Urban planning

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Partizánske in Slovakia – an example of a typical planned European industrial city founded in 1938 together with a shoemaking factory in which practically all adult inhabitants of the city were employed.

Urban planning is also referred to as urban and regional planning, regional planning, town planning, city planning, rural planning, urban development, physical planning, urban management or a similar combination in various areas worldwide

Urban planning is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks.[1] Traditionally, urban planning followed a top-down approach in master planning the physical layout of human settlements.[2] The primary concern was the public welfare,[1][2] which included considerations of efficiency, sanitation, protection and use of the environment,[1] as well as effects of the master plans on the social and economic activities.[3] Overtime, urban planning has adopted a human-centric and environment-centric approach that focuses on planning to improve the health and well-being of all its people while maintaining sustainability standards. Sustainable development was added as one of the main goals of all planning endeavours in the late 20th century when the detrimental economic and the environmental impacts of the previous models of planning had become apparent. The sustainability framework is guided and safeguarded by the UN Sustainable Development Goal - 11 that aims to deliver inclusive, safe and resilient cities and communities. Similarly, in the early 21st century, Jane Jacob's writings on legal and political rules to safeguard the interests of residents, businesses and communities effectively influenced urban planners to take into consideration resident experiences and needs while planning.

Urban planning answers questions about how people will live, work and play in a given area and thus, guides orderly development in urban, suburban and rural areas.[4] Although predominantly concerned with the planning of settlements and communities, urban planners are also responsible for planning the efficient transportation of goods, resources, people and waste; the distribution of basic necessities such as water and electricity; a sense of inclusion and opportunity for people of all kinds, culture and needs; enablement of economic growth through concepts like the Innovation District; ensuring blue zones and conserving areas of natural environmental significance that actively contributes to reduction in CO2 emission[5] as well as protecting heritage structures and built environments. Urban planning is a dynamic field since the questions around how people live, work and play changes with time. These changes are constantly reflected in planning methodologies, zonal codes and policies making it a highly technical, political, social, economical and environmental field.

Urban planning is an interdisciplinary field that includes social science, architecture, human geography, politics, engineering and design sciences. Practitioners of urban planning are concerned with research and analysis, strategic thinking, architecture, urban design, public consultation, policy recommendations, implementation and management.[2] It is closely related to the field of urban design and some urban planners provide designs for streets, parks, buildings and other urban areas.[6] Urban planners work with the cognate fields of architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, and public administration to achieve strategic, policy and sustainability goals. Early urban planners were often members of these cognate fields though today, urban planning is a separate, independent professional discipline. But even today, it is not uncommon for architects and engineers to get additional qualifications to work as urban planners. This is because the discipline of urban planning is the broader category that includes different sub-fields such as land-use planning, zoning, economic development, environmental planning, and transportation planning in addition to field like market research, citizen engagement, sustainability and environment studies.[7] Creating the plans requires a thorough understanding penal codes and zonal codes of planning. Once the plans are created, the ideas must be approved by the City Council or the governing body and this approval process is fundamentally political in nature.[8]

Another important aspect of urban planning is that the range of urban planning projects include the large-scale master planning of empty sites or Greenfield projects as well as small-scale interventions and refurbishments of existing structures, buildings and public spaces. Pierre Charles L'Enfant in Washington DC, Daniel Burnham in Chicago and Georges-Eugene Haussmann in Paris planned cities from scratched, and Robert Moses and Le Corbusier refurbished and transformed cities and neighbourhoods to meet their ideas of urban planning.[9]


Berlin - Siegessäule. Spacious and organized city planning in Germany was official government policy dating back to Nazi rule. August 1963.[10]

