City Planning

views updated Jun 08 2018


CITY PLANNING. In early modern Europe city planning was not a profession, as it is today, but a function of public administration and the emerging profession of architecture. Plans for new cities, extensions, and redevelopment were made by monarchs, bureaucrats, municipal authorities, architects, military engineers, and amateurs. From the mid-fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries, the broad trend in the theory of city planning was increased understanding of cities as complex systems of interrelated elements having to do with public utility and beautification.

Planning was informed by practices established in the Middle Ages and memories of ancient Rome. The medieval legacy included municipal building regulations and a repertoire of urban design techniques and features, among which were plans based on grids, such as the bastides of France and Spain, and symbolically charged public spaces, such as the Piazza del Campo in Siena. Popes, such as Alexander VII (reigned 16551667); kings, such as Louis XIV (ruled 16431715); and even the governments of the French Revolution regarded imperial Rome as the supreme model for public administration and urban grandeur and vied to meet the standard of magnificence suggested by ancient ruins and descriptions in Roman literature.

Medieval rulers and artisans involved in planning cities drew on a variety of texts, including the treatise on architecture by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius (first century b.c.e.), but they did not write systematically on the subject. This task was taken up in the fifteenth century by Italian authors, who, reinterpreting Vitruvius, addressed urban design within comprehensive treatises on architecture. Influential in this respect were Leon Battista Alberti (14041472), Filarete (Antonio di Pietro Averlino, c. 1400c.1469), and Francesco di Giorgio Martini (14391502). They posited ideal cities shaped by theories of fortification, social order, and geometry. In their view, urban design was to follow the same compositional principles of hierarchy, symmetry, and regularity that governed architecture. Diagrammatically, the ideal city was contained within walls forming a regular polygon. The street pattern was regular and could be a grid or a radial system. A public square with buildings housing secular and religious authority occupied the center. For over two hundred years, this model served for the planning of military garrison towns such as Palmanova, Italy (1593), and Neuf-Brisach, France (1698). In a few instances, such as Charleville (1608) in France and Zamość (c. 1579) in Poland, local princes adopted the model as an expression of prestige and cultural attainment.

The theoretical treatment of city planning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries generally followed themes established earlier, but thinking about planning was hardly stagnant. Developments can be seen best in building regulations. Among the more notable legislative achievements were the Spanish Laws of the Indies, promulgated in 1573, which included many provisions addressing city planning in the New World; the Rebuilding Acts of 1667 and 1670 for the reconstruction of London after the Great Fire (1666); and the regulations governing the construction of St. Petersburg, issued from 1714 to 1737. The London ordinances, for example, addressed building materials and construction techniques, street widths, and standardized house types.

Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, several new attitudes transformed city planning theory. Military engineering was increasingly regarded as a discrete profession, and the links between fortifications and urban design loosened. Authors such as the French architect Pierre Patte (17231814) promoted the creation of master plans that addressed traffic circulation, sewage, and street lighting among other functional and aesthetic concerns. In some settings, questions regarding city planning became matters of public debate. In Paris in 1748, the decision to create a square honoring Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) prompted an informal competition attracting amateurs as well as professionals. Other indications of increased public interest are books and pamphlets advocating the adoption of specific plans, such as John Gwynn's (17131786) proposal for London, published in 1766.

Urban populations increased significantly in early modern Europe, but most of the growth was in existing cities. New cities were founded as instruments of specific state policies. In addition to garrison cities, specialized types included seaports (Livorno, Italy, 1576), cities supporting princely palaces (Versailles, France, 1660s1680s), and manufacturing centers (Perm, Russia, 1723). In the second half of the eighteenth century, some designers, among them the French architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (17361806), regarded such foundations as opportunities for social as well as physical planning. New cities typically were modest in scope. An exception was St. Petersburg (fortress begun 1703), which Peter the Great (ruled 16821725) envisioned as a full-fledged capital rivaling Amsterdam, London, and Paris.

City planning throughout early modern Europe primarily addressed the extension, redevelopment, and reconstruction of existing cities. The primary compositional elements of urban design were gridiron and radial street patterns, public squares, and broad, straight streets aligned with architectural monuments and framed, ideally, by buildings with uniform facades. These elements were refined in Italy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, noted by travelers, and depicted in engravings and paintings. In Rome, influential examples included the improved streets linking major Christian monuments and the public squares designed by Michelangelo on the Capitoline Hill (begun 1538) and Gian Lorenzo Bernini at St. Peter's (1656). Among other celebrated works were Piazza San Marco in Venice (improvements begun 1537) and the extensions of Turin realized throughout the seventeenth century.

The crowded centers of medieval cities were enticing targets for redevelopment, but the high cost of land acquisition limited the scale of most projects. Disasters offered extraordinary opportunities for transformation, as was the case in Lisbon following the earthquake of 1755. In many instances, however, major changes to the street plan could not be implemented. Ambitious new plans by Christopher Wren (16321723) and others for London after the Great Fire were put aside in order to simplify reconstruction. Extensions offered the most frequent opportunity for planning. Their scope varied from piecemeal additions (eighteenth-century Berlin) to single plans more than doubling a city's land area (Nancy, France, 1588), and various combinations of speculative and governmental interests drove them. Among the most spectacular examples are the extensions to London and Bath, England, realized by developers throughout the eighteenth century. A distinctive feature of their work was the use of squares, often containing a private park, framed by row houses embellished to a greater or lesser extent by classical details in accordance with the wealth of the intended occupants.

