15 Urban Planning Concepts Explored

Urban Planning Map

While we tend to think of Urban planning as a new concept, it isn’t actually a modern practice. The ancient city of Harappa, for example, had an excellent drainage system. The ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilization had granaries, a central town hall, and upper and lower towns for residences.

Later, Hippodamus popularized the grid-plan, like the square street blocks found in some older Egyptian cities, and now, contemporary urban planning uses different concepts, approaches, and strategies.

Here are 15 popular concepts in urban planning:

  1. Land use planning and development
  2. Infrastructure planning and development
  3. Economic zones and development
  4. Environmental planning and sustainable development
  5. Urban renewal or revitalization planning
  6. Practical theory-based of urban planning
  7. Approach-based urban planning
  8. Culture-based urban planning
  9. Mixed or hybrid urban planning
  10. Standard urban planning strategies
  11. Towers in the park
  12. Neighborhood unit
  13. Garden city
  14. Sector model
  15. Multiple nuclei model

The urban planning concepts, approaches, and strategies prevalent today are extensively bespoke. Let’s go over all these types in detail below.

Types of Urban Planning Based on Broad Objectives

All urban planning initiatives have preset objectives, which may be more regulatory or geared towards sustainability. The priority could be economic development, ease of living, infrastructure upgrades, or building a metropolitan region for the future. The objectives demand a distinct approach.

Below are the types of urban planning base on board objectives:

1. Land Use Planning and Development

The principal focus of land-use planning is municipal, residential, commercial, and industrial developments. Most civic authorities stringently regulate land use.

Also, local environmental factors, including the presence of water bodies and open space reserves, have an unavoidable and consequential influence on the specifics of urban planning.

A land-use plan is the most significant component of urban planning. It decides everything from the layout of one neighborhood to the development of a borough.

The land-use plan determines how public infrastructure coexists with private property. The urban plan also determines the interlinking of all essential facilities with the surrounding areas of the larger region, including transportation.

2. Infrastructure Planning and Development

Infrastructure planning is generally about civic facilities: water, electricity, sanitation, waste and sewage management, roads, telecommunications, hospitals, schools, fire and police departments, parks, and recreation or community centers.

If a local government sponsors a housing scheme or any specific infrastructure development for private use, that too gets included in urban planning.

Some metropolitan regions, cities, or towns may have particular infrastructure requirements depending on the citizens’ needs, preferences, compulsions due to geography, topography, climate, and other local factors.

3. Economic Zones and Development

Almost all urban planning concepts and strategies segregate disparate zones. Industrial areas are usually in an exclusive zone, away from residential neighborhoods, albeit within drivable distance. Commercial sites are generally between the industrial zones and residential neighborhoods.

Likewise, urban planning accounts for economic zones. A central business district or commercial hub is a classic example.

There’s no rule of thumb to determine economic zones. Each urban region has its potential. Urban planners work with elected policymakers, civic authorities, and the business community to conceive a sustainable plan for economic zones and development.

4. Environmental Planning and Sustainable Development

Environmental planning is the key to sustainable development. Historically, all major cities or urban centers grew haphazardly. Significant examples are London, Boston, and New York.

Boston is an old city, and the streets were built for horse-driven carriages. New York isn’t a poorly planned or designed city by any stretch of the imagination. However, the unendurable population growth of these cities rendered them unsustainable in many parts.

New Orleans is a perfect example of poor urban planning and environmental considerations. The city is below sea level, surrounded by lakes, and the mighty Mississippi flows through it. New Orleans isn’t just a typical floodplain, it’s a Special Flood Hazard Area.

5. Urban Renewal or Revitalization Planning

Urban renewal is the most common requirement for most metropolitan regions and cities. The US was the New World during the Age of Discovery. Today, it’s the Old World, and America has most of the oldest modern cities or urban regions in the world built over the last four hundred years.

