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 town planning, city planning, regional planning, or rural planning in specific contexts, 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, and their accessibility. [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, 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 Jacobs'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 emissions [5] as well as protecting heritage structures and built environments. Since most urban planning teams consist of highly educated individuals that work for city governments, [6] recent debates focus on how to involve more community members in city planning processes.

Urban planning is an interdisciplinary field that includes civil engineering, architecture, human geography, politics, social science and design sciences. Practitioners of urban planning are concerned with research and analysis, strategic thinking, engineering 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. [7] Urban planners work with the cognate fields of civil engineering, landscape architecture, architecture, 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. [8] Creating the plans requires a thorough understanding of 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, D.C., Daniel Burnham in Chicago, Lúcio Costa in Brasília and Georges-Eugene Haussmann in Paris planned cities from scratch, and Robert Moses and Le Corbusier refurbished and transformed cities and neighborhoods to meet their ideas of urban planning. [9]


1852 city plan of Pori by G. T. von Chiewitz Pori asemakaava 1852.png
1852 city plan of Pori by G. T. von Chiewitz
Berlin - Siegessaule. August 1963. Spacious and organized city planning in Germany was official government policy dating back to Nazi rule. Berlin - Siegessaule.jpg
Berlin – Siegessäule. August 1963. Spacious and organized city planning in Germany was official government policy dating back to Nazi rule.

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 primarily used orthogonal (or grid-like) plans. [12] Hippodamus of Miletus (498–408 BC), the ancient Greek architect and urban planner, is considered to be "the father of European urban planning", and the namesake of the "Hippodamian plan" (grid plan) of city layout. [13]

The ancient Romans 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. [14] 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. [15]

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 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. [16] 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] [17]

In the second half of the 20th century, urban planners gradually shifted their focus to individualism and diversity in urban centers. [18]

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. [19] Cities nowadays stress the importance of public transit and cycling by adopting such policies.


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. [20] Some other conceptual planning theories include Ebenezer Howard's The Three Magnets 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. [21]

Technical aspects

Technical aspects of urban planning involve the application of 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. [22] 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. [23] Enforcement methodologies include governmental zoning, planning permissions, and building codes, [1] as well as private easements and restrictive covenants. [24]

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. They typically analyze 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. [25] [26] An urban planner could be considered a green collar professional. [27]

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

Participatory urban planning

Participatory planning is an urban planning paradigm that involves the entire community in the planning process. Participatory planning in the United States emerged during the 1960s and 1970s. [32] At the same time, participatory planning began to enter the development field, with similar characteristics and agendas. [33] There are many notable urban planners and activists whose work facilitated and shaped participatory planning movements. Jane Jacobs and her work is one of the most significant contributions to participatory planning because of the influence it had across the entire United States. There has also been a recent emergence in engaging youth in urban planning education.[ citation needed ]

Criticisms and debates

The school of neoclassical economics argues that planning is unnecessary, or even harmful, as it market efficiency allows for effective land use. [34] 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. [34] The traditional justification for urban planning has in response been that the planner does to the city what the engineer or architect does to the home, that is, make it more amenable to the needs and preferences of its inhabitants. [34]

The widely adopted consensus-building model of planning, which seeks to accommodate different preferences within the community has been criticized for being based upon, rather than challenging, the power structures of the community. [35] Instead, agonism has been proposed as a framework for urban planning decision-making. [35]

Another debate within the urban planning field is about who is included and excluded in the urban planning decision-making process. Most urban planning processes use a top-down approach which fails to include the residents of the places where urban planners and city officials are working. Sherry Arnstein's "ladder of citizen participation" is oftentimes used by many urban planners and city governments to determine the degree of inclusivity or exclusivity of their urban planning. [36] One main source of engagement between city officials and residents are city council meetings that are open to the residents and that welcome public comments. Additionally, there are some federal requirements for citizen participation in government-funded infrastructure projects. [6]

Many urban planners and planning agencies rely on community input for their policies and zoning plans. The effectiveness of community engagement can be determined by how members' voices are heard and implemented.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Theories of urban planning</span>

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Urban design</span> Designing and shaping of human settlements

Urban design is an approach to the design of buildings and the spaces between them that focuses on specific design processes and outcomes. In addition to designing and shaping the physical features of towns, cities, and regional spaces, urban design considers 'bigger picture' issues of economic, social and environmental value and social design. The scope of a project can range from a local street or public space to an entire city and surrounding areas. Urban designers connect the fields of architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning to better organize physical space and community environments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zoning</span> Government policy allowing certain uses of land in different places

In urban planning, zoning is a method in which a municipality or other tier of government divides land into "zones", each of which has a set of regulations for new development that differs from other zones. Zones may be defined for a single use, they may combine several compatible activities by use, or in the case of form-based zoning, the differing regulations may govern the density, size and shape of allowed buildings whatever their use. The planning rules for each zone determine whether planning permission for a given development may be granted. Zoning may specify a variety of outright and conditional uses of land. It may indicate the size and dimensions of lots that land may be subdivided into, or the form and scale of buildings. These guidelines are set in order to guide urban growth and development.

