Rendering of a modern large-scale urban development in Kazan, Russia

Urbanism is the study of how inhabitants of urban areas, such as towns and cities, interact with the built environment. It is a direct component of disciplines such as urban planning, a profession focusing on the design and management of urban areas, and urban sociology, an academic field which studies urban life.[1][2]

Many architects, planners, geographers, and sociologists investigate the way people live in densely populated urban areas. There is a wide variety of different theories and approaches to the study of urbanism.[3] However, in some contexts internationally, urbanism is synonymous with urban planning, and urbanist refers to an urban planner.

The term urbanism originated in the late nineteenth century with the Spanish civil engineer Ildefons Cerdà, whose intent was to create an autonomous activity focused on the spatial organization of the city.[4] Urbanism's emergence in the early 20th century was associated with the rise of centralized manufacturing, mixed-use neighborhoods, social organizations and networks, and what has been described as "the convergence between political, social and economic citizenship".[5]

Urbanism can be understood as placemaking and the creation of place identity at a citywide level, however as early as 1938 Louis Wirth wrote that it is necessary to stop 'identify[ing] urbanism with the physical entity of the city', go 'beyond an arbitrary boundary line' and consider how 'technological developments in transportation and communication have enormously extended the urban mode of living beyond the confines of the city itself.' [6]


Urbanism theory writers of the late 20th century

Network-based theories

Gabriel Dupuy applied network theory to the field of urbanism and suggests that the single dominant characteristic of modern urbanism is its networked character, as opposed to segregated conceptions of space (i.e. zones, boundaries and edges).[7]

Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin[who?] argue that we are witnessing a post-urban environment where decentralized, loosely connected neighborhoods and zones of activity assume the former organizing role played by urban spaces. Their theory of splintering urbanism involves the "fragmentation of the social and material fabric of cities" into "cellular clusters of globally connected high-service enclaves and network ghettos" driven by electronic networks that segregate as much as they connect. Dominique Lorrain argues that the process of splintering urbanism began towards the end of the 20th century with the emergence of the gigacity, a new form of a networked city characterised by three-dimensional size, network density and the blurring of city boundaries.[8]

Manuel Castells suggested that within a network society, "premium" infrastructure networks (high-speed telecommunications, "smart" highways, global airline networks) selectively connect together the most favored users and places and bypass the less favored.[8] Graham and Marvin argue that attention to infrastructure networks is reactive to crises or collapse, rather than sustained and systematic, because of a failure to understand the links between urban life and urban infrastructure networks.

Other modern theorists

Douglas Kelbaugh identifies three paradigms within urbanism: New Urbanism, Everyday Urbanism, and Post-Urbanism.[9]

Paul L. Knox refers to one of many trends in contemporary urbanism as the "aestheticization of everyday life".[10]

Alex Krieger states that urban design is less a technical discipline than a mind-set based on a commitment to cities.[11]

Other contemporary urbanists such as Edward Soja and Liz Ogbu focus on urbanism as a field for applying principles of community building and spatial justice.[12][13]

See also


  1. ^ Wirth, Louis (1938). "Urbanism as a Way of Life" (PDF). American Journal of Sociology.
  2. ^ "Urbanism". obo. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  3. ^ Barnett, Jonathan (April 2011). "A Short Guide to 60 of the Newest Urbanisms". Planning. 77 (4): 19–21. ISSN 0001-2610. OCLC 1762461.
  4. ^ Caves, R. W. (2004). Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. p. 734. ISBN 978-0415862875.
  5. ^ Blokland-Potters, Talja, and Savage, Mike (2008). Networked Urbanism: Social Capital in the City. Ashgate Publishing.
  6. ^ Wirth, Louis (1938). "Urbanism as a Way of Life" (PDF). American Journal of Sociology. 44 (1): 1–24. doi:10.1086/217913. ISSN 0002-9602. S2CID 145174761.
  7. ^ Dupuy, Gabriel (2008). Urban networks : network urbanism. J. van Schaick, I. T. Klaasen, Technische Universiteit Delft. Faculteit der Bouwkunde. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Techne Press. ISBN 978-90-8594-019-7. OCLC 179789433.
  8. ^ a b Graham, Steve; Marvin, Simon (2001). Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition (1st ed.). London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203452202. ISBN 978-0-203-45220-2.
  9. ^ Kelbaugh, Douglas (2009), Three Urbanisms and the Public Realm[ISBN missing]
  10. ^ Knox, Paul L. (2010-07-12). Cities and Design (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 10. doi:10.4324/9780203848555. ISBN 978-1-136-94917-3.
  11. ^ Krieger, Alex; Saunders, William S. (2009-01-01). Urban Design. U of Minnesota Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4529-1412-1.
  12. ^ Soja, Edward (2003). "Writing the city spatially". City. 7 (3): 269–280. doi:10.1080/1360481032000157478. S2CID 144964310.
  13. ^ Cary, John (2018). "Design Journeys: Liz Ogbu". American Institute of Graphic Arts.