See also Architecture ; Bernini, Gian Lorenzo ; Britain, Architecture in ; Cities and Urban Life ; Classicism ; France, Architecture in ; Ledoux, Claude-Nicolas ; London ; Paris ; Peter I (Russia) ; Rome, Architecture in ; Russia, Architecture in ; St. Petersburg ; Venice, Architecture in ; Versailles ; Wren, Christopher .


Primary Sources

Alberti, Leon Battista. On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Translated by Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor. Cambridge, Mass., 1988. Translation of De Re Aedificatoria, c. 1450.

Filarete (Antonio di Pietro Averlino). Treatise on Architecture. Translated by John R. Spencer. 2 vols. New Haven, 1965. Original, untitled manuscript dates from c. 1461.

Gwynn, John. London and Westminster Improved. Farnborough, U.K., 1969. Originally published in 1766.

Martini, Francesco di Giorgio. Trattato di architettura, ingegneria ed arte militare. Edited by Corrado Maltese. 2 vols. Milan, 1967. Original manuscripts date from 14751476 and c. 14821492.

Patte, Pierre. Mémoires sur les objets les plus importants de l'architecture. Paris, 1769.

. Monuments érigés en France à la gloire de Louis XV. Paris, 1765.

Vitruvius Pollio. Vitruvius: Ten Books on Architecture. Translated and edited by Ingrid D. Rowland and Thomas Noble Howe. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1999. Translation of De architectura.

Secondary Sources

Girouard, Mark. Cities and People: A Social and Architectural History. New Haven, 1985.

Harouel, Jean-Louis. L'embellissement des villes: L'urbanisme français au XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1993.

Hohenberg, Paul M., and Lynn Hollen Lees. The Making of Urban Europe, 10001950. Cambridge, Mass., 1985.

Kostof, Spiro. The City Assembled: The Elements of Urban Form through History. London, 1992.

. The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings through History. London, 1991.

Morris, A. E. J. History of Urban Form: Before the Industrial Revolutions. 2nd ed. New York, 1994.

Richard Cleary

City Planning

views updated May 08 2018


CITY PLANNING. Communities in the United States have planned their development since the early European settlements. City planning has been a profession since the early twentieth century. Its development has been marked by an ongoing contrast or tension between "open-ended" plans intended to encourage and accommodate growth and the less common "closed" plans for towns serving specific limited populations, such as religious utopias, company towns, and exclusive suburbs.

Colonial Squares

The first towns on the Atlantic coast, such as Jamestown, Boston, and New Amsterdam, grew by accretion, rather than systematic design. Yet conscious town planning appeared as early as 1638 with New Haven, Connecticut. Nine large squares were arranged in rows of three, with the central square serving as the town common or green. This tree-shaded community park, preserved as part of the Yale University campus, became a distinctive feature of many colonial New England town plans.

In contrast to the open green of New England towns, the architectural square characterized the courthouse towns of Virginia, which had a smaller green square closely surrounded by private residences, shops, courthouse, and often churches. Versions of these Chesapeake and New England plans reappeared in the nineteenth century as the courthouse square or town square in new communities west of the Appalachians.

William Penn's and Thomas Holme's plan for Philadelphia, laid out in 1682, was a systematic application of the gridiron pattern, with regular blocks and straight streets crossing at right angles. Four public greens, in addition to a central square to serve as a civic center, sought to make Philadelphia a "green country town." Extended from the Delaware to the Schuylkill River, the plan also gave the new settlement room for future growth.

Spanish settlements on the northern frontier of Mexico were guided by the Laws of the Indies (1573), a royal proclamation that prescribed the layout of new towns. The essential elements were a central square within a grid and public institutions situated around the square. The influence of Spanish rectilinear planning could be seen in frontier towns such as Santa Fe, San Antonio, and Los Angeles. Similar planning principles were apparent in the layout of the eighteenth-century French colonial city of New Orleans.

Baroque Influences

New capital cities in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries began to show the influence of European baroque plans, such as Christopher Wren's plan for rebuilding London after the fire of 1666. Such plans incorporated axes, radials, diagonals, and squares. The plan for Annapolis, Maryland, prepared by Francis Nicholson in 1694, was the first to incorporate diagonal avenues and circles. Williamsburg, Virginia's, major axis, cross axis, and squares reflected many renaissance European plans for cities and parks, designed for displaying palaces and public buildings. Savannah's plan, prepared by James Oglethorpe in 1733, was similar to Philadelphia's gridiron pattern, but with a more liberal introduction of residential squares.

The climax of such plans was Pierre L'Enfant's design for the new federal city of Washington in 1791. Working on a grand scale, L'Enfant identified high points for the presidential residence and houses of Congress, and inter-laced the landscape with broad diagonal boulevards and circles. Derided as "city of magnificent distances," Washington took a century to grow into its framework.

Gridded for Growth: The Nineteenth Century

Philadelphia and New York set the standard for nineteenth-century planning. New York's maze of early streets was first extended by several gridded subdivisions and then, in 1811, by the decision to plat the entire island of Manhattan with a rectilinear set of north-south avenues and east-west streets. The plan converted every piece of ground into an instantly identifiable piece of real estate. Philadelphia's grid, also capable of repeated expansion, set the tone for many Middle Western cities, which even copied its custom of naming streets after trees.

