What Is Urban Planning?

In theory, urban planning is a process of elaborating solutions that aim both to improve or requalify an existing urban area, as well as to create a new urbanization in a given region. As a discipline and as a method of action, urban planning deals with the processes of production, structuring and appropriation of urban space. In this sense, its main objective is to point out what measures should be taken to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants, including matters such as transport, security, access opportunities and even interaction with the natural environment.

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In the urban planning process, therefore, problems arising from urbanization are dealt with, such as pollution, traffic jam, urban voids, ecological impacts, making it essential in the current context in which much is discussed about the future of cities and the aspirations of sustainability and mobility as a way of fighting climate change.

Urban planning is essentially a multidisciplinary activity, which can count on sociologists, historians, economists, geographers, in addition to urban planners. In its process, local authorities are also included, whether from government, private companies or international organizations. When related to a government, urban planning can generate a document that contains all the bases and rules for the development of a given region, what we know as a master plan.

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Barcelona, Spain. Source imagery: @digitalglobe

The idea of urban planning is present from the first signs of civilization. The idea of urban planning has been present since the first signs of civilization. In ancient Greece, for example, theories and ideas about the ideal use of land and the location of roads and buildings were developed, as well as in pre-Columbian civilizations, which built their cities considering urban planning with sewage and running water systems, such as Tenochtitlan, Mexico. However, its concept was only made official in the 19th century, as a result of the industrial revolution that brought new dynamics to the urban environment, creating the demand for a clear design for the functionality of cities.

It was in this period that some famous examples emerged, such as the Cerdá Plan in Barcelona (1860), one of the first major milestones of what was called "urbanization". Born from the urgency of transforming the city, the plan created by the engineer and urban planner Ildefonso Cerdá followed an ideology of “humanist urbanism”, opening streets, requiring green areas within the blocks, defining maximum heights and ensuring community facilities at certain distances, in addition to moving industrial zones away from downtown.

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Cerdà Plan (1858). Image © Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer - Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat, Barcelona. Pubic domain

At the same time, the urban remodeling of Paris (1954), under the command of Mayor Georges-Eugène Haussmann, also stood out. At the request of Napoleon III and under the pretext of health, due to the spread of epidemics, wide boulevards flanked by regular neoclassical buildings were opened, adding roundabouts, monuments and parks. A bold change that, on the one hand, improved transport, sanitation and leisure, and on the other, raised housing prices by increasing segregation. Paris is an example that highlights the relation between urban planning and its importance in structuring the dynamics of cities.

In the 20th century, with the emergence of the modern movement, urban planning also began to play the role of creating new cities from scratch. In the discussion on how it would be possible to develop more functional cities, the role of the Athens Charter (1933) as a result of the IV International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) stands out. The document written by Le Corbusier recommended a new form of urban planning that would divide the city into residential, leisure and work areas, precepts put into practice in the pilot plan for the construction of Brasília, in 1950, developed by Lúcio Costa and, until today, one of the greatest models of modernist city in the world.

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Brasília's Pilot Project Sketch, by Lúcio Costa. Imagem: Uri Rosenheck/Flickr. Image via Caos Planejado

As you can see in the examples above, the precepts that govern urban planning change as new challenges and changes in thinking arise, so cities are under constant analysis. If decades ago the focus of urban planning was to create new cities, today, the way it works has changed dramatically. Currently, the main challenge is to work with the existing infrastructure in order to create more resilient and sustainable cities, which promote the meeting between the inhabitants and the reconnection with nature.

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Cite: Ghisleni, Camilla. "What Is Urban Planning?" [O que é planejamento urbano?] 05 Jul 2022. ArchDaily. (Trans. Simões, Diogo) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/984049/what-is-urban-planning> ISSN 0719-8884

Arch of Triumph. Created by @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @digitalglobe


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