Urban planning

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Partizanske 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. Partizanske4.jpg
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, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural 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] Over time, urban planning has adopted a focus on the social and environmental bottom-lines that focus on planning as a tool to improve the health and well-being of people while maintaining sustainability standards. Sustainable development was added as one of the main goals of all planning endeavors in the late 20th century when the detrimental economic and the environmental impacts of the previous models of planning had become apparent.[ citation needed ]. Similarly, in the early 21st century, Jane Jacob's writings on legal and political perspectives to emphasize the interests of residents, businesses and communities effectively influenced urban planners to take into broader consideration of 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; economic growth or business development; improving health 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. 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. [7] Creating the plans requires a thorough understanding penal codes and zonal codes of planning.

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. [8]


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

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. [10] 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. [11] 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. [12] 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. [13]

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 separate 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. [14] 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] [15] The Decline of Detroit is an example of the impacts of social planning on a large urban area.

In the second half of the 20th century, urban planners gradually shifted their focus to individualism and diversity in urban centers. [16]

21st century practices

Urban planners studying the effects of increasing congestion in urban areas began to address the externalities, the negative impacts caused by induced demand from larger highway systems in western countries such as in the United States. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicted in 2018 that around 2.5 billion more people occupy urban areas by 2050 according to population elements of global migration. New planning theories have adopted non-traditional concepts such as Blue Zones and Innovation Districts to incorporate geographic areas within the city that allow for novel business development and the prioritization of infrastructure that would assist with improving the quality of life of citizens by extending their potential lifespan.

Planning practices have incorporated policy changes to help address anthropocentric global climate change. London began to charge a congestion charge for cars trying to access already crowded places in the city. [17] Cities are also prioritising public transit and cycling by adopting such policies.

There are large, enclosed, communal gardens at the housing on Crown Street in Glasgow, Scotland. [18]


Street Hierarchy and Accessibility Street Hierarchy and Accessibility.png
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. [19] 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. [20]

Technical aspects

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. [21] 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. [22] Enforcement methodologies include governmental zoning, planning permissions, and building codes, [1] as well as private easements and restrictive covenants. [23]

Urban planners

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. [24]

Some researchers suggest that urban planners around the world work in different "planning cultures", adapted to their local cities and cultures. [25] However, professionals have identified skills, abilities and basic knowledge sets that are common to urban planners across national and regional boundaries. [26] [27] [28]

Criticisms and justifications of urban planning

The school of neoclassical economics argues that planning is unnecessary, or even harmful, because market efficiency allows for effective land use. [29] A pluralist strain of political thinking argues in a similar vein that the government should not intrude in the political competition between different interest groups which decides how land is used. [29] The traditional justification for urban planning has in response been that the planner does to the city what the architect does to the home, that is, make it more amenable to the needs and preferences of its habitants. [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

Human geography The study of cultures, communities and activities of peoples of the world

Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that deals with humans and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across locations. It analyzes patterns of human social interaction, their interactions with the environment, and their spatial interdependencies by application of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Theories of urban planning

Planning theory is the body of scientific concepts, definitions, behavioral relationships, and assumptions that define the body of knowledge of urban planning. There are nine procedural theories of planning that remain the principal theories of planning procedure today: the Rational-Comprehensive approach, the Incremental approach, the Transformative Incremental (TI) approach, the Transactive approach, the Communicative approach, the Advocacy approach, the Equity approach, the Radical approach, and the Humanist or Phenomenological approach.

Smart growth

Smart growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. It also advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices. The term "smart growth" is particularly used in North America. In Europe and particularly the UK, the terms "compact city", "urban densification" or "urban intensification" have often been used to describe similar concepts, which have influenced government planning policies in the UK, the Netherlands and several other European countries.

Political economy Study of production, buying, and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government

Political economy is the study of production and trade and their relations with law, custom and government; and with the distribution of national income and wealth. As a discipline, political economy originated in moral philosophy, in the 18th century, to explore the administration of states' wealth, with "political" signifying the Greek word polity and "economy" signifying the Greek word οἰκονομία. The earliest works of political economy are usually attributed to the British scholars Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo, although they were preceded by the work of the French physiocrats, such as François Quesnay (1694–1774) and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781).

Urban design Designing and shaping of human settlements

Urban design is the process of designing and shaping the physical features of cities, towns, and villages and planning for the provision of municipal services to residents and visitors. Although it deals with issues of a larger scale than architecture, it cannot be understood as a wholly separated field of research and design, since the quality of one depends on the quality of the other. In fact, it is this very interdependency, which has been termed relational design by Barcelona-based architect Enric Massip-Bosch, which makes urban design and architecture inextricably linked in many university education programs, especially in Europe. This tendency towards reintegration in architectural studies is also gaining momentum in the USA.

Regional science is a field of the social sciences concerned with analytical approaches to problems that are specifically urban, rural, or regional. Topics in regional science include, but are not limited to location theory or spatial economics, location modeling, transportation, migration analysis, land use and urban development, interindustry analysis, environmental and ecological analysis, resource management, urban and regional policy analysis, geographical information systems, and spatial data analysis. In the broadest sense, any social science analysis that has a spatial dimension is embraced by regional scientists.