Rectilinear town plans west of the Appalachians had the same function as the national land survey system. Grids gave every lot and parcel a set of coordinates and made it possible to trade real estate at a distance. Town promoters staked out grids at promising locations in the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri river valleys, in the Gulf States, and along the Great Lakes; they then waited for residents to pour in. Rival promoters often laid out competing grids that abutted but did not coincide, leaving sets of odd-angled corners in downtown Milwaukee, Denver, Seattle, and other cities.

Midcontinent railways with federal land grants made town planning into an integral part of railroad building. The Illinois Central Railroad in the 1850s developed a standard plan and laid out dozens of towns along its route. Later railroads did the same across the broad prairies of Minnesota, the Dakotas, and points west.

Closed Communities

The standard gridded town was designed to be open to all potential residents and investors. Other communities, however, were planned for specified populations. Over the course of the nineteenth century, dozens of secular and religious utopias dotted the American landscape. They were usually located in rural and frontier districts and sometimes were self-consciously designed to promote equality or isolation. By far the most successful were the Mormon settlements of Utah. Building and then abandoning the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, because of fierce local opposition, the Mormons moved to Utah in 1847. Salt Lake City and smaller Mormon towns built throughout the territory in the 1850s and 1860s adapted the rectilinear plan to the scale of the Wasatch mountains to the west and laid out large blocks with large lots for in-town agriculture, reflecting Mormon beliefs in self-sufficiency.

The nineteenth century also brought new factory towns. The best tried to offer a good physical environment for their workers, while still reproducing the social hierarchy of industrial capitalism. Lowell, Massachusetts, was a notable early example, a town developed in the 1820s and 1830s to utilize waterpower for a new textile industry. Factory buildings were flanked by dormitories for unmarried female workers and then by single family housing for other workers and managers.

The entire town of Pullman, Illinois, was planned and constructed for Pullman Company employees in the 1880s. It attracted favorable attention for its carefully planned layout of public buildings, parks, and substantial homes whose different sizes reflected the status of managers and workers. A bitter strike in 1894 demonstrated the difficulties of combining the roles of employer and landlord, while trying to preserve a sense of community. The collapse of the Pullman experiment discouraged further efforts to build fully owned company towns. Instead, corporations that needed to house large numbers of workers in the early twentieth century laid out new communities and then sold the land to private owners and builders, as in Gary, Indiana; Kingsport, Tennessee; and Longview, Washington.

Suburban Planning

Cities grew both upward and outward in the second half of the nineteenth century. Tall buildings, products of steel construction and the elevator, turned the old low-rise downtown into central business districts with concentrations of office buildings, department stores, theaters, and banks. Improvements in urban mass transit fed workers and customers to the new downtowns and allowed rapid

fringe expansion along the main transportation routes. The new neighborhoods ranged from tracts of small "workingmen's cottages" and cheap row housing to elegantly landscaped "dormitory" suburbs for the upper crust.

The most common form of development was the "streetcar suburbs." These were usually subdivisions laid out as extensions of the city grid. The developer sold lots to individual owners or small builders. These neighborhoods were often protected by restrictive covenants in deeds that set minimum house values, prohibited commercial activities, and excluded African Americans or Asians. The U.S. Supreme Court declared such covenants unenforceable in Shelley v. Kramer (1948).

Romantic suburbs drew on the developing tradition of park planning associated with Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park (Manhattan), Prospect Park (Brooklyn, New York), Mount Royal Park (Montreal), and many others. Olmsted saw parks as a way to incorporate access to nature within the large city and therefore preferred large landscaped preserves to small playgrounds. Parks functioned as "the lungs of the city" and gave the urban population access to nature.

The development that established the model for the suburbs was Riverside, outside Chicago. Designed by Olmsted in 1869, it offered large lots, curving streets, park space, and a commercial core around a commuter rail station. The exclusive residential development or suburb, with tasteful provision of retail facilities, schools, and churches, flourished in the late nineteenth century (for example, Chestnut Hill and the "Main Line" suburbs of Philadelphia) and the early twentieth century (for example, Shaker Heights near Cleveland, Mariemont near Cincinnati, and the Country Club District of Kansas City).

In the early twentieth century, Britain's Ebenezer Howard had a substantial influence on suburban planning. Howard's ideas for a self-contained "garden city" as an alternative to overcrowded London inspired Forest Hills Gardens, built in New York City in 1913 by the Russell Sage Foundation as a demonstration community, and several federally sponsored communities for defense workers during World War I in cities such as Camden, New Jersey, and Newport News, Virginia.

In 1927, Henry Wright and Clarence Stein planned America's first garden city, Radburn, New Jersey, the "Town for the Motor Age." The plan utilized superblocks, a large residential planning unit free from vehicular encroachment, providing uninterrupted pedestrian access from every building to a large recreation area within the center and pedestrian underpasses at major arteries. During the depression of the 1930s the Resettlement Administration applied the planning principles of Radburn to the design of three new "greenbelt" towns—Greenhills near Cincinnati, Greendale near Milwaukee, and Greenbelt, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.

City Beautiful Movement and Professional Planning

In 1893 the magnificent spectacle of the classic Court of Honor, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, catalyzed the City Beautiful movement, an enthusiastic revival of civic design and grand planning. Cities throughout the nation inspired by this movement appointed special civic art commissions—forerunners of today's planning commissions—to carry out vast self-improvement projects that yielded scores of civic and cultural centers, tree-lined avenues, and waterfront improvements. L'Enfant's partially effectuated plan for Washington, dormant since the Civil War, was reactivated in 1902. The planning of the City Beautiful movement was concerned with promoting civic beauty, efficient transportation, and regional systems such as parks.