There is evidence of urban planning and designed communities dating back to the Mesopotamian, Indus Valley, Minoan, and Egyptian civilizations in the third millennium BCE. Archaeologists studying the ruins of cities in these areas find paved streets that were laid out at right angles in a grid pattern.[11] The idea of a planned out urban area evolved as different civilizations adopted it. Beginning in the 8th century BCE, Greek city states were primarily centered on orthogonal (or grid-like) plans.[12] The ancient Romans, inspired by the Greeks, also used orthogonal plans for their cities. City planning in the Roman world was developed for military defense and public convenience. The spread of the Roman Empire subsequently spread the ideas of urban planning. As the Roman Empire declined, these ideas slowly disappeared. However, many cities in Europe still held onto the planned Roman city center. Cities in Europe from the 9th to 14th centuries, often grew organically and sometimes chaotically. But in the following centuries with the coming of the Renaissance many new cities were enlarged with newly planned extensions.[13] From the 15th century on, much more is recorded of urban design and the people that were involved. In this period, theoretical treatises on architecture and urban planning start to appear in which theoretical questions around planning the main lines, ensuring plans meet the needs of the given population and so forth are addressed and designs of towns and cities are described and depicted. During the Enlightenment period, several European rulers ambitiously attempted to redesign capital cities. During the Second French Empire, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, under the direction of Napoleon III, redesigned the city of Paris into a more modern capital, with long, straight, wide boulevards.[14] Wider roads and open spaces allowed people to have multiple social interactions.

Planning and architecture went through a paradigm shift at the turn of the 20th century. The industrialized cities of the 19th century grew at a tremendous rate. The evils of urban life for the working poor were becoming increasingly evident as a matter of public concern. The laissez-faire style of government management of the economy, in fashion for most of the Victorian era, was starting to give way to a New Liberalism that championed intervention on the part of the poor and disadvantaged. Around 1900, theorists began developing urban planning models to mitigate the consequences of the industrial age, by providing citizens, especially factory workers, with healthier environments. The following century would therefore be globally dominated by a central planning approach to urban planning, not necessarily representing an increment in the overall quality of the urban realm.

At the beginning of the 20th century, urban planning began to be recognized as a profession. The Town and Country Planning Association was founded in 1899 and the first academic course in Great Britain on urban planning was offered by the University of Liverpool in 1909.[15] In the 1920s, the ideas of modernism and uniformity began to surface in urban planning, and lasted until the 1970s. In 1933, Le Corbusier presented the Radiant City, a city that grows up in the form of towers, as a solution to the problem of pollution and over-crowding. But many planners started to believe that the ideas of modernism in urban planning led to higher crime rates and social problems.[3][16] The Decline of Detroit is seen as a classic example for understanding how faulty urban planning practices can lead to the complete collapse of an entire city, both socially and economically. This decline has been attributed to urban decay, which took roots in the insensitive and corporate-centric planning model.

In the second half of the 20th century, urban planners gradually shifted their focus to individualism and diversity in urban centers. 1950's onwards, planners like Kevin Lynch brought in a bottom-up focus to planning where the experience of the citizens was taken into consideration, also called Psychogeography.[17]

21st century practices[edit]

Urban planners started recognising the ill effects of traditional car-centric models on the environment as well as the opportunities that urban planning offers to enable social and economic growth. Practitioners are also taking into consideration the fact that two out three people will be residing in cities and urban areas by 2050, as mentioned by a United Nations report.[18] The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) predicts that around 2.5 billion more people occupy urban areas by 2050. In the recent years of the 21st century concepts like Blue Zone and Innovation District are being experimented with to plan areas that allow for healthy movement of all and unplanned engagements that can support the gig economy respectively. Blue Zones are planned such that amenities, offices, government offices and parks are at optimum walking or cycling distance such that it encourages healthy movement. Similarly, it includes gathering places like parks and plazas that encourage social gatherings and thus, promotes social well-being. This also includes planning policies to support farm-to-table restaurants.

Another key concept that is being experimented with is the conscious planning of Eco Districts that incorporates sustainability practices into the design, planning and implementation processes.[5] This includes water conservation measures like rainwater and storm water harvesting, and reusing of condensate; creating a framework for alternative energy sources like solar and turbine, using sustainable building materials with very low carbon footprint, optimising sunlight by using tools like daylight equity and promoting multi-modality transport that actively decreases carbon emission.These measures are in line with the UN-Habitat's and United Nations' policies and goals for constructing environmentally friendly and sustainable cities and communities.