Landscape architecture

Landscape architecture is the design of outdoor areas, landmarks, and structures to achieve environmental, social-behavioural, or aesthetic outcomes. It involves the systematic design and general engineering of various structures for construction and human use, investigation of existing social, ecological, and soil conditions and processes in the landscape, and the design of other interventions that will produce desired outcomes. The scope of the profession is broad and can be subdivided into several sub-categories including professional or licensed landscape architects who are regulated by governmental agencies and possess the expertise to design a wide range of structures and landforms for human use; landscape design which is not a licensed profession; site planning; stormwater management; erosion control; environmental restoration; parks, recreation and urban planning; visual resource management; green infrastructure planning and provision; and private estate and residence landscape master planning and design; all at varying scales of design, planning and management. A practitioner in the profession of landscape architecture may be called a landscape architect, however in jurisdictions where professional licenses are required it is often only those who possess a landscape architect license who can be called a landscape architect.

Land-use planning is the process of regulating the use of land in an effort to promote more desirable social and environmental outcomes as well as a more efficient use of resources. Goals of land use planning may include environmental conservation, restraint of urban sprawl, minimization of transport costs, prevention of land use conflicts, and a reduction in exposure to pollutants. By and large, the uses of land determine the diverse socioeconomic activities that occur in a specific area, the patterns of human behavior they produce, and their impact on the environment.

Spatial planning

Spatial planning systems refer to the methods and approaches used by the public and private sector to influence the distribution of people and activities in spaces of various scales. Spatial planning can be defined as the coordination of practices and policies affecting spatial organization. Spatial planning is synonymous with the practices of urban planning in the United States but at larger scales and the term is often used in reference to planning efforts in European countries. Discrete professional disciplines which involve spatial planning include land use, urban, regional, transport and environmental planning. Other related areas are also important, including economic and community planning. Spatial planning takes place on local, regional, national and inter-national levels and often results in the creation of a spatial plan.


Urbanism is the study of how inhabitants of urban areas, such as towns and cities, interact with the built environment. It is a direct component of disciplines such as urban planning, which is the profession focusing on the physical design and management of urban structures and urban sociology which is the academic field the study of urban life and culture.

Participatory planning is an urban planning paradigm that emphasizes involving the entire community in the strategic and management processes of urban planning; or, community-level planning processes, urban or rural. It is often considered as part of community development. Participatory planning aims to harmonize views among all of its participants as well as prevent conflict between opposing parties. In addition, marginalized groups have an opportunity to participate in the planning process.

Richard Steven "Dick" Levine is an American environmental architect, solar energy and sustainability pioneer, and professor at the University of Kentucky. He is one of the early solar energy innovators in the U.S., a holder of U.S. patents on structural systems and solar energy applications, and the architect of a number of award winning solar buildings including his widely published Raven Run Solar House (1974). Levine is co-director of the Center for Sustainable Cities at the University of Kentucky. His contributions to sustainable urban planning are in both the theory and practice of the sustainable city-region. He has over 150 publications on solar energy and sustainability research, conducted in Italy, Austria, China and the Middle East.

Open-source architecture is an emerging paradigm that advocates new procedures in imagination and formation of virtual and real spaces within a universal infrastructure. Drawing from references as diverse as open-source culture, modular design, avant-garde architectural, science fiction, language theory, and neuro-surgery, it adopts an inclusive approach as per spatial design towards a collaborative use of design and design tools by professionals and ordinary citizen users. The umbrella term citizen-centered design harnesses the notion of open-source architecture, which in itself involves the non-building architecture of computer networks, and goes beyond it to the movement that encompass the building design professions, as a whole.

The sustainable urban neighbourhood (SUN) is an urban design model which is part of 21st-century urban reform theory, moving away from the typical suburban development of the UK and US towards more continental city styles. It emerged in the UK in the 1990s, specifically from pioneering work by URBED, an urban regeneration consultancy and research centre in Manchester.

This article delineates the history of urban planning, a technical and political process concerned with the use of land and design of the urban environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas such as transportation and distribution networks.

Technical aspects of urban planning involve the technical processes, considerations and features that are involved in planning for land use, urban design, natural resources, transportation, and infrastructure.

Planning cultures are the differing customs and practices in the profession of urban and regional planning that exist around the world. The discourse, models, and styles of communication in planning are adapted to the various local conditions of each community such that planning approaches from one part of the world are not necessarily transferable to other parts of the globe. Planning culture can refer to how planning professionals undertake their practice in a given location, where they are "affected by both individual and collectively shared cognitive frames" that shape their view of the world. Planners, as stated by Simone Abram, are "constantly in the process of actually producing culture". The concept of planning culture also encompasses how planning actually unfolds within a community, as shaped by its culture and influenced by its people. Differing cultural contexts produce different planning and policy responses to issues "bound to specific local (cultural) contexts". Examples of planning cultures include those specific to different countries, regions, and parts of the globe, as well as differing cultures that exist within the same location, such as indigenous planning cultures.

Indigenous planning is an ideological approach to the field of regional planning where planning is done by Indigenous peoples for Indigenous communities. Practitioners integrate traditional knowledge or cultural knowledge into the process of planning. Indigenous planning recognizes that "all human communities plan" and that Indigenous communities have been carrying out their own community planning processes for thousands of years. While the broader context of urban planning, and social planning includes the need to work cooperatively with indigenous persons and organizations, the process in doing so is dependent on social, political and cultural forces.

Complete communities is an urban and rural planning concept that aims to meet the basic needs of all residents in a community, regardless of income, culture, or political ideologies through integrated land use planning, transportation planning, and community design. While the concept is used by many communities as part of their community plan, each plan interprets what complete community means in their own way. The idea of the complete community has roots in early planning theory, beginning with The Garden City Movement, and is a component of contemporary planning methods including Smart Growth.

Arthur C. Nelson

Arthur C. Nelson is an American urban planner, researcher and academic. He is Professor of Urban Planning and Real Estate Development at the University of Arizona.


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Further reading

Library guides for urban planning