Urban planning is the discipline of land-use planning that deals with the built-up landscape. Urban planning has a long history - just about back to the first settlements. Over time, and among different cultures, urban planning has had different outcomes, but many ideas have been almost universally accepted. The most radical change from previous centuries of planning came about at the end of the Pan-Global War, and continued until the "modern renaissance" began (c. 1980), at which point, tradition again came to the fore. This article describes the general macro urban planning trends that held sway over many areas of the civilized world, and what things are like now. Modern urban planning not only deals with a city, but with areas - from the smallest district in a town, to a city with its outlying suburbs.
City, town and village definitions
Urban areas are generally meant to be cities and towns. Villages are usually too small, unless they are part of a larger conglomeration. Towns are sometimes called semi-urban areas. Towns very close to cities (that is, within commuting distance) are often called suburbs. Most countries use the following definitions, based on population, to define a settlement:
- City - 100,000 and above
- Mega city - 5,000,000 and above
- Large city - 1,000,000 to 4,999,999
- Small city - 100,000 to 999,999
- Town - 1,000 to 99,999
- Large town - 10,000 to 99,999
- Small town - 1,000 to 9,999
- Village - 999 and below
- Large village - 500 to 999
- Small village - 499 and below
Most communities are planned in the "Transit-Oriented Development", "TOD", or "Node" method. That is, they have a system of public transportaion, with the "nodes" being train stations, trolley stops, or bus stops. Often in large cities, nodes will include stops for multiple train, trolley, and bus lines. Instead of low-density sprawl, serviced only by private cars, there are high density areas connected to other high density areas by mass transit systems.
Transit-Oriented Development Variations
While most cities have one main "city center" or "central business district", others have a few or even many areas of relatively equal importance. New York City has both "downtown" and "midtown", and amazingly, Tokyo has a number of scattered areas - some more than 30 minutes by train from each other - with no real center at all. The "Greater Tokyo Area" is serviced by more than 60 train/subway lines and more than 1200 stations over nearly 3000 km.1
Urban Growth Boundaries
A good percentage of world cities have an "Urban Growth Boundary" (or "UGB"). A UGB limits the amount of land a city takes up by keeping outlying areas natural or agricultural, and making a city densify in its center instead of producing sprawl. This has worked, and this smaller space and greater density has gone hand-in-hand with transit-oriented design, because transit systems can be smaller, while more people can use it. Increased preservation of nature, both just outside the city boundaries, and globally (anywhere that would suffer from the pollution of automobiles and a lack of trees), is one good outcome of UGBs. Also, people in the city have a better sense of community, get more exercise, and have more natural areas to enjoy.
The modern history of urban planning starts in the mid- to late-1800s in New England and other developing societies. During this time, New York City's Central Park was landscaped in the growing city on one hand, and the first "bedroom communities" outside of city centers also came to came to be designed. Parks and retreats had been around for some time, but not to the extent that they seemed to explode onto the scene during this period. Bedroom communities sprang up as a direct result of trams and trains, which made commuting relatively long distances possible. Still, by the early 1900s, even in large cities, these bedroom communities were still usually less than five km away from downtown ... a walkable distance, if need be. They came to consist of gorgeous homes situated in intricately landscaped environments that only the most wealthy of people could afford to live in. Currently, these areas form the beautiful residential rings around downtown areas.
During this period, automobiles came to dominate the landscape. A general decline in architecture also ensued. Things of all kinds were produced more cheaply, and were of lower quality. Around this time, the old rich bedroom communities could no longer prevent the spread of urbanity out into the rural hinterlands. What is worse, the suburbs came to be so spread out that it was impossible for people to walk to get the things they needed for daily life. Furthermore, the density was such that public transit could not generate income - the houses were spread out so much, and people would often need to take a car even to a train station, if they wanted to ride a train. This took place particularly in the large, wealthy countries like those found in Pemhakamik. European, Japanese, and other cities continued to be more high-density, although they also showed some effects.
The 1960s and 1970s were an unstable time in the world. Protests started becoming larger than they had been, in large part because people were coming to be unhappy with their various situations. In the Confederate States of Pemhakamik, Aboriginals and Ethiopians started pressing for an end to discrimination. This, and the influx of minorities into Confederate cities led to "white flight", which exascerbated sprawl. At the same time, the various ill effects of fossil-fuels became more well-known, and deforestation rates were the highest the world had ever seen. Crime rates were also climbing. Many people seemed unhappy with continued suburban developments and became nostalgic about town life, where buildings looked nice and new urban developments seemed to strive towards beauty, instead of merely striving towards profits.
