Lectures on a Reappraisal of City Planning Foundations


by Franco Archibugi

Planning Studies Centre - 1996

[also available in italian]



The Author gives a total re-appraisal and re-evaluation of the discipline and methodology of town or urban planning in sixteen lessons.

The work is an attempt to completely restate town or urban planning. It is based on the radical change in the conditions of the modern city compared to European and American cities in the first years of the twentieth century, a period which saw the birth and development of the town-planning debate of the first half of that century.

Whilst never losing sight of the basis and evolution of “classical” town-planning thought, this book proposes new foundations for the vision of the modern city. It throws the old basis of town-planning completely back into discussion, in an effort to overcome the current impasse in planning resulting from this basis and the subsequent profound crisis in confidence and in capacity that it has led to today. In fact, this crisis is due - according to the author - to the absence of an up-dated and rigorous methodology suitable to the modern dimensions of the urban problem.

The work has been written with critical intentions but also with a didactic purpose, based on the many years experience of the Author as a full professor of planning in several Italian universities.

The book therefore assumes the character of a critical essay; but at the same time, as an essential history of city planning and its main methods, it could be very useful as a reference for the preparation of young city planners.



Part One

Chapter (or Lesson) 1

Introduction to Town Planning

1. What is Town Planning

2. Town Planning in the Wide and Narrow Sense

3. On the Origins of Town Planning in the Narrow Sense (as a Discipline)

a) Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and their Followers

b) Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

c) The "Culturalist" Precursors

d) A Very Arguable "Origin"

4. The Urban "Regularisation" of the Nineteenth Century, at the Origins of Real Town-Planning


Chapter 2

The birth of town planning as a discipline

1. The Search for a Method of the Art

a) Reinhard Baumeister and Joseph Stübben

b) Camillo Sitte

2. The Search for an Integrated Vision of Planning and the City

3. The Search for the Suitable Aesthetic Dimensions

4. The Search for an Appropriate "Spatial" Dimension

a) Ebenezer Howard

b) Thomas Adams and Raymond Unwin

5. The Origins of an Evolutionary Vision

a) Patrick Geddes and Marcel Poete

6. The Search for an Appropriate "Technological" Dimension


Chapter 3

Evolution and crisis of town planning

1. The Search for Standard Town Planning Codes

a) The Bauhaus and Gropius

b) Le Corbusier and the "Modern Movement":  Geometry and Functionality

c) The ("Absurd") Principle of Urban Imbalance

d) Le Corbusier and the Crisis of the Larger Cities

2. The Model of a "Contemporary City"

a) A Rigid Functionalism and Zoning

b) Monocentrism to the "Bitter End"

c) The Banalisation in the Practice of the New Model

3. CIAM and the Charter of Athens

Appendix to Lesson Three:  The Charter of Athens


Chapter 4

The “specialization” and dispersion of the Contemporary Town Planning

1. The Glory and Misery of Contemporary Town Planning

2. Facets of the fragmentariness of contemporary Town Planning

a)  Urban Economics

b)  Urban Modeling

c)  The Juridical and Normative Approach

d)  Urban Design

e)  Evaluation Techniques

f)   Urban Historiography

g)  Planning “Theories”

3. The “Political” Urban Planning

4. The Difficult Methodological Reassembling

5. Towards a Renewed Consideration of the Fundamentals of Town Planning



Part Two

Chapter 5

The Essence of Town Planning

1. Town Planning: Science or Art?

2. Town Planning: Positive or Normative Science?

3. The Goals of Town Planning


Chapter 6

The "theory" of town planning

1. The Need for Indicators and Standards for all Goals

2. The Logical Analysis of the Town Planning Goals

3. The "Relativity" of Planning Goals

4. The "Systematicity" of Planning Goals


Chapter 7

The city as a “system”

1. Historic City or "Theoretical City"

2. The Theoretical Requirements of the City, as the Main Object of a Theory of Town Planning

3. The City as an (Urban) "System"

4. The Theory of Town Planning as a Theory of Urban Systems

5. The Theory of Urban Systems and Policy of Urban Systems According to the Planological Approach


Chapter 8

The requirements of the modern city

1. The Definition of the Requirements of the City

2. Size requirements

3. Internal Accessibility requirements

4. Economic Integration and Pluralism of Activities

5. Ecological Equilibrium Requirements

6. The Perceptible (Aesthetic or Historical-Cultural) Image

7. The Nature and Quality of "Superior" Urban Services

8. Goals, Requirements, and Performance Expectations


Chapter 9

The theory of town planning and urban systems policy

1. The Theory of Town Planning as a Foundation of Urban Systems Policy

2. The Significance of a National Urban Systems Policy

3. The Goals of a National Urban Systems Policy

4. Converging Uniform Criteria and Goals of Urban Systems Policy

5. National Experiences in the Direction of the Constitution of a "Framework of Territorial References"


Chapter 10

Urban systems and technological development

1. The Relevant Fields of Impact of Technology on Urban Organisation

2. Predicted Changes in Urban Transport

3. Predicted Changes in (Tele) Communication


Chapter 11

The typology of urban systems

1. The Diversity of the Urban Systems

2. Conceptualisations and Nomenclatures

3. The "Structure" of Urban Systems

4. The "form" of Urban Systems

5. Typology According to Connections

6. Typology According to Plan Strategy

7. The Strategy as Interdependency


Chapter 12

The strategy for the realisation of urban systems

1. Appropriate Strategies for each Urban System Typology

2. The Strategy of Polarisation

3. The Strategy of De-Polarisation

4. The Strategy of Rationalisation

5. The Character of Interdependency of the Strategies


Chapter 13

The functional components

of the urban systems

1. Function and "Parts" of the Territory

2. Area and Delimitation

3. "Free" Areas and "Intensive" Areas

a. The "Intensive" Area

b. The "Free" Area

4. The "Load-bearing" Axis

5. The Load-bearing Axis "Halo"

6. The "Supporting Directrices"

7. The "Centralities" and the "Services" Nuclei

8. Special Sub-systemic Structures (of Environmental or Historical-Cultural or Mixed Recovery)

9. Old and New Concepts of the Components of the City


Chapter 14

The implementation policies of the urban systems

1. The Implementation Policies and Traditional Town Planning

2. Guidelines for Implementation Policies of Urban Systems

3. The Promotion of the Urban Image and Identity

4. The Satisfaction of the Needs for "Superior" Urban Services

5. The Rational Locating of New Residences and Building Structures

6. The Creation of "System" Urban Transport


Chapter 15

The land-transport use interaction:

concepts and criteria

1. The logical organisation of the policy-oriented scenarios of th

2. Relationship Land Use/Transportation

a. The Route

b. The Flow

3. The basic criteria for the design of transport and communications

a. Essentialness

b. Maximisation of the Service Level

c. Tangentiality with Regard to Urban Systems

d. Minimisation of the Environmental Impact

e. Maximisation of the Use of Existing Infrastructure


Chapter 16

Accessibility in urban systems

1. The Relationship "Land Use/Transport"

2. Criteria and Standards of a System Urban Transport Policy

3. The Design of an "Aimed Infrastructure" for the System Urban Transport

4. Other Design Criteria for the Urban Transport System of the System



1. The Problem of Town Planning

2. The Only, Authentic, Town Planner's Point of View

3. What Accessibility to the City?

4. The Essential Task of the Town Planner

5. The Concept of Optimal Centrality