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40 One-Sentence Urban Planning Tips

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Fuel your city form knowledge and passion with these 40 sentences

I stumbled across Josh Spector’s work this weekend. I loved his “40 One-Sentence” format and I wanted to apply it to Urban Planning.

So, here we go! 40 one-sentence tips to help you understand urban planning, the architecture of our cities, and wonder how we might make our communities better.

  1. Form follows finance.

  2. Retail follows rooftops.

  3. Urbanism is inherently compact.

  4. Demand is a function of price, it is not a fixed number (Think parking. See #15).

  5. Density will never die.

  6. Urban buildings should be street wall buildings.

  7. The 4 basics of any great city: provide clean water, safely remove human waste, make the poor neighborhoods safe, break the isolation of poor kids to allow for upward mobility.

  8. Make streets better with human-scale details.

  9. Developers make their profit when they buy the building not when they sell it.

  10. The front of the building moves to where the cars are.

  11. The best neighborhoods deliver density at lower heights.

  12. Plan for repeatability.

  13. Rectangles will never go out of style.

  14. Not much urban land is useless.

  15. Reduce and eliminate parking requirements.

  16. The paradox of our modern cities: being closer is more valuable as the cost of communicating across distance has gone to a few cents.

  17. Jeff Speck’s Theory of walkability: Useful, Safe, Comfortable, Interesting.

  18. Keep lots weird.

  19. The fundamental law of road congestion is a real thing.

  20. Declining cities have too much housing and infrastructure relative to their economies.

  21. “Think big but remember to make people places small…” — Jan Gehl

  22. When considering public space ask yourself, “what is a good habitat for humans?”

  23. Human scale will prevail.

  24. For better or worse, transportation technology always determines urban form.

  25. People shun wide open spaces and hang out on the perimeter.

  26. “What gets measured gets managed” — Peter Drucker. We count cars on roads but don’t apply the same effort to counting pedestrians and bikes…

  27. Pedestrian routes that cut corners aren’t lazy, it’s human nature.

  28. Enliven streets with a variety of detail.

  29. Corners are the anchors of your neighborhood.

  30. Place > Space.

  31. Long blocks result in urban monotony.

  32. Don’t make cars the priority, make people the priority.

  33. Your community should have a clear center.

  34. “There must be eyes on the street…” — Jane Jacobs

  35. “If windows are the eyes on the street, then doors are the arms and legs” — David Sim

  36. Public policy should help poor people, not poor places.

  37. Housing is the most underrepresented activity in American downtowns.

  38. Suburbanites walk perpendicular to facades, urbanites walk perpendicular.

  39. Engineers know a lot about one thing. Architects know a little about a lot of things.

  40. It takes as long as it takes unless you give up.

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