top of page
All Posts: Blog2

[Urban Planning] UPenn-Designing Cities 2- Types of City Design

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

This week, I was introduced with the four major types of city design. While other deviations may be possible, I could see that these were the archetypical kinds of city design. I also thought that a city with only one type of these designs was extremely rare, and most successful cities were an integrated form of multiple cities. That would probably be because of each design supplements the others' drawbacks.

However, I was curious about how these categories might change in the future since the development of cities changes such categories.


The modernist design is one that might feel like home to some (including me, who grew up near a business district in Seoul), while it is also one that can be perceived as a monolithic lockup to some. The theory was first developed by an architect who called himself Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier believed that a “good city” must maximize productivity through flat roofs, an absence of garments, elevated highways, closely built office towers, regimented roads, and other pragmatic approaches to city design. Nowadays, the modernist theory is readily accepted in a myriad of nations including China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, even my nation--Korea. Especially in densely populated areas, the modernist approach is ever more welcomed. 


The traditionalist approach, as its name suggests, reinforces traditional norms in city structures, such as symmetry or long straight roads. 

What especially amazed me was the applications and implications of such city designs. Traditionalist cities were particularly prevalent in autocratic or authoritarian regimes, the reason being that such city designs directed the public’s focus to main squares or edifices, which served as a physical manifestation of the leader’s power. This city design spoke with authority, endowing power to rulers such as Stalin and Hitler. 


Perhaps this design is the highlight of this course (at least that was what I thought). Surprisingly, green city design emerged in both the Eastern and Western worlds. (Maybe this prevalence demonstrates that such design is not only universally aesthetically pleasing but also necessary.) Both worlds have a long heritage of green design that took place in the form of garden design, as displayed in the Katsura place, Kyoto, or the Gardens at Stone, Kent. But soon the western world--after rapid industrialization--discovered that large, public gardens are insufficient to cope with the problems of pollution, and renewed the notion of green city design. 

Today, green city design is garden focused on a multitude of design theories: the establishment of Garden suburbs, building permanent Greenlands--or greenbelts--and decentralizing new communities into satellite towns. Although the approaches vary, the intention behind such design is universal: a correction of mistakes that humanity has made during the last century of industrialization. Seoul’s Han River and Chung-Gae-Chun is a paragon of such movements, as it altered unused elevated railways and highways into river banks instead of abandoning or destroying them. 


While other design theories were already developed during past centuries and modified accordingly to modern standards, the system city design theory is one that has been recently developed or is currently developing. One of the most classical examples of systems city design is the Crystal Palace, a futuristic building. Such a system had occurred as a result of the standardization of building materials such as steel and glass.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page