Additionally, urban renewal planning is typically phased so the citizens can lead an everyday life, businesses can go on as usual, and other essential activities aren’t disrupted.

Meanwhile, urban revitalizing planning focuses on selected zones. The area could be a small residential neighborhood or all of downtown.

Types of Urban Planning Based on Specific Needs

Urban planning objectives merit a relevant strategy. An urban planner must acknowledge the prevalent challenges posed by the current condition of all infrastructures and facilities, local environmental factors, and regulatory policies.

Also, urban planning has to account for the needs and preferences of the stakeholders, including the citizenry, enterprises, utility providers, and civic authorities.

Here are the types of urban planning base on specific needs:

6. Practical Theory-Based of Urban Planning

Urban planning is a complex subject. The interdisciplinary domain involves civil engineering, utilities, transportation, environmental science, architecture, social science, economics, public administration, and politics.

There are numerous concepts and practical theories of urban planning. Many concepts are untenable on the ground, and some practical ideas may backfire, too.

Hence, most urban planners have a customized approach while choosing a specific strategy based on a proven concept and practical theory.

Some widely used practical theories are orthogonal grids, linear city, and radial or circular layouts. The latter isn’t the same as the concentric zone model with five rings. The only problem with these formulated blueprints is that people don’t interact with the world geometrically.

Most US cities are a real illustrative example of how urban or metropolitan regions grow and expand. The cities have a central business district, city center, or downtown. Then, there’s the inner city, the uptown, the suburbs, and the peripheral urban-rural areas.

Any practical theory of urban planning aims to regulate as much private development as possible. However, the city or the metropolitan authorities will have to respond to new or changing private developments to provide public infrastructures and civic amenities.

7. Approach-Based Urban Planning

The 20th century posed the starkest criticism to traditional urban planning. Grids, linearity, circularity, and other patterns work for planning inanimate developments. There’s a global consensus now that the most significant stakeholder in urban planning is the local citizenry.

Hence, urban planners and policymakers adopt one or more of the popular approaches.

  • The rational-comprehensive approach. It identifies problems, presets goals, evaluates potential solutions, and chooses the most favorable plan.
  • The incremental approach prioritizes the critical objectives. The additional elements are secondary. A newer version, the transformative incremental approach, encourages slow and steady changes to ensure sustainable phase-wise developments.
  • The transactive approach is a truly participatory process involving all stakeholders: citizens, policymakers, regulatory authorities, and urban planners. All parties exchange ideas and choose a solution that has the least disruptive effect.
  • The communicative and advocacy approaches are similar to the transactive process. There’s no top-down or inside-out planning and decision-making. The policymakers, civic authorities, and urban planners encourage ideas and feedback, providing only technical and expert advice.
  • The equity and radical approaches are somewhat similar. The priority in such types of urban planning is assertive action to uplift underrepresented and relatively impoverished communities. Equitable growth and development and redistribution of public resources to ensure fairness are the primary objectives.
  • The phenomenological or humanistic approach in urban planning prioritizes the subjective perspective of people over objective realities. For example, a community may want wider bikeways and fewer car lanes. The urban planners must factor that in when creating the blueprint.

8. Culture-Based Urban Planning

Large cities are generally cosmopolitan. Hence, the policies and administrative culture emulate the best-known practices from around the world. However, some cities have a distinct culture that prizes a few aspects of life and livelihood over others.

Culture and value-driven urban planning are common in many parts of the world. In the United States, many urban regions present specific demands, needs, or preferences to the city planning department.

Hence, most city departments have a planning commission, including citizens.

9. Mixed or Hybrid Urban Planning

Both centralized and decentralized urban plans have advantages and disadvantages. A macro plan aiming for impeccable homogeneity is impractical. Likewise, extreme heterogeneity is unsustainable. Some uniformity is desirable and required for large-scale infrastructural support, utilities, and facilities.