Urban studies is the diverse range of disciplines and approaches to the study of all aspects of cities, their suburbs, and other urban areas. This includes among others: urban economics, urban planning, urban ecology, urban transportation systems, urban politics, sociology and urban social relations. This can be contrasted with the study of rural areas and rural lifestyles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Land-use planning</span> Process of regulating the use of land by a central authority

Land use planning is the process of regulating the use of land by a central authority. Usually, this is done to promote more desirable social and environmental outcomes as well as a more efficient use of resources. More specifically, the goals of modern land use planning often include environmental conservation, restraint of urban sprawl, minimization of transport costs, prevention of land use conflicts, and a reduction in exposure to pollutants. In the pursuit of these goals, planners assume that regulating the use of land will change the patterns of human behavior, and that these changes are beneficial. The first assumption, that regulating land use changes the patterns of human behavior is widely accepted. However, the second assumption - that these changes are beneficial - is contested, and depends on the location and regulations being discussed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Urbanism</span> Study of how inhabitants of towns and cities interact with the built environment

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, a profession focusing on the design and management of urban areas, and urban sociology, an academic field which studies urban life.

Participatory design is an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders in the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and is usable. Participatory design is an approach which is focused on processes and procedures of design and is not a design style. The term is used in a variety of fields e.g. software design, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, product design, sustainability, graphic design, planning, and health services development as a way of creating environments that are more responsive and appropriate to their inhabitants' and users' cultural, emotional, spiritual and practical needs. It is also one approach to placemaking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Participatory planning</span> Decentralized, whole community-based urban design process

Participatory planning is an urban planning paradigm that emphasizes involving the entire community in the community planning process. Participatory planning emerged in response to the centralized and rationalistic approaches that defined early urban planning work.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zoning in the United States</span> Provision in urban planning in the United States

Zoning is a law that divides a jurisdiction's land into districts, or zones, and limits how land in each district can be used. In the United States, zoning includes various land use laws enforced through the police power rights of state governments and local governments to exercise authority over privately owned real property.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Site plan</span> Drawing of an areas existing & proposed conditions

A site plan or a plot plan is a type of drawing used by architects, landscape architects, urban planners, and engineers which shows existing and proposed conditions for a given area, typically a parcel of land which is to be modified. Sites plan typically show buildings, roads, sidewalks and paths/trails, parking, drainage facilities, sanitary sewer lines, water lines, lighting, and landscaping and garden elements.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Urban planning in China</span>

Urban Planning in China is currently characterized by a top-down approach, high density urban development and extensive urbanization. China's urban planning philosophies and practices have undergone multiple transitions due to governance and economic structure changes throughout the nation's extensive history. The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 marks the beginning of three recent historical stages of urban planning philosophies and practice that represent a divergence from traditional Chinese urban planning morphologies are broadly categorized as socialist, hybrid and global cities.

Geodesign is a set of concepts and methods used to involve all stakeholders and various professions in collaboratively designing and realizing the optimal solution for spatial challenges in the built and natural environments, utilizing all available techniques and data in an integrated process. Originally, geodesign was mainly applied during the design and planning phase. "Geodesign is a design and planning method which tightly couples the creation of design proposals with impact simulations informed by geographic contexts." Now, it is also used during realization and maintenance phases and to facilitate re-use of for example buildings or industrial areas. Geodesign includes project conceptualization, analysis, design specification, stakeholder participation and collaboration, design creation, simulation, and evaluation.

Urban planning education is a practice of teaching and learning urban theory, studies, and professional practices. The interaction between public officials, professional planners and the public involves a continuous education on planning process. Community members often serve on a city planning commission, council or board. As a result, education outreach is effectively an ongoing cycle. Formal education is offered as an academic degree in urban, city, rural, and/or regional planning, and more often awarded as a master's degree specifically accredited by an urban planning association in addition to the university's university-wide primary accreditation, although some universities offer bachelor's degrees and doctoral degrees also accredited in the same fashion; although most bachelor's degrees in urban planning do not have the secondary-layer of urban planning association accreditation required for most positions, relying solely on the university's primary accreditation as a legitimate institution of higher education. At some universities, urban studies, also known as pre-urban planning, is the paraprofessional version of urban and regional planning education, mostly taken as a bachelor's degree prior to taking up post-graduate education in urban planning or as a master's or graduate certificate program for public administration professionals to get an understanding of public policy implications created by urban planning decisions or techniques.

Urban planning is 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">15-minute city</span> Urban accessibility concept

The 15-minute city is an urban planning concept in which most daily necessities and services, such as work, shopping, education, healthcare, and leisure can be easily reached by a 15-minute walk, bike ride, or public transit ride from any point in the city. This approach aims to reduce car dependency, promote healthy and sustainable living, and improve wellbeing and quality of life for city dwellers.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to urban planning:


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Further reading

Library guides for urban planning