In response to this urgent need to address climate change, cities like London are levying a congestion charge for cars trying to access already crowded places in the city.[19] Cities are also prioritising public transit and cycling by adopting such policies. For example, New York city has recently passed a law that priorities bus transit on the heavily congested 14th street in Manhattan between 3rd Avenue and 9th Avenue[20] and San Francisco has blocked Arcade street to almost all automobile traffic.[21] Offering free and reduced-fare public transit is another policy urban planner and governments are experimenting with, though this is a contested solution.

Berlin - Siegessäule. Spacious and organized city planning in Germany was official government policy dating back to Nazi rule. August 1963.[10]


Street Hierarchy and Accessibility

Planning theory is the body of scientific concepts, definitions, behavioral relationships, and assumptions that define the body of knowledge of urban planning. There are eight procedural theories of planning that remain the principal theories of planning procedure today: the rational-comprehensive approach, the incremental approach, the transactive approach, the communicative approach, the advocacy approach, the equity approach, the radical approach, and the humanist or phenomenological approach.[22] Some other conceptual planning theories include Ebenezer Howard's The Three Magents theory that he envisioned for the future of British settlement, also his Garden Cities, the Concentric Model Zone also called the Burgess Model by sociologist Ernest Burgess, the Radburn Superblock that encourages pedestrian movement, the Sector Model and the Multiple Nuclei Model among others.[23]

Technical aspects[edit]

Technical aspects of urban planning involve the applying scientific, technical processes, considerations and features that are involved in planning for land use, urban design, natural resources, transportation, and infrastructure. Urban planning includes techniques such as: predicting population growth, zoning, geographic mapping and analysis, analyzing park space, surveying the water supply, identifying transportation patterns, recognizing food supply demands, allocating healthcare and social services, and analyzing the impact of land use.

In order to predict how cities will develop and estimate the effects of their interventions, planners use various models. These models can be used to indicate relationships and patterns in demographic, geographic, and economic data. They might deal with short-term issues such as how people move through cities, or long-term issues such as land use and growth.[24] One such model is the Geographic Information System (GIS) that is used to create a model of the existing planning and then to project future impacts on the society, economy and environment.

Building codes and other regulations dovetail with urban planning by governing how cities are constructed and used from the individual level.[25] Enforcement methodologies include governmental zoning, planning permissions, and building codes,[1] as well as private easements and restrictive covenants.[26]

Urban planners[edit]

An urban planner is a professional who works in the field of urban planning for the purpose of optimizing the effectiveness of a community's land use and infrastructure. They formulate plans for the development and management of urban and suburban areas, typically analyzing land use compatibility as well as economic, environmental and social trends. In developing any plan for a community (whether commercial, residential, agricultural, natural or recreational), urban planners must consider a wide array of issues including sustainability, existing and potential pollution, transport including potential congestion, crime, land values, economic development, social equity, zoning codes, and other legislation.

The importance of the urban planner is increasing in the 21st century, as modern society begins to face issues of increased population growth, climate change and unsustainable development. An urban planner could be considered a green collar professional.[27]

