Have you ever asked yourself, how does a city become a city? How do all of the systems required to live somewhere such as electrical grids, sewers, water supply, and so on, fit in a city, all together, functioning, and not getting in the way of the population? The answer is simple – city planning!
In a simple manner, city planning, also known as urban planning, is the study area and activity that takes care of the growth and operation of cities, giving them shape, design, and structure, but also aiming to improve the relationship between people and the place they live in. It involves a lot of different processes, such as arrangement and designing of buildings, transport systems, public spaces, determining land use, and good amenities.
Although there is evidence of this type of planning in the ruins of ancient cities, the modern origins of city planning lie in the late 19th century when a social movement for urban reform started as a reaction against the disorder of the industrial cities. Many visionaries of the period started thinking about an ideal city based on practical considerations of adequate sanitation, movement of goods and people, and provision of amenities. The first urban planning conference was held in New York, in 1898. The first academic course on urban planning was created in 1909, by the University of Liverpool, and the first North American program was established at Harvard University in 1924.
Nowadays, it has become a much-needed activity, mainly due to city overpopulation increasing day by day and resources getting scarce. Contemporary planners need to balance the conflicting demands of social equity, economic growth, environmental issues, and aesthetic appeal.
How Is It Done?
When planning a city, planners need to consider many factors, like the economy, the environment, cultural needs, transportation requirements, housing, employment, public health, and education. They must also understand the current situation of the city, the uses of existing buildings, roads and facilities, and how those uses may affect the city, in the future.
If you’ve ever played the game “SimCity”, you’re actually very acquainted with it! We know it may seem a little silly comparing a real-life job with a simulation game, but it makes it much easier to understand.
In the game, the player is responsible for building and managing a city, always trying to improve it, solving its problems, and making the city’s population happy. Also, the player cannot put some constructions in certain areas, in order not to disturb the population.
The same thing happens in real life city planning. For example, it would be a terrible idea for a city planner to allow a toxic waste dump to be built next to a residential area. The dump could become a health threat to anyone living there. With that example, we can understand why those professionals need to analyze so many factors.
Another common and very important task that city planners do is creating zones in cities. That’s why we have the idea of “residential zones”, “industrial zones”, and so on. Along with engineers, architects, and developers, they work to create and plan buildings that fit in the rules for each zone.
Why Is It Important?
As we explained above, city planning is like the marriage between people and their surroundings, it is how the built environment influences human behavior and interactions. So, not only it influences constructions and urban areas in architectural and technical ways, but it also affects how people live daily.
Besides, city planning helps us to prepare for the future. With our world’s constant changes, planners also need to work to answer questions like “how will people get around, live, and work in the future?”, and “how will all the systems required to support those people fit into each city?”. City planning is a key activity to keep us living in society and adapting to changes.
Fields and Specializations
City planning is often confused and mixed with architecture, civil engineering, geography, and sociology because of its roots coming from those other disciplines. Yet, we must remember that it is an independent field on its own. There are specializations that planners can choose to follow, such as community development and environmental resources planning. At the American Planning Association website, you can find the most common specializations planners may choose to focus their work on.
Now you know that city planning is not only about planting trees, good looking constructions, and picking up the garbage. In reality, there are also thousands of aspects that urban planners need to cover to create a pleasant and functional environment for people. It doesn’t matter if the city already exists or is still being planned, a city planner will study and work with both of them. Hopefully, you’ve left knowing a bit more, so thanks for reading!