In the midst of the wave of civic improvement generated by the Columbian Exposition, Hartford, Connecticut, established the first city planning commission in 1907. City and village planning laws were passed in Wisconsin in 1909 and in New York and Massachusetts in 1913. These laws officially recognized planning as a proper function of municipal government. Most of the other states enacted similar enabling legislation in the 1920s and 1930s.

The legal framework for modern city planning practice began with the zoning ordinance, based on the police power to control land use in order to balance the interests of the individual and the community. New York City in 1916 adopted the first comprehensive zoning ordinance. The classic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of municipal zoning was handed down in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company in 1926. Efforts to use zoning to enforce racial segregation failed in the courts. The growing number of abuses in zoning and the lack of direction in its application caused the courts to insist on an accompanying comprehensive master plan for future land use to provide guidelines for zoning. This gradually resulted in the general acceptance during the 1920s and 1930s of the master plan as the official document showing the pattern of development for the community. Along with this came state legislation authorizing planning commissions to prepare and help administer master plans and to control land subdivision. The drafting and adoption of such state laws was greatly facilitated by the Standard City Planning Enabling Act, promulgated by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

With the development of zoning, city planning diverged as a profession from related fields of activity with an interest in urban social and physical problems. It developed an identity distinct from that of civil engineers, social workers, and housing reformers and was led by a number of consultants with national practices such as John Nolen and Harland Bartholomew. Planning practitioners

organized as the American City Planning Institute (forerunner to the American Institute of Planners) in 1917. The American Society of Planning Officials (1934) served the needs of lay members of planning commissions and their staffs.

Federal Involvement

During the Great Depression, the federal government took a central role in the production of new housing. The National Housing Act of 1934 created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to act as a housing mortgage insurance agency to bring adequate funds into housing construction and there by to create new employment opportunities as a boost to the domestic economy. The National Housing Act of 1937 authorized loans and annual operating subsidies to local housing authorities for slum clearance and for construction and operation of public housing for low-income families, bypassing constitutional restrictions on direct federal construction of housing. The Veterans Administration mortgage guarantee program after World War II augmented the FHA.

The National Housing Act of 1949 authorized new and substantial federal assistance to cities for slum clearance and urban redevelopment, a program broadened greatly through the Housing Act of 1954, to become known as urban renewal. The 1954 act gave direct assistance to smaller municipalities to undertake comprehensive planning and authorized loans and grants for metropolitan and regional planning. The Workable Program for Community Improvement, another feature of the 1954 act, required annual recertification of comprehensive master plans in order for cities to continue to be eligible for the various federal funds authorized by the act. The achievement of racial, social, and economic mix constituted a requirement for city eligibility to receive federal funds, but one often ignored in actual implementation.

The establishment in 1965 of the cabinet-level Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was the culmination of federal government concern about the growing importance of housing, inner-city deterioration, and urban sprawl. The Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966 provided for grants to 147 selected "model cities," to concentrate funds from various government agencies for all forms of urban improvement on specified target neighborhoods. This crash program designed to create model neighborhoods never really had an opportunity to prove its worth because of changes in program objectives and funding priorities during the administration of President Richard Nixon.

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 effected an important change in the federal funding of community development programs. Existing "categorical" grants for various types of community improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, open space, urban renewal, and model cities, were consolidated into a single program of community-development "block" grants giving localities greater control over how the money was spent, within broad guidelines. These funds have since been distributed to various cities according to a formula based on population, poverty, and degree of overcrowding.

New Towns

Private developments of planned residential communities, notably for retired persons on fixed incomes, proliferated during the 1960s, mostly in the southeastern and southwestern United States. Communities with such names as Leisure World, Leisure Village, and Sun City came to dot the countryside, particularly in Arizona and California. Notable among the more ambitious planned communities of the 1960s were the new towns of Reston, Virginia; Columbia, Maryland; and Irvine, California—three pioneering communities financed with private capital and having target populations of 75,000, 125,000, and 450,000.

The New Communities Act of 1968 and the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1970 authorized for the first time the development of new towns in America through a federal program of guaranteed obligations to private developers to help finance the building of new communities in their entirety. Although more than a dozen new towns were begun under these programs, only a few, including The Woodlands, Texas, were successfully completed.

In the 1990s, many planners adopted the goals of the "new urbanism" or "neotraditional" planning as advocated by architects Peter Calthorpe and Andres Duany. New urbanists attempt to build new communities that are compact, walkable, and focused on community centers, reducing automobile dependence and reproducing many of the best features of early-twentieth-century neighborhoods and suburbs.

The Planning Profession

In the last three decades of the twentieth century, the American urban planning profession assumed new roles in the fields of environmental planning and protection; community-based housing and economic development; and the implementation of regional and statewide programs for the management of metropolitan growth. City planners in America were engaged in five major areas of activity: (1) preparation, revision, and implementation of comprehensive master plans, zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, and capital-improvement programs; (2) review of environmental impacts of contemplated development and initiation of policies and courses of action to protect and preserve the natural environment; (3) urban redevelopment planning in older communities for rehabilitation of salvageable sections and conservation of neighborhoods of good quality; (4) quantitative modeling of transportation demand and land use patterns, often with the technology of Geographic Information Systems; (5) implementation of state and regional growth management programs.

This latter activity has seen substantial institutional innovation since the 1970s. In 1973, Oregon adopted a law requiring all cities and counties to plan according to statewide goals, including the adoption of urban growth boundaries around each city. Several other states followed with a variety of state growth management programs, notably Florida, Georgia, Washington, and Maryland.