This would all culminate in the "Modern Renaissance", a time when tradition - in the form of buildings, urban planning, and artwork (including animation) - regained the ground it had lost and melded with modern technology. "Tradition and technology", as well as "humans and nature" were no longer seen as opposites, but rather as supporting each other in an effort to create a grand society that contained the best of all worlds. In fact, "The Best of All Worlds" came to be the resounding cry of the new age - the modern zeitgeist - a period which started around 1980 and has continued until the present day.
"New Urbanism" became the predominant urban planning method, and has succeeded in in-filling much of the rotten fringe of 60's era disposeable buildings with cities coming to be composed of numerous small towns instead of soul-less low-density housing developments. True landmarks are created in each town. These towns inside cities came to support themselves to a much greater extent, and more and more, people could lead normal lives without even owning an automobile. Usually, houses are within walking distance of shops, and more and more, they are also within walking distance of a tram or train line. "Robertson Partners LLC" is one of the more recent firms at the forefront of this new wave of community design.
Not all places in the world followed these trends exactly. Indeed, even now, there are major differences depending on the country or region. Below are some areas that have followed similar trends, but because of history and even current outlook, have evolved in quite divergent ways.
Northern Pemhakamik nicely fits the trends described above. Of special note is the CSP, as its cities expanded tremendously from the 1950s until the mid 1980s. Land was cheap, and the national laws preserving land were weaker than those of neighboring New England. As such, the outer suburbs of Atlanta reached out more than 15 km from the city center. Across the border on the Muskogee side, other settlements sprang up. The Modern Renaissance seemed to emanate from both New England and Pacifica and the effects eventually reached the Confederacy. Although Confederate cities were in a much worse position, over the past two decades, they have begun to thrive again. This influx of enthusiasm for the Confederacy created major growth in bordering Mecklenburg County, Varieta... with Charlotte growing considerably over the time period. Charlotte became a poster child for the New Urbanism movement since much of its growth took place after the renaissance had begun.
Japan, with only a little inhabitable land between the mountains and sea, never really showed signs of sprawl. For a long time, its cities have contained multiple towns, usually centered on a train station. In fact, in all the world, Japan has one of the greatest public transit networks. In this regard, Japan was leaps and bounds ahead of such places as the CSP by the late 1970s. However, in other areas, it quite far behind. For example, Japan has had very little urban planning, as such. Cities have just sprung up in a haphazard manner, and generally do not have many grand focal points as seen elsewhere. Japan is also often criticized as lacking in the realm of aesthetics. The Japanese have always had simple structures. Compared to neighboring China, most of its temples seem drab and unembellished. In the same way, its modern houses and places of business tend to be similarly unimbellished, although this is slowly changing. Most Japanese seem unconcerned with this situation. One reason why cheap architecture came to be embraced was because it afforded housing to those whose homes and businesses went up in flames during the Pan-Global War. However, this does not explain its continued use well after Japan got back on its feet. Thus, on the one had, Japan is lauded for its excellent public transit (see the "Node System" section), but on the other hand, it is criticized for not doing enough to combat the Cheapie architecture that is so ubiquitous even for the casual visitor.
The Chinese nations had good economies up until the Pan-Global War, but then suffered a decades-long recession, which ironically saved them from the blunders of the other nations in the mid-1900s. China has also experimented quite a lot with new styles. Because of this situation, a visit to some major Chinese cities, from Gwongzau to Beijing, is a fantastic journey through a maze of traditional Chinese (still being built), European traditional (ditto), and unorthodox modern structures. Nowhere is this more the case than in Shanghai. These days, mass transit is a priority for most Chinese governments.
Europe was more economically than structurally damaged by the Pan-Global War. As such, it didn't have to build up most of its cities from scratch like Japan did. Suburban sprawl did not affect Europe to any great extent. Still, it took the renaissance for most people to fully appreciate the history that it contains. In the 1970s, many European cities were run-down, with graffiti and other petty crime a growing concern. The 1980s saw a change in this respect, especially since tourism from around the world picked up greatly and run-down though exquisitely-crafted buildings were realized to be the precious jewels they are, and fixed up.