Rama IV. The chinese scholar Fa Hsien, who visited the city remarked how devoted the people were to their kings and what faithful followers they were of Buddha. He did not have to do any form of study. Moving through the city, he got the idea. He also did not have to find out what the people did for a living. Rice padi fields were abundant, irrigation systems were evident as it wound around the cities.
I believe that the above statement is time-barred. There was a time when a study of cities would have allowed certain presumptions of the society that lived within, but no longer.
The absorption of western values of what is progress has gone around the world. City after city compete to build the highest tower, highest hotel, as though any progress was only to be measured by how close we get to the clouds. The result, we have cities trying to show their success by deleting every green patch and erecting a clump of concrete buildings in its place, indistinguishable from one another. Every city looks like any other. This makes it difficult to discern the values or histories of any one city.
Architecture may reflect the histories of its citizens. A city with fine works of carvings, and works of art, would assume an artisan society, one with fortified buildings would tell of a warrior-age or warring states. The Amber Fort in New Delhi in India, would tell you that it went through many battles centuries ago. But what can you translate from the tall row upon row of Apartment buildings, glass paneled office blocks of New Delhi today? They are synonymous with cities like Tokyo. But do their citizens share the same values? Certainly not. Architecture has become homogenous and one can no longer make out or discern the essence of its citizens merely by looking at the city.
Citizens no longer absorb and reflect the histories of their ancestors. The global village has people travelling to and from faraway places for study, business and leisure. Even if we assume cities can reflect society, society is no longer constant. People today, receive and assimilate values from other places and societies. They inter-marry, co-habit,with people from vastly different cultures and traditions from their own. They make compromises to their beliefs and lifestyles.
My conclusion is, the statement is true of a bygone era of the ancient civilizations. Cities all over the world started looking the same decades ago in the race to show progress with tall buildings, that reflect little of what the citizens stand for. People are so transient that in any one city, you have a polyglot of values and belief systems, from different parts of the world. For all these reasons, I believe that the statement is no longer relevant today.
However in ancient times, great cities like Angkor in Cambodia, and Borobudur in Indonesia would have reflected the belief-systems of
people. ... you mentioned two cities... so it becomes plural
Those cities were
full of palaces, administrative buildings and temples, replete with carvings of The Lord Buddha, and Rama the IV and
their revered king.
Rock carvings, paintings and sculptures represent
ed the deeds and liveslife story of Lord Buddha and the achievements of King Rama IV.
I believe that the above statement is time-.... it should be time sensitive..