American city planning is a well-developed profession, sustained by graduate and undergraduate programs. The American Planning Association formed in 1978 from the merger of the American Institute of Planners and the American Society of Planning Officials. Its membership in 2001 was roughly 30,000. Two-thirds of the members worked in state and local government, with the remainder in nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, universities, and consulting firms. The American Institute of Certified Planners provides additional professional credentials by examination.


Abbott, Carl. Portland: Planning, Politics, and Urban Growth in a Twentieth-Century City. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

Buder, Stanley. Visionaries and Planners: The Garden City Movement and Modern Community. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Fishman, Robert. Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebeneezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier. New York: Basic Books, 1977.

Fishman, Robert, ed. The American Planning Tradition: Culture and Policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Gilbert, James. Perfect Cities: Chicago's Utopias of 1893. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Hise, Greg. Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Reps, John W. Cities of the American West: A History of Frontier Urban Planning. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979.

Rodwin, Lloyd, and Bishwapriya Sanyal, eds. The City Planning Profession: Changes, Images and Challenges: 1950–2000. New Brunswick, N.J.: Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University, 2000.

Schultz, Stanley. Constructing Urban Culture: American Cities and City Planning, 1800–1920. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.

Schuyler, David. The New Urban Landscape: Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Scott, Mel. American City Planning since 1890. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

Silver, Christopher. Twentieth Century Richmond: Planning, Politics and Race. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

Silver, Christopher, and Mary Corbin Sies, eds. Planning the Twentieth Century American City. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Wilson, William H. The City Beautiful Movement. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.


Harry AntoniadesAnthony

See alsoSuburbanization ; Tenements ; Urban Redevelopment ; Urbanization ; Zoning Ordinances .

City Beautiful: The Rise of Urban Planning

views updated May 23 2018

City Beautiful: The Rise of Urban Planning


A Changing Balance. At the start of the Civil War only one out of twelve Americans lived in a city of more than one hundred thousand inhabitants. By the start of the 1880s that figure stood at one in eight; by the turn of the century one in five. More American cities were big cities, and more Americansmany of them immigrantscalled these cities home. Two-thirds of New England townships declined in population during the 1880s, even as the population of the region swelled by 20 percent. Similar demographics applied in the Midwest, as immigrants (from small towns, rural areas, and foreign lands) swelled urban populations. As cities expanded, so too did the communication, transportation, and economic channels connecting the metropolis to hinterland. It was the rare individual in the late nineteenth century whose way of life was not touched in some way by urbanization.

The Other Half. The depressions (or panics) of the 1870s and 1890s devastated rural populations, as failures of railroads severely hampered the farmers ability to get their crops to market. Still, no matter how shaky their financial status, residents of the small town and the countryside enjoyed one advantage over city dwellers: the relief of open space. While investigating urban living conditions, Danish-born journalist Jacob Riis (1849-1914) counted 522 people living in one acre in the Bowery district of New York City. Small roomsmeasuring just thirteen feet squarehoused as many as a dozen lodgers. Riiss epochal study of city life, How the Other Half Lives (1890), located a netherworld of poverty within walking distance of the poshest New York neighborhoods. Using photographs and text, Riis depicted an urban hell and entered a plea for urban reform. In many respects, Riis was a precursor of the muckrakers who transformed American journalism during the early years of the twentieth century. Riis considered it a journalists duty to educate the public and to stimulate reaction and reform. Long ago it was said that one half of the world does not know how the other half lives, Riis noted. It did not know because it did not care. . . . Information on the subject has been accumulating rapidly since, and the whole world has had its hands full answering for its own ignorance. The essential optimism of Riiss vision dovetailed with that of the city planners who set out to remodel the American city in the 1890s.

Making the Cities Beautiful. Late-nineteenth-century reformers workedwith varying degrees of successto revise tenement laws, construct affordable and sanitary housing, provide cultural and recreational opportunities for the poor, and eliminate graft from municipal government. Many reformers and social workers were associated with the settlement-house movement: residents of Hull House in Chicago or the Henry Street Settlement in New York lived by choice in povertystricken neighborhoods, the better to form meaningful bonds with the populations they intended to aid. While reformers worked through political and philanthropic channels, urban planners approached the question of urban renewal from an aesthetic perspective. Calibrating the salutary effect of urban oases (whether a park, a museum, or a railroad station) on urban dwellers, these landscape architects set out to transform the built environment.

Olmsteds Vision. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), arguably the most influential urban planner in the United States, worked to turn American cities green. European cities, Olmsted noted, gracefully integrated parks, grand avenues, and residential neighborhoods. American cities, on the other hand, had been built up, block by block, by profit-hungry developers. Olmsted believed that open spacescarce in American citiescould be an antidote to the pressures of urban existence. Public parks, he proclaimed in 1870, represented the greatest possible contrast with the restraining and confining conditions of the town, which compel us to walk circumspectly, watchfully, jealously, which compel us to look closely upon others without sympathy. Along with Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) Olmsted designed the gardens, ponds, meadows, and pathways that coalesced into New Yorks Central Park in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1893 he designed a fairyland of lagoons, squares, and boulevards for the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago. During the same decade Olmsted completed the complex of parks and riverways that became Bostons Emerald Necklace. The joggers, dog walkers, and rollerbladers who throng Central Park or Bostons Esplanade today validate Olmsteds vision of healthy communal living.