Thus, hybrid or mixed urban planning has become a default approach in many circumstances. Buildings and neighborhoods aren’t planned in isolation. However, urban planners avoid a blanket approach to determine the minutiae sweeping through a large metropolitan area.

A massive urban region may have a few areas planned linearly. Some neighborhoods may have a radial pattern. While the concentric zoning model isn’t viable, loops or beltlines are useful ring roads, especially in densely populated cities with perennial traffic congestion.

10. Standard Urban Planning Strategies

An urban planning strategy depends on all the aforementioned factors. No urban planner can decide a macro strategy or micro tactics without accounting for the various influencing elements.

Depending on the circumstances, an urban planning expert may serve only as a policy adviser. In such cases, the specialist may provide a general plan to assist the civic authorities.

If an urban planner’s role is consultative and not active participation in policymaking, their services may be limited to a master plan. A generic master plan, especially for greenfield sites, doesn’t have much obligatory bearing on regulatory policy in most US cities.

After urban planning shifts gears into actual policy and implementable strategies, a specialist will develop a general plan, area and community plans, and precise plans, adhering to the applicable regulations.

Furthermore, urban planning experts will work on specific site plans, which must be in sync with the general plan. Also, the given circumstances may require other policies and vision documents, such as a corridor plan, waterway plan, and any other region or area-specific planning subject to requirements.

Types of Urban Planning Based on Concepts

Many urban planning concepts have faded into oblivion in time, like Ernest Burgess’ concentric zone model. Some concepts aren’t viable everywhere, such as the galactic city model developed by Chauncy Harris and Edward Ullman. But urban planners try to incorporate the best ideas of relevant concepts.

Below are the types of urban planning based on concepts:

11. Towers in the Park

Many American cities have championed the towers in the park model of urban planning. Vertical growth of cities is inevitable if there’s insufficient space for horizontal development. Most large cities around the world have adopted Le Corbusier’s modernist style of developing high-rise residential buildings.

12. Neighborhood Unit

Clarence Perry’s neighborhood unit concept is a thoughtful design. It has a central administrative hub, a business area, a commercial sector hosting all essential and nonessential shops, and residential zones in similar proximity to public facilities and civic amenities.

The neighborhood unit concept also mandates at least one-tenth of the total acreage dedicated to parks and recreation centers. Perry also advocated for sufficiently wide streets but not enormous lanes cutting into pedestrian space and bikeways.

13. Garden City

The garden city model encourages a balanced approach to equally prioritize green belts, agriculture, residential areas, and industrial zones. The objective is a self-contained city with well-provisioned and sustainable communities.

Dozens of cities around the world have adopted Sir Ebenezer Howard’s concept. However, the model has its limitations. Not all topographies are ideal for agriculture. Some regions are more lucrative for industries, and hence proportionate focus on greenbelts and economic development is utopian.

14. Sector Model

Homer Hoyt’s sector model tweaked the concentric zone concept to make it more realistic. Hoyt retained the sectoring aspect of the concentric zone model but allowed deviation from geometric patterns.

Hoyt believed that a city or urban region does not necessarily grow in any distinct shape, form, or direction.

Hence, he suggested demarcating the existing, adaptable, transforming, and new sectors for the central business district, factories, industry, and varying classes of residential areas is practical.

15. Multiple Nuclei Model

Chauncy Harris co-developed the multiple nuclei model with Edward Ullman. This concept doesn’t endorse the archaic idea that cities or urban regions grow or must expand outward from a single nucleus, usually the city center or central business district.

Instead, Harris and Ullman believed that an evolving urban region would develop more than one city center. There will be several hubs of varying sizes and significance. Hence, an urban plan must have sufficient flexibility to be dynamic in an ever-changing world.

Many traditional pearls of wisdom are challenged and overturned all the time. We have new definitions of commutable distance and work-life balance. Telecommuting and remote work culture demand significant changes to urban planning concepts and strategies. The world is ready for cities of the future.

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