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The Evolution of Urban Planning

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urban planning transect

Urban planning has been around for as long as cities have existed, but the 20th century saw a number of bold ideas that radically changed the make-up of our urban centers.

From garden cities to psychogeography, today’s infographic by Konstantin von der Schulenburg is an informative overview of the modern movements and ideas that shaped urban planning.

The Evolution of Urban Planning

The Evolution of Urban Planning

Urban planning has changed a lot over the centuries. Early city layouts revolved around key elements such as prominent buildings (e.g. cathedrals, monuments) and fortification (e.g. city walls, castles).

As cities grew larger, they also became more unpleasant. Here are some key ideas from architects and planners who sought tame the unruly urban beast.

Garden City

At the dawn of the 20th century, cities were experiencing big population growth.

The Garden City concept – devised by the English planner Ebenezer Howard – sought to solve urban overcrowding and poor quality of life by creating smaller, master-planned communities on the outskirts of the larger city. The city would be structured around concentric circles of land use and include a sizeable park and greenbelt. Greenbelts were a revolutionary idea at the time and are still widely appreciated to this day.

garden city concept

Setback Principle

Early 1900s Manhattan had a population density of nearly 600 people per hectare and the skyscraper boom was in full swing. As buildings grew taller, the already crowded city was becoming a dark and claustrophobic place. To combat this, New York enacted the first citywide zoning code ever in the U.S. to help preserve some daylight on city streets. Setbacks had an immediate and lasting impact on Manhattan’s skyline, as seen today in landmarks such as the Empire State and Chrysler buildings.

Broadacre City

If there is a true antithesis for today’s urbanism, then the suburban brainchild of Frank Lloyd Wright is surely it. Broadacre City was a thought experiment that envisioned decentralized communities that would sprawl across a lush, bucolic landscape. That vision stood in stark contrast to frenetic, exhaust-choked cities of the 1940s, which resembled “fibrous tumor(s)” according to Wright.

Though Broadacre City was never built verbatim, Wright’s rejection of the American city came to life in the form of suburbs and strip malls from sea to shining sea.

La Cité Radieuse

In the wake of World War II, France was searching for solutions to house its population – nearly 20% of all French buildings were either destroyed or seriously damaged – and world renowned architect, Le Corbusier, was one of the architects selected by the French government to construct new, high-density housing.

When La Cité Radieuse (Radiant City) was completed in 1952, it kicked off a media frenzy. Indeed, Le Corbusier is credited with pioneering the Modernist style of architecture that became wildly popular around the world during that time.

While Le Corbusier’s thoughtful residential buildings have stood the test of time, not all projects inspired by the style shared the same fate. For example, when governments in Europe and the United States looked to provide cheap, high-density housing to low income families, the stark tower blocks they built often had the unintentional effect of ghettoizing their inhabitants.

The Megaregion

As cities within close proximity grow and merge together, finding a way to make them work as a connected economic and social unit is a key strategy for becoming more competitive on the global stage.

Jean Gottman, a French geographer, recognized this megaregion trend early on in the Northeast region of the United States. His seminal 1961 study, Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States, outlined the extraordinary dynamics that shaped America’s largest urban corridor.

The Transect

In North America, many cities have a stark divide between urban and suburban areas – a gap known as “the missing middle”. New urbanists seek to create more dense residential development, particularly in walkable, transit-accessible areas.

missing middle

This new form of city planning isn’t just cosmetic, it may help save cities from bloated infrastructure costs. Recent research into the tax efficiency (property tax revenues vs. infrastructure maintenance costs) of a variety of American cities and found that walkable urban districts tended to be revenue-positive – in effect, subsidizing surrounding low-density areas.

tax efficiency lafayette

Next Stop: Smart Cities

In the era of big data, the future of our physical spaces may be defined more by bytes than bricks.

City governments have been collecting big picture data for planning in transportation and zoning for some time, but new technology allows for the capture of even more granular data. Cities can now measure everything from noise pollution to wastewater volume, and this can have a big impact on spending efficiency and overall quality of urban spaces.

It’s almost like a FitBit for the city.

– Stuart Cowan, chief scientist, Smart Cities Council

A prominent section of waterfront in Toronto, Canada, is about to become a testing ground for this concept. The partnership between a government agency and Sidewalk Labs, a division of Alphabet, will produce an urban district that fully integrates technology and data collection into its design.

If the project is successful, it may influence the way future “smart” neighborhoods are constructed.

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The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

Cities are drivers of growth and prosperity, but also the main contributors of pollution. Can hydrogen fuel the growth of cities with clean power?

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In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.

While cities are the main drivers for improving the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.

How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?

Resolving the Paradox

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.

The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

The Urban Economic Engine

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050 – or about 68% of the global population.

Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will drive global growth.

Development leads to urbanization which leads to increased economic activity:

The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.

Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.

Further, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising for two-thirds of all economic growth.

With this growth will come increased demand for energy and C02 emissions.

The Hydrogen Fueled City

Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossils fuels are used today for heat, power, and transportation.

When used, it creates water vapor and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.

According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050, hydrogen could each year generate:

  • 1,500 TWh of electricity
  • 10% of the heat and power required by households
  • Power for a fleet of 400 million cars

The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.

Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.

In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.

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Cities

The 100 Tallest Buildings in New York City

This visualization plots out the tallest buildings in New York City, as well as a few in the pipeline that will change the Big Apple’s skyline forever.

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The 100 Tallest Buildings in New York City

If you go to the Big Apple, the city’s signature skyline can make quite an impression.

The fact is, New York City has over 6,000 high-rise buildings in total, 274 of which are skyscrapers standing over 492 ft (150 m) tall. It’s an impressive portfolio of real estate, putting NYC as the number two destination globally for such towers, only behind Hong Kong.

But while some of the buildings have dominated the skyline seemingly forever, it’s also a landscape that is changing fast. New projects coming online will be among the city’s tallest, and they will dramatically alter any view of Midtown of Lower Manhattan for future onlookers.

A List of NYC’s Tallest Buildings

Today’s infographic comes to us from Liberty Cruise, and it shows the tallest buildings in New York City.

Here are the individual profiles of the current top ten:

RankBuilding NameHeightCompletion Date
#1One World Trade Center1,776 feet (541 m)2014
#2432 Park Avenue1,396 feet (426 m)2015
#330 Hudson Yards1,268 feet (387 m)2019
#4Empire State Building1,250 feet (381 m)1931
#5Bank of America Tower1,200 feet (366 m)2009
#63 World Trade Center1,079 feet (329 m)2018
#753W531,050 feet (320 m)2018
#8Chrysler Building1,046 feet (319 m)1930
#9The New York Times Building1,046 feet (319 m)2007
#1035 Hudson Yards1,009 feet (308 m)2018

Two of the biggest skyscrapers, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, were erected during the Great Depression and still crack the top ten list today.

The Chrysler Building was actually the first skyscraper ever to be built at a height exceeding 1,000 feet. Meanwhile, the Empire State building, which was finished one year later, was the “world’s tallest building” for nearly 40 years.

However, as you can see, the rest of the buildings on the top ten list are more recent builds. It’s a testament to how fast the skyline of New York City has changed even in the last decade.

Towers in the Pipeline

But that’s not all, because the skyscraper boom in NYC hasn’t ended yet. The following megatowers are closing in on completion, and will displace many at the top of the current list:

111 West 57th Street
This building is set to be operational in mid-2019, and it’s already very noticeable on the NYC skyline. With a height of 1,428 feet (435 m), it will be the “skinniest” skyscraper in the world when completed, with a width-to-height ratio of 1:23.

Central Park Tower
This building, which was designed by the same people who did the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, will be the tallest building in the country by roof-height when done in 2020. It will clock in at 1,550 feet (472 m), making it the most sky-high residential building in the world.

45 Broad Street
With a height of 1,200 feet (366 m), this new building in Lower Manhattan is expected to be completed by 2021. If it were finished today, it would tie the Bank of America Tower for the fifth spot on a list of tallest buildings in the city.

One Vanderbilt
This massive building will be the fourth tallest in the city when completed in 2021. Standing at 1,401 feet (427 m), it will have a highly anticipated observation deck set 1,000 feet above the ground.

Want to visualize more data about the Big Apple?

Check out this animation, which shows the population pulse of a Manhattan workday.

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