Reclaiming LEnfants Plan. The urban muddle of the late nineteenth century was particularly apparent in the premier planned American city: Washington, D.C. The Washington of the 1890s barely resembled the crisp grid of avenues and parks envisioned by planner Pierre-Charles LEnfant (1754-1825) in the 1790s. The restoration of Washington to a closer approximation of LEnfants vision represents the crowning accomplishment of the City Beautiful movement in America. Daniel Burnhamhead architect of the Worlds Columbian Expositionserved on a Senate Park Commission charged with resuscitating the nations capital. From 1901 to 1908 Burnham oversaw the construction of monumental buildings along the major axes of the city, the sprucing up of the Mall, and the clearing of parkland along the Potomac. By the early twentieth century Washington had been transformed into a national showpiece. Burnhams theory of urban renewalsketched out in later, largely unimplemented plans for San Francisco, Cleveland, and Chicagoemphasized the classical, the monumentai, the orderly, and the beautiful. Yet his concept of the City Beautiful largely ignored the commercial vitality and (often healthy) disorder of the Modern metropolis. American cities, from the late nineteenth century to the present, have stood witness to the ongoing interplay of chaos and order.


Charles E. Beveridge, Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape (New York: Rizzoli, 1995);

Thomas S. Hines, Burnham of Chicago, Architect and Planner (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974);

Vincent Scully, American Architecture and Urbanism, revised edition (New York: Holt, 1988);

William H. Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989).

City Planning

views updated May 17 2018

City Planning

Cities were first established when nomadic people settled around food sources, religious sites, or waterways. Early people soon began to design the arrangement of personal dwellings, religious buildings, food stores, and government centers within their communities along trade routes that linked cities. In the fifth century b.c.e., the "Father of Town Planning," Greek architect Hippodamus of Miletus, designed towns in a geometric pattern that was not only functional but also had aesthetic balance. Likewise, the Romans arranged residences, temples, and forums in a symmetrical design.

City planning declined after the fall of the Roman Empire only to reemerge during the Renaissance with a revival of Greco-Roman styles. During this time, the popular design for cities featured concentric circles radiating out from a central point with straight streets connecting the circles, like spokes of a wheel. European cities such as Venice (Italy), London (England), and Mannheim

(Germany) featured this design with wide streets surrounding a public square or government building. A famous example of this circumferential pattern is the extensive redesign of Paris by Baron George Eugène Haussmann in 1848. In addition to aesthetics, Haussmann took into consideration population density, sanitation, and recreational space.

In the New World, some cities, specifically New York, were designed in a grid or block pattern which allowed for easy expansion. However, during the Industrial Revolution , this design led to overcrowding, congestion, and a shortage of resources. City planners realized they needed to consider population growth, economics, income opportunities, environmental impact, and transportation when designing a city. With the establishment of municipal planning commissions, zoning ordinances, and subdivision regulations, city planning became standardized.

Perhaps the most important factor in city planning is predicting population growth. The population of a city will determine its need for housing, resources such as food and utilities, jobs, schools, hospitals, fire protection, social services and entertainment. Population trends are based on census data, comparisons with other cities' census data, municipal registrations, statistical models, and current demographics . Variables used in equations to predict population growth include birth and death rates, surviving birth rates, migration out of or into a city, education level and economic level. The current age of a city's population is important to know, because young couples are likely to have children who in turn will need schools, whereas a city with mostly retirees may need more healthcare facilities. To avoid overcrowding and dwindling resources, city planners must assess their city's ability to accommodate a severe influx of new residents or businesses.

Neighborhood density, or population per square mile, is also a concern. Land area density is based on the design of residential dwelling and the square footage needed per family. Single family dwellings typically house the fewest people. Duplexes, condominiums, tenements, apartment complexes, and high-rise apartment buildings house considerably more. The greater the population density, the greater the need for grocery stores, shoping centers, gas stations, and so on, to accommodate residents. The number of schools an area needs is based on the population of couples at childbearing age. The number of hospitals needed is calculated based on the projected number of patient days per thousand residents. Fire protection and water supply are also based on population.

When preparing new land to be developed, the city planner consults a variety of maps. Land surveys and topography maps denote the elevation and features of the land to scale, whether it is fields, hills, valleys, floodplains, or mountains. An areagraph measures areas in acres on a scale. A hydrograph shows characteristics of water sources. City planners need to calculate a density versus acres proportion to determine how much land should be used for residential, business, and public facilities.

Depending on land use regulations, planners decide on the orientation of buildings, parking spaces, and streets. Houses can be arranged perpendicular, adjacent, or parallel to streets. The Sun's orientation throughout the day, based on geographic latitude , helps the planner determine shade areas and wind direction. In addition, knowing the incline of the land is important for proper drainage and installation of driveways.

The location and size of city streets are determined by traffic flow during peak hours. Planners consult highway capacity tables to determine the width of streets, percentage distribution of cars leaving the city versus entering, use of public transportation, residential and business traffic, available parking, and traffic light schedules. Pedestrian traffic on sidewalks and the percentage of the street used by pedestrians and bicycles are also estimated to avoid congestion.

When deciding where buildings should be located, the planner calculates the maximum distance of facilities in a radius around the residents. Churches and schools are typically within walking distance from residents. Major shopping outlets and hospitals are located on the outskirts of town. Industrial facilities are usually on the periphery of a community due to their freight access, noise level, and environmental safety aspect.

