Scale it Up! Urban planning

Now that we have learned how to design and draw a floor plan in scale we are going to take a big leap and design an ideal city for the future. We will learn about some of the difficult issues that architects and urban planners face in trying to create buildings and urban spaces that works for everyone. We will also learn about some of the most creative people working in these fields, and their unusual approaches to the problems of planning cities. Finally we will discuss what we think makes a good city, and work in teams to design our own cities for the future.

As you can imagine there are many, many issues involved in planning a city. For this project we will only focus on a few main elements;

  • Residential Design
  • Public Institution Design
  • Public Park and Open Space Design
  • Transportation and Energy Use
  • Ethical considerations of land use and zoning laws

The first thing we will consider in our city planning is Residential Design - how many people do you have to fit in a square mile? The average people per square mile in Philadelphia is 11,000.

Do Apartment buildings make sense in designing an ideal city? why?

Do single family homes make sense in an urban environment? How do might they change a neighborhood?

Like any adventure, first we need a map.....Study the map below.

Here is an urban planning map of Tysons Corner, a small town in Virginia. Notice the legend on the left that helps you to understand what each part of the city is used for.

  • What do you think the purple spaces are for?
  • Do you think they did a good job of designing their land use? Why or why not?
  • Where would you most like to live or work in this town? Why?

*Fun fact, Tysons Corner is home to a large shopping mall where the first Apple store was opened in 2001.

This is an urban planning map of the city of Manila in the Philippines. The left side of the map is a coastline. The right side of the map continues into the suburban areas that extend outside the city.

This is a more detailed map than the Tyson's corner map.

  • The yellow, orange, red areas are residential housing, in varying degrees of density. The yellow areas are the highest areas of density, or the most people per square foot. These would be apartment buildings versus single family homes. The red areas are neighborhoods with single family homes.
  • Lavender is used to show us the industrial parts of the city, these would be factories and warehouses
  • The blue zones are university and institutional spaces (think of public buildings, post offices, libraries, schools, city hall).
  • Green is park space.
  • Grey zones are for utilities like water treatment plants, and power plants.
  • Transportation. Finally, the fuchsia and yellow lines denote subway lines, and the dotted line show us where regional rail lines come into the the city.

Also, on the bottom of the map notice the Compass Rose, this is used on a map to show direction, the top of the Rose shows us "True North", making the right the East, the bottom, South, and the left is the West.

Lastly, notice the scale indicator. This is used to show the proportional scale the planner used to draw the map.

Now it is time to design your city.

We will now work in teams to create 4 urban designs. Remember Urban Designers must design with the future in mind, think ahead! You may divide the work amongst your group however you like, however, your Final Project/Design must include the following elements and considerations.

  • A color land use map, with a legend, that has a minimum of 6 types of land use; residential, public institutions, public park/open space, commercial, transportation, and power & waste facilities. You may add more land use types if you like. You must account for all of the land in your city. The map must be drawn in a 1" = 400' scale. This will allow you to fit one square mile on your paper.
  • Your city must be able to house at least 10,000 inhabitants.
  • Your city must have a waterfront land. Many older cities were built on the water because this was the primary means of trade. As we have come to use rail and automobiles more this land has often been repurposed as either high end residential, or park spaces. These are very different decisions about how to use this valuable land. What will you decide for your city?

Your final project will be presented to the class - you should be prepared to discuss your reasoning for your land use zones and where you put them.

Start by dividing your paper into a one inch grid. This will allow you to quickly figure out measurements and not have to measure each element of your design separately.

Second, decide where you coastline and other bodies of water will be (they will most likely be connected by rivers or canals). You may design your city as an island if you'd like. Now you are ready to decide, where will people live? Where will public institutions be? Parks? Transportation systems.......First discuss your priorities for you city on each of these topics. Then begin drawing!


  • Average City Block - 400' (making a square mile approximately 16 city blocks)
  • Average Single Rowhome footprint measurement - 16' x 40' (Philadelphia), may be bigger, using this measurement you can fit approximately 120 homes in a city block.
  • Sample Apartment Building footprint measurement - 100' x 400'

As we move forward we will watch a series of videos in class on issues surrounding contemporary urban design. The links can be found in your iTunes U course for reference.

Checklist for Planning your City

Use this list to review and make sure you have all the elements necessary for a successful city.

At least 5 different areas of “land use” (designated by color and explained in a legend somewhere on your map) Remember the grid is there to help you estimate space, your land masses and roads do not have to adhere to the grid, but can be organic shapes. Refer to the land use maps in the course.

Residential areas for a total of 10,000 people

You should have a mix of single family homes and apartment buildings.

Using our scale of 1” = 400’ you are able to fit approximately 120 single family homes in a city block. These are often broken into apartments. For this project you will estimate 6 people per single family home. So that means a full block of single family homes can house 720 people.

The floor plan of the below above can fit 20 people per floor, with a footprint of 100’ x 400’. You could fit 4 of these per block.

Depending on how many floors your apartment building are you fit anywhere from 120 people to 3,200 per building.

6 floors x 20 ppl. = 120 per building

160 floors x 20 ppl. = 3,200 per building

Public Buildings - A minimum of 5. Think of Schools, post offices, libraries, museums. Buildings that everyone can use.

Parks and Open Space - A minimum of 3 parks, using at least 10% of your land (hint, use the grid to count the squares, then take 1/10th of that number)

Transportation - At least one highway, and support for at least one kind of public transportation.

Commercial - This can involve either stores and restaurants or factories, be specific about which you are placing where. For instance you may want small stores and restaurants in neighborhoods, but probably not a chemical factory.

Power & Waste - At least one Power Plant and one Waste Treatment Plant. Remember these will be potentially dangerous to residents, and at the very least ugly and perhaps smelly. Think carefully about where you place these necessary elements.

Created By
Jennifer Desnouee


Created with images by meineresterampe - "roofs homes old town" • PixelAnarchy - "home building wall" • amigotb - "structure modern architecture 3d" • greeblehaus - "Shutterwalk_28"

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