City Planning

city planning, process of planning for the improvement of urban centers in order to provide healthy and safe living conditions, efficient transport and communication, adequate public facilities, and aesthetic surroundings. Planning that also includes outlying communities and highways is termed regional planning.

Early City Planning

Many ancient cities were built from definite plans. The fundamental feature of the plans of Babylon, Nineveh, and the cities of ancient Greece and of China was a geographical pattern of main streets running north and south and east and west, with a public square or forum in the center. Such a gridiron plan was used in the ancient Peruvian city of Chan Chan. It was also followed by the Romans, as in Lincoln and Chester in England; in all their towns the Romans emphasized drainage and water supply and practiced zoning. In medieval cities, built with military security in mind, the only relief from the extremely narrow streets was the space formed by municipal and church squares. The living conditions of the poorer citizens were given little attention.

With the Renaissance came the truly monumental views—wide avenues and long approaches creating vistas of handsome buildings. The new aim is seen first in special sections of a city, such as Michelangelo's grouping on the Capitoline at Rome and Bernini's piazza of St. Peter's. In most European cities through the 17th and 18th cent. there was fragmentary replanning of medieval streets. After the fire of 1666 in London, Sir Christopher Wren devised a superb plan for a complete rebuilding of the city, but the plan unfortunately was not carried out. In the 18th cent., Mannheim and Karlsruhe, Germany, were laid out geometrically; Emmanuel Héré planned Nancy, France; John Wood produced grand architectural streets and squares at Bath; and the new part of Edinburgh was laid out. In the early 19th cent. John Nash planned certain sections of London; central Vienna was improved; and Baron Haussmann remodeled Paris to produce the celebrated boulevard system with its spokes-and-hub design.

Legislation that enabled cities to make and carry out planning designs was enacted earlier in Europe than in the United States. Such laws were passed in Italy in 1865, in Sweden in 1874, and in Prussia and Great Britain in 1875. Planning in Great Britain was especially concerned with slum elimination; its greatest exponent was Sir Patrick Geddes. At the turn of the century Sir Ebenezer Howard was the founder of the modern garden city movement. The first English garden city, Letchworth, was begun in 1903.

City Planning in the United States

In the United States, early New England towns, formally disposed along wide elm-lined central roadways or commons, exhibit a conscious planning. Annapolis, Md., Philadelphia, and Paterson, N.J., were built after plans; but the most celebrated example is the city of Washington D.C., laid out according to the plan devised (1791) by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, under the supervision of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—a rectangular plan with diagonal main thoroughfares superimposed and the Capitol as the central feature.

In the 19th cent. Frederick Law Olmsted was a pioneer in city planning, especially in developing parks. State legislation enabling cities to appoint planning commissions and in some cases giving them authority to carry out the plans began in Pennsylvania in 1891. The work of Daniel Hudson Burnham for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893, was a stimulus to city planning, and Burnham, with Edward Bennett, drew up a plan for Chicago, much of which was put into execution. In 1901 a commission composed of Burnham, Charles Follen McKim, and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., devised a scheme for the modern development and beautification of Washington, D.C., adhering to L'Enfant's original plan as a basis for all new operations.

A wide influence on planning in U.S. cities was exerted by the zoning laws adopted in New York City in 1916, which controlled the uses of each district in the city and regulated the areas and heights of buildings in relation to street width. The important Regional Survey of New York and Environs, completed in 1929, took into consideration legal and social factors as well as internal transit problems and various modes of approach to the metropolitan area.

Governmental efforts to provide employment during the depression of the 1930s led to the building (under the Federal Resettlement Administration) of three experimental model communities—Greenbelt, Md., Greendale, Wis., and Greenhills, Ohio. Among the many subsequent planned communities built by private developers are Columbia, Md., and Reston, Va. The increase of traffic and crowding together of tall buildings have crippled the street plans of many cities—especially U.S. cities that have been handicapped by their rectangular or checkerboard layouts.

Contemporary Planning

In the larger U.S. cities, physical deterioration, crowding, and complex socioeconomic factors have produced vast slums. Most urban renewal programs of the mid-20th cent. were aimed at clearing these slums through the demolition of decayed buildings and the construction of low-income and middle-income housing projects. It was found, however, that the mere replacement of old buildings with new structures did not eliminate slum conditions.

In contrast to traditional planning, which concentrated on improving the physical aspects of buildings and streets, modern city planning is increasingly concerned with the social and economic aspects of city living. The process of city planning is a highly complex, step-by-step procedure, usually involving a series of surveys and studies, development of a land-use plan and transportation plan, preparation of a budget, and approval of a unified master plan by various agencies or legislative bodies. City planners are usually part of an urban planning board or governmental agency that must take into account the characteristics and long-range welfare of the people of a particular urban community—their employment opportunities, income levels, need for transportation, schools, shopping areas, hospitals, parks and recreational facilities. They must face the problems of traffic, congestion, and pollution; they must also consider the availability of police, fire, and sanitation services, the limitations posed by zoning and other regulations, and the problems of funding. In recent years, residents of many communities have demanded greater participation in the planning of their own neighborhoods, and some planners have worked closely with community groups during various stages of the planning process.

Contemporary examples of planned cities include Brasília, the federal capital of Brazil, Rotterdam, main seaport of the Netherlands, Chandigarh, the joint capital of the Indian states of Haryana and Punjab, Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

Bibliography

See J. Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961, repr. 1969); L. Mumford, The City in History (1961, repr. 1966); F. Gibberd, Town Design (5th ed. 1967); W. H. Whyte, The Last Landscape (1968); H. Colman, City Planning (1971); G. E. Cherry, ed., Shaping an Urban World (1980); A. Sutcliffe, Toward the Planned City (1981); V. M. Lampugnani, Architecture and City Planning (1985).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society
Michael A. Burayidi.
Praeger Publishers, 2000
Handbook of Research on Urban Politics and Policy in the United States
Ronald K. Vogel.
Greenwood Press, 1997
The Urban Millennium: The City-Building Process from the Early Middle Ages to the Present
Josef W. Konvitz.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1985
City Planning in America: Between Promise and Despair
Mary Hommann.
Praeger Publishers, 1993
The Wealth of Cities: Revitalizing the Centers of American Life
John O. Norquist.
Perseus Books Group, 1998
Intown Living: A Different American Dream
Ann Breen; Dick Rigby.
Praeger, 2004
The Crisis of America's Cities
Randall Bartlett.
M. E. Sharpe, 1998
Urban Planning and Real Estate Development
John Ratcliffe; Michael Stubbs.
UCL Press, 1996
Cultural Planning, An Urban Renaissance?
Graeme Evans.
Routledge, 2001
The Dependent City Revisited: The Political Economy of Urban Development and Social Policy
Paul Kantor.
Westview Press, 1995
City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls
Gerald E. Frug.
Princeton University Press, 1999
Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival
Paul S. Grogan; Tony Proscio.
Westview Press, 2000
Independent Cities: Rethinking U.S. Urban Policy
Robert J. Waste.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator