Five Iconic Examples of How Urban Planning Evolved in the 20th Century

From the 1900s, there have been several bold ideas that defined the way land is used to build cities and urban settlements. These ideas have created the most iconic cities in the world. Over the years, urban planning has evolved as a key process in the field of public administration, infrastructure, and politics. Today, governments from different parts of the world are extensively focusing on how urban planning can help them build new cities and redevelop the existing ones.

While urbanization is considered to be a trend of the 20th-century, people from ancient times were also migrating to cities for better living. The earliest instances of urban planning and design date back to Egyptian civilizations, Indus Valley civilizations (Harappa), and Mesopotamia. The 20th century has witnessed inspiring concepts and innovative ways of planning urban areas. Even today, architects have been majorly influenced by the evolution of these ideas and have been studying them in urban planning courses at leading universities.

Here are the five most iconic urban planning models that evolved during the 20th century:

  1. Garden City

In 1903, Ebenezer Howard published his ideas for self-contained communities in “Garden Cities of To-Morrow.” This led to the garden city movement in England, where an alternative was designed for the polluted and overcrowded urban cities of those times. The solutions provided with the Garden City model were aimed at creating smaller cities for a population of little over 30,000. The cities were designed in a way where residential areas were linked by transit and canals. A permanent greenbelt constituted a major proportion of these cities, which is why they were called “garden” cities. His ideas focused on building open spaces for slum-dwellers to experience both country and city living.

  1. Broadacre City

In 1785, the Land Ordinance in America gave rise to a grid of small townships on the interior western side of the Ohio River. The area, which was initially unsettled, was converted into townships, each spread across six square miles. The townships were also coupled with 36 square miles of farming land. This concept of urban planning was called as broadacre cities, developed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Even today, the Midwest urban areas in the country resemble these square-shaped farms and perpendicular roads. The idea also led to envisioning that each family gets to live on an acre of its own in this rural grid. When the level of population density increased, the broadacre cities were expanded into suburbia across America.

  1. Radiant City

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, a Swiss-French architect popularly known as Le Corbusier, found a way to fix the problems of growing urban population and rising pollution. His idea of a “radiant” city was proposed in the “Towers in the Park” plan. It specified the presence of high-rise buildings enveloped by gardens and green spaces. Today, architects and urban planners use this plan to create superblocks. The areas were categorized into business, factories, warehouses, and housing. The radiant cities were largely implemented in the US public housing projects.

  1. Megaregion

Le Corbusier also penned an idea on a rural grid and a satellite town. In the iconic “Ville Radieuse” plan, he illustrated how cities can be encapsulated into megaregions. These urban areas can simplify the problems of communication and commute.

  1. Transects

Andres Duany, a well-known architect, introduced the concept of transects. Urban planners in the late 1900s used to look at the landscapes with the use of transects as their visual tool. It allowed them to identify multiple uses of the available land. The concept highlighted the gradation between rural and urban areas. It also illustrated how dense urban zones and thick forest areas can form a great balance in civilization.

Based on these five diagrams and examples, the architects and urban planners of today have developed the concept of New Urbanism. In the years to come, these remarkable urban planning ideas of the 20th century will continue to lay the foundation for new urban-ists around the world.