City planners also need to know the real estate appraisal of the land they are developing. If the property is already owned, the planners need to offer the owners a fair price. If planners are developing vacant land, they will want to know the value of the new structure they are building. Retail districts, residential, and industrial land each have varying values. Appraisals are based on market value, cost approach, or anticipated income value of the land.

Another concern in city planning is the character and reputation of the city. Abundant trees and sunlight, social events, shops, and cultural institutions make a city attractive to tourists and visitors. A city with few social services, inadequate sanitation, no community events, many homeless people, and tall skyscrapers that block out light may not be as attractive.

The future of city planning will depend on new technologies to more accurately predict population changes, economic development, and improvements in transportation and public administration.

see also Census; Population Mathematics.

Lorraine Savage


Cosgrove, Holli R., ed. Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, Vol. 4, 11th ed. Chicago: Ferguson Publishing Co., 2000.

DeChiara, Joseph, and Lee Koppelman. Planning Design Criteria. New York: Litton Educational Publishing. 1969.

Whyte, William H. City: Rediscovering the Center. New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1988.


The term "comet" comes from the Greek word kome, which means "hair." As a comet nears the Sun, it warms up and partially evaporates. The evaporated material then streams away from the Sun, and resembles long strands of hair.

City Manager Plan

views updated May 29 2018


CITY MANAGER PLAN, a scheme of government that assigns responsibility for municipal administration to a nonpartisan manager chosen by the city council because of his or her administrative expertise. In 1908, Staunton, Virginia, appointed the first city manager. The figure most responsible for the early promotion of the plan, however, was a wealthy young progressive reformer from New York City, Richard Childs. In 1910, he drafted a model manager charter for Lockport, New York, and embarked on a crusade to spread the gospel of manager rule.

With its emphasis on efficiency and expertise, the plan won an enthusiastic following among Progressive Era Americans. Proponents argued that cities, like business corporations, should be run by professional managers. Like corporate boards of directors, city councils should fix basic policy and hire the manager, but an expert needed to be in charge of the actual operation of the city. In 1913, Dayton, Ohio, became the first major city to adopt the scheme, and the following year, eight managers gathered in Springfield, Ohio, to form the City Managers' Association. In 1915, the National Municipal League incorporated the manager plan in its Model Charter, and, henceforth, good-government reformers and academics acclaimed it the preferred form of municipal rule. By 1923, 251 cities had adopted the plan, and fifteen years later the figure was up to 451.

The American City Bureau of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined the National Municipal League and Richard Childs in the promotion of manager rule. Because of the bureau's backing and the plan's supposed resemblance to the operation of a business corporation, manager rule especially appealed to business interests, who in one city after another boosted the reform. Although the nation's largest cities did not embrace the plan, such major municipalities as Cincinnati, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Toledo, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; and San Diego, California, did hire city managers.

The reality of manager government, however, did not always conform to the plan's ideal. Many of the early managers were engineers with expertise in the planning and administration of public works, but others were local political figures. For example, the first city manager of Kansas City was a member of Boss Tom Pendergast's corrupt political organization. Moreover, in some cities clashes with council members produced a high turnover rate among managers. According to proponents of the plan, the manager was supposed to administer, and the council was supposed to make policy. But this sharp distinction between administration and policymaking was unrealistic. Managers both formulated and implemented policies, and conflicts with council members resulted. Although the manager was expected to be above the political fray, this often proved impossible.

The plan, however, remained popular, and council members learned to defer to the manager's judgment. During the second half of the twentieth century, hundreds of additional municipalities adopted the manager plan, and by the close of the century, council-manager government had surpassed mayor-council rule as the most common form of municipal organization in the United States.


Stillman, Richard J., II. The Rise of the City Manager: A Public Professional in Local Government. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974.

Stone, Harold A., Don K. Price, and Kathryn H. Stone. City Manager Government in the United States: A Review after Twenty-five Years. Chicago: Public Administration Service, 1940.

Jon C.Teaford

See alsoChambers of Commerce ; City Councils ; Municipal Government .

City Planning

views updated May 18 2018


City planning methods in colonial and post-Revolutionary America followed the European-inspired grid pattern of streets bisecting at right angles, a form made popular by William Penn in his pre-packaged city layout for Philadelphia in 1682. Most colonial cities of the era followed Penn's plan. A standard set by this style was the creation of parklike spaces designed for public recreation and, occasionally, marketplaces.

Savannah, Georgia, is considered a remarkable example of city planning that uses a more aesthetically appealing approach while facilitating traffic flow. Founded in 1733, Savannah was laid out by General James Edward Oglethorpe on a bluff over-looking the Savannah River approximately eighteen miles from the coast. What distinguishes this plan from previous ones is its repeated pattern of connected neighborhoods or wards consisting of picturesque squares amid grid street patterns with public spaces surrounded by private dwellings. The public squares were connected via main avenues laid out east to west from the banks of the Savannah River, with pedestrian and horse-powered traffic moving counterclockwise around each square. This design and the inclusion of Savannah's numerous public squares within its layout gave the city the distinction of having the most open space of any urban plan in colonial America.

The District of Columbia, which became the nation's capital in 1800, initially was one hundred square and swampy miles along the Potomac River donated by Maryland and Virginia. In 1791 Pierre Charles L'Enfant (1754–1825), a former engineer under General Marquis de Lafayette, won the commission to design the federal city in the District of Columbia after entering his plan in a competition. L'Enfant was difficult and short-tempered with the people surrounding him, and he was removed in 1792. Upon leaving, he took his plans along with him.