Some researchers suggest that urban planners around the world work in different "planning cultures", adapted to their local cities and cultures.[28] However, professionals have identified skills, abilities and basic knowledge sets that are common to urban planners across national and regional boundaries.[29][30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "What is Urban Planning". School of Urban Planning, McGill University. Archived from the original on 8 January 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Taylor, Nigel (1998). Urban Planning Theory Since 1945. Los Angeles: Sage. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-7619-6093-5.
  3. ^ a b Midgley, James (1999). Social Development: The Developmental Perspective in Social Welfare. Sage. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8039-7773-0.
  4. ^ Caves, R. W. (2004). Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. p. 704. ISBN 978-0415862875.
  5. ^ a b "3 urban planning trends that are changing how our cities will look in the future". Building Design + Construction. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  6. ^ Van Assche, K., Beunen, R., Duineveld, M., & de Jong, H. (2013). Co-evolutions of planning and design: Risks and benefits of design perspectives in planning systems. Planning Theory, 12(2), 177-198.
  7. ^ "What Is Planning?". American Planning Association. Archived from the original on 10 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Urban and Regional Planners: Occupational Outlook Handbook:: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics". www.bls.gov. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  9. ^ "What is Urban Planning?". YouTube.
  10. ^ a b Hass-Klau, Carmen. "Motorization and Footpath Planning During the Third Reich." The Pedestrian and the City. Routledge, 2014.
  11. ^ Davreu, Robert (1978). "Cities of Mystery: The Lost Empire of the Indus Valley". The World’s Last Mysteries. (second edition). Sydney: Readers’ Digest. pp. 121-129. ISBN 0-909486-61-1.
  12. ^ Kolb, Frank (1984). Die Stadt im Altertum. München: Verlag C.H. Beck. pp. 51-141: Morris, A.E.J. (1972). History of Urban Form. Prehistory to the Renaissance. London. pp. 22-23.
  13. ^ Boerefijn, Wim (2010). The foundation, planning and building of new towns in the 13th and 14th centuries in Europe. An architectural-historical research into urban form and its creation. Phd. thesis Universiteit van Amsterdam. ISBN 978-90-9025157-8.
  14. ^ Jordan, David (1992). "Baron Haussmann and Modern Paris". American Scholar. 61 (1): 99.
  15. ^ Fainstein, Susan S. Urban planning at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  16. ^ Morris, Eleanor Smith; et al. (1997). British Town Planning and Urban Design: Principles and policies. Harlow, Essex, Enngland: Longman. pp. 147–149. ISBN 978-0-582-23496-3.
  17. ^ Routley, Nick (20 January 2018). "The Evolution of Urban Planning". Visual Capitalist. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Around 2.5 billion more people will be living in cities by 2050, projects new UN report | UN DESA | United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs". www.un.org. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  19. ^ Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. "Congestion Charge (Official)". Transport for London. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Bus Rapid Transit - 14th Street Select Bus Service with Transit & Truck Priority Pilot Project". www1.nyc.gov. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  21. ^ "San Francisco bans most cars from Market Street. Will other California cities follow?". Los Angeles Times. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  22. ^ Whittmore, Andrew (2 February 2015). "How Planners Use Planning Theory". Planetizen. Retrieved 24 April 2015. citing Whittemore, Andrew H. (2014). "Practitioners Theorize, Too Reaffirming Planning Theory in a Survey of Practitioners' Theories". Journal of Planning Education and Research. 35 (1): 76–85. doi:10.1177/0739456X14563144.)
  23. ^ Mohd Nazim Saifi (4 March 2017). "Town planning theories concept and models". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ Landis, John D. (2012). "Modeling Urban Systems". In Weber, Rachel; Crane, Randall (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 323–350. ISBN 978-0-19-537499-5.
  25. ^ Codes, rules, and standards are part of a matrix of relations that influence the practice of urban planning and design. These forms of regulation provide an important and inescapable framework for development, from the laying out of subdivisions to the control of stormwater runoff. The subject of regulations leads to the source of how communities are designed and constructed—defining how they can and can't be built—and how codes, rules, and standards continue to shape the physical space where we live and work. Ben-Joseph, Eran (2012). "Codes and Standards in Urban Planning and Design". In Weber, Rachel; Crane, Randall (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 352–370. ISBN 978-0-19-537499-5.
  26. ^ Smit, Anneke; Valiante, Marcia (2015). "Introduction". In Smit, Anneke; Valiante, Marcia (eds.). Public Interest, Private Property: Law and Planning Policy in Canada. Vancouver, British Columbia: University of British Columbia Press. pp. 1–36, page 10. ISBN 978-0-7748-2931-1.
  27. ^ Kamenetz, Anya. "Ten Best Green Jobs for the Next Decade". fastcompany. Fast Company. Archived from the original on 26 August 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
  28. ^ Friedman, John (2012). "Varieties of Planning Experience: Toward a Globalized Planning Culture?". In Weber, Rachel; Crane, Randall (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 87–98. ISBN 978-0-19-537499-5.
  29. ^ "American Institutes of Certified Planners Certification". American Planning Association. American Planning Association. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  30. ^ "Professional standards". Royal Institute of Town Planners. Royal Town Planning Institute. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  31. ^ "About ISOCARP". International Society of City and Regional Planners. Retrieved 20 July 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Library guides for urban planning[edit]