To demonstrate what I mean, here is an in-progress (hence the small, preview size) city map for Minas Tirith:
The city was brilliantly realized in the films via the genius of Alan Lee and all the artists and model-makers that had a hand in creating it. I particularly like the heavy, rounded Romanesque style of architecture developed for the individual components, such as towers and gatehouses. The key features and dimensions of the upper levels (e.g. the Great Hall, White Tower, the Circle of the Fountain, Houses of Healing and Silent Street) are based on what was seen in the films:
But my vision of Minas Tirith is over five times the area of the city seen in the film. Most of this expansion is in the two lower levels. Unlike any drawing of Minas Tirith I've come across, I wanted the city to be more asymmetrical as it moved away from the Court of the Fountain (not perfect circles on the lower levels). This may not be canon, but I think it looks better and feels more real.
Gondor is a vast, complex and ancient civilization comprising numerous fiefdoms, and its capitol city needs to be vast and complex to match it, even moreso than seen in the films. When viewed on foot from a distance, these far larger lower levels reduce the highly-vertical, ‘wedding-cake’ look of the film-city and give it a broader, layered, more epic presence.
In my version, the First Level accommodates a large military district (Gondor has been in a perpetual state of war, with the Front being nearby) and a majority of the economic zones, with various squares/forums where markets are set up for trade. My city plan has hundreds of individual stone buildings (maybe more than 1,000), from small storehouses to expansive academies, barracks, libraries, boarding houses, religious buildings, theaters, brothels, baths, grand houses of the nobility and all manner of merchant/craftsmen buildings. There are reservoirs within the walls supplying drinking water from the mountains.
The Great Gate opens onto a huge plaza/forum where companies of the standing army (a lot of Roman influence here) could assemble before marching out or returning. The various trade fairs could take place here as well as their designated districts. The city is still a defensive stronghold, so it has a single main gate, with a wide road (lined by a grand allee of ancient trees) leading to the Causeway Forts of the Rammas and, beyond, to the garrison at Osgiliath.
A great ancient or medieval capitol could be home to hundreds of thousands of citizens - and would spill and sprawl well beyond the fortified walls. I thought about doing that here, but ended up not for a number of reasons. One being that as the city is in a posture of war, maybe they want to keep the areas adjacent to the walls clear of things that could be used as cover by attacking forces. Another being that originally, Minas Tirith (Arnor) served as secondary city – a fortress - of the nearby, larger capitol of Gondor, Osgiliath. When Osgiliath was lost, the capitol was then moved to Minas Tirith. Also, the plans I’m drawing take place around the times of the books/films, so the population of Minas Tirith and Anorien is in decline. I imagine this city plan could hold 10,000-20,000 permanent residents (including barracked standing armies) as drawn, and up to 100,000 if higher-density row housing continued to be developed in the First Level. (Pelargir, the great, sprawling, populous, port city of Gondor may be the focal point of a future map).
Outside the walls are even bigger changes from the films. PJ’s Pelennor was a flat, featureless, scrub-plain. His was a blank canvas on which to orchestrate massive battle scenes while keeping it understandable for the viewer:
My version of the Pelennor is closer to Tolkien’s: rich, fertile “townlands” rolling down from Mindoluin to the Anduin, with many estates, homesteads, farms, vineyards, etc.. I imagine something akin to the countryside surrounding London or Florence centuries ago. While Minas Tirith is the focus of this map, you can see a landed gentry Estate and some other buildings outside the City Walls (and a road that turns south to The Harlond), along with farms, hedgerows, woodlots, and orchards.
I think that’s enough write-up for what is just a preview image. If I finish and release a higher-res version of this city map, there will be a lot labels for features of significance. Let me know if there is continued interest in this.
The next map I’m working on shows the Pelennor in its actual-scale entirety, including this city, the Anduin, Rammas Echor and ruins of Osgiliath. A third plan underway has a closer, more detailed view of the Causeway Forts, the Rammas Echor, and will include samples of the small hamlets that exist within the Pelennor; and focuses on The Harlond, which I envision to be a fairly-large port town with many buildings, a permanent population, enough quays to accommodate dozens of large ships – something very different from what was seen in the films. Further down the road will be a new vision of Minas Morgul (the evil twin to Minas Tirith), and a larger, more populous Edoras. Suggestions or requests are welcome.