Following his resignation, Benjamin Banneker (1731–1806) took over the surveying of the capital. Banneker, a talented African American mathematician, astronomer, and surveyor, had assisted L'Enfant. Banneker was able to reproduce most of L'Enfant's plan from memory.

The layout of Washington, D.C., is notable for its network of wide boulevards radiating like spokes from connecting focal points that were the sites of significant public buildings. Open spaces and a grid pattern of streets oriented along the cardinal points of the compass proved an efficient enough plan that it remains the standard by which contemporary proposals for Washington, D.C., land-use changes are considered.

See alsoArchitecture: Public; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C .


Bacon, Edmund N. Design of Cities. Rev. ed. New York: Viking, 1974.

Mullins, Lisa C., ed. Colonial Architecture of the Mid-Atlantic. Harrisburg, Pa.: National Historical Society, 1987.

Savannah Guidelines Steering Committee. Manual for Development in the Savannah Historic District; and Historic District Zoning Ordinance. Savannah, Ga.: Chatham County–Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission, 1997.

Shaun-Marie Newcomer

City Beautiful

views updated May 14 2018

City Beautiful. American movement led by architects, landscape-architects, and others to make cities in the USA as attractive as those in Europe. Stimulated by the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL (1893), the development of metropolitan park systems (e.g. those of Olmsted and Vaux), and the founding of art societies in many cities, it gathered momentum, and, with the unveiling of the plan by Burnham, McKim, and the younger Olmsted for Washington, DC (1901–2), became of national importance. Charles Mulford Robinson (1869–1917) published his Modern Civic Art or the City Made Beautiful in 1903, and he became spokesman for the movement, advising municipalities and tirelessly promoting the cause, which was nothing to do with social reform, but only with beautification in order to enhance prestige and attract wealth. Cass Gilbert designed a new setting for the State Capitol in St Paul, MN (1903–6), and there were many other schemes to improve city centres with Beaux-Arts-inspired boulevards, squares, and buildings (mostly paid for by public subscription). The culmination of the movement was the Plan for Chicago (1906–9) by Burnham and Edward H. Bennett (1874–1954), which proposed radial avenues, ring roads, a complete reorganization of the rail network, an ambitious system of parks and parkways, and a vast and handsome civic centre. By the end of the 1914–18 war most of the protagonists were coming to the ends of their careers, but the movement exercised a powerful effect on American town planning for many years after, until International Modernism killed it stone dead.


Hines (1974);
Reps (1967);
C. Robinson (1903);
Jane Turner (1996);
W. Wilson (1989)

City Planning

views updated May 21 2018


City planning is a process by which the growth and organization of a city is determined by some rational method. Roads, bridges, factories, and homes are built to take best advantage of the environment and provide a high quality of life. Even ancient cities were designed according to some sort of plan, some of which are quite beautiful and take good advantage of their natural resources.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and the United States, planners were concerned with creating monumental plazas, parks, boulevards, and other great public spaces. Paris, France, and Washington, D.C., with their notable plazas and great avenues radiating out from a central point, typified this kind of city planning. In the United States this impetus toward building attractive public areas became known as the City Beautiful Movement.

In the twentieth century, the concept of zoning developed out of a concern for the quality of life of ordinary citizens. Certain districts or zones were set aside for different types of development, with homes in one area, shops in another, and high-rise office buildings in a third. The impetus behind the development of zoning was a desire to shield urban residents from the harmful effects of pollution from factories, which were placed in special industrial districts. Thus, city planning developed into a complex process that involved economic, sociological, and political concerns, among others. Elements as diverse as race relations, traffic flow, noise pollution, and the economic well-being of citizens all play a part in modern city planning.

City Planner

views updated Jun 08 2018

City Planner

City planning involves not only the orientation of buildings and streets in a city but also the economic, social, and population conditions of the community. To develop available land or renovate existing property, city planners must understand architecture, surveying, economics, and even politics, in addition to many other variables.

City planners determine a city's need for buildings and services based on mathematical models that predict an increase in population. Population is calculated using census data, municipal registers (which record births, deaths, migration, marriages, and divorces), and statistical samples of the population as a whole. An expected increase in population will mean a need for more schools, hospitals, and businesses.

Maps and land surveys help the city planner determine where to locate new buildings or parks. A topographic map shows the elevation of the land where fields, valleys, and waterways are located. An areagraph measures areas, in acres, to scale. Depending on a city's land use regulations and zoning codes, the city planner decides where to build residential homes, businesses, and public facilities.

Cities were once laid out in a circular design with a public square or government building in the center and residential homes radiating out around it. Planners today use the same principle, locating residential areas near schools and churches, with shopping, business, and industrial facilities on the periphery of the community. Today, planners must also consider environmental regulations, pollution emissions, and waste disposal.

see also Census; City Planning; Population Mathematics.

Lorraine Savage


Cosgrove, Holli R., ed. Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, Vol. 4, 11th ed. Chicago: Ferguson Publishing Co., 2000.

DeChiara, Joseph, and Lee Koppelman. Planning Design Criteria. New York: Litton Educational Publishing. 1969.

Advocacy planning

views updated Jun 11 2018

Advocacy planning. Term coined by the American planner Paul Davidoff in 1965, meaning architectural design and planning for powerless, inarticulate inner-city groups, notably when resisting destructive schemes by planning authorities, government agencies, or similar bodies. Among its early practitioners were ARCH (Architects' Renewal Committee in Harlem), a group formed by the architect C. Richard Hatch in 1964.


Davidoff (1965);
Lopen (1965)