How to build a city in 10 simple steps - World Travel Guide (2023)

We talk to city planners and architects to devise a checklist for building the perfect city in the 21st century

How do you build a new city? It seems like a strange question to ask. With so many vibrant cities already established around the world, whether there exists a necessity for more is questionable. Nonetheless, when the news broke in March 2015 that Egypt was planning to build a new capital 45km (28 miles) east of Cairo, it got the world’s attention. Though the project came to a halt when Egypt’s partner, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, pulled out of a proposed deal in February 2017, the possibility still remains.

So how do you actually go about building a city? There are a number of considerations that you must make when planning such a feat. From engineering logistics to the actual feasibility of space (with respect to the actual demand for the city itself), there is a lot to weigh up. How likely is it that we will see the development of another megacity in our lifetime? We spoke to city planning experts to find out how to build one.

1. Build for people, not for pomp

When building a new city, especially a capital, it’s easy for designers to sway towards grandeur and greatness. This is something that Jan Gehl, author of Cities For People and Professor of Urban Design at the School of Architecture in Copenhagen, warns against.

“Brasilia in Brazil, Canberra in Australia and Chandigarh in Punjab,” he says, “are all capitals that are built from scratch and all of them, from my point of view, are more or less failures.

“They have been made too formal and they have too much emphasis on being impressive,” he adds. “I know that some of it should be impressive and big because it’s a national capital, but the rest of it should really be built much more carefully to human scale.”

Gehl believes that buildings should support the spaces, not the other way around. “Normally,” he posits, “they start to build the buildings and then they look out of the windows to see what was left over and that becomes public space.”

Here, we can say that pragmatism is key. There is no point in building a city if it isn’t going to facilitate flow. As such, considered planning is key and should be done so with the community as the focal point.

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2. Wide open space

“The urban neighbourhoods and the residential neighbourhoods have to be very highly liveable,” says Dr Robin Hickman, the Senior Lecturer at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning, “so lots of green open space and no use of the car in central urban areas and residential areas.”

Instead, land should go to open space, children’s play areas and community facilities, which is something Vauban in Germany has implemented successfully. They put spaces for parking cars at the edges of the residential areas, leaving more room for communal space.

“We would aim for compact neighbourhoods [with] short travel distances,” adds Hickman, “so housing developments should be orientated around the public transport network for better accessibility.”

3. Green infrastructure

As well as open spaces, Clare Devereux, Policy Director at Food Matters, believes that green infrastructure should be implemented across a new city. “We would like to see rooftop allotments, rooftop gardens, [and] productive green walls,” she says, a strategy now implemented in Brighton, Paris, and New York.

Not only does this mean more room to grow food, but these new green spaces can contribute to the performance of buildings across the city. The technology that underpins green buildings is productive too as it provides habitats for insects and helps with insulation.

4. Get rid of high-rise flats

“Learn how Barcelona was built, how Paris was built,” enthuses Jan Gehl. “There’s a lot to be learnt from these places about good urban design and good quality of living.”

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Gehl is one of a number of influential urban planners who believes that high-rise flats are detrimental to the well-being of their residents. Those that live higher up are less likely to leave their houses and high-rises can be dehumanising as there’s less social interaction.

“I really believe more in [housing] density being closer to the ground than being stacked way up in the sky,” says Gehl, “and that’s why we can learn from Paris and Barcelona rather than Dubai.”

5. It’s time to say goodbye to the car

New cities need a combination of public transport platforms and should always have major walking and cycling routes, argues Dr Hickman. 30% of journeys should be by tram or metro, 30% by bicycle and 10-20% by walking, he says.

“Anything left would be electric car, maybe autonomous,” he suggests, adding that “the network should be environmentally sustainable, using clean electricity such as solar energy or hydropower.” Rather than private car ownership, Hickman advocates car clubs or car-sharing schemes to make travelling by car less convenient.

“The parking would be beyond the neighbourhood and it would be expensive,” he adds. “It might cost you £10,000 a year for your car parking spot, so instead you’d choose to cycle or walk or use the public transport service.”

6. Shorten the supply chain

Looking towards the future doesn’t always mean reinventing the wheel and Clare Devereux still thinks that peri-urbanisation (the belt between the city and the countryside with both urban and rural attributes) is still useful.

“In a new city, it would be about shortening the supply chain and having food produced as close to consumption as possible,” she says. One idea would be to have small market gardens on the peri-urban fringe that sell directly to customers, so food doesn’t travel far.

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“The visibility of food has social and educational aspects,” believes Devereux who wants to see more good food in cities and further opportunities to eat together.

7. People power

It’s essential that a new city provides jobs otherwise it will struggle to attract a viable number of residents. This is something many experts agree on.

Initiatives like a productive green infrastructure will need people to upkeep them, says Clare Devereux. “They only happen if there’s a clear community that’s going to maintain that, so that implies that there is engagement, consultation and participation from the community that we’re talking about,” she says.

“That could be workers in an office block or residential or schools,” Devereux adds. “Cities of the future should be designed and planned in response to the needs of the people that are living in them.”

Dr Hickman argues that changes like autonomous travel shouldn’t mean less human interaction either. “Alongside better information and communication technologies,” he says, “there’s still a need for a person-based manning of the stations […] otherwise it becomes a bit of a faceless society, and if you’re not familiar with the particular journey you’re undertaking, it’s difficult.”

8. More communal living

Clare Devereux suggests that in a new city, living accommodation could be smaller with communal kitchens and shared gardens. “Communal eating is a much more sustainable way of eating because obviously you can have economy of scale,” she says.

Co-housing models, like Coyote Crossing in California, share gardens that produce basic herbs and salads for communal kitchens, which Devereux believes is beneficial.

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“When people are time poor and you don’t have time to cook every day, but someone is cooking fresh food from scratch in a communal setting, you’re going to get the health benefits,” she says.

9. Retail on a smaller scale

Clare Devereux thinks that local independent shops are beneficial for a new city. “There needs to be provision for smaller units, so it is not all large-scale supermarkets,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be one or the other, the supermarket has a role to play, but if you’re thinking about not driving, and being able to buy things at the point of consumption, you’re going to need smaller shops.”

“You’d want to have small independent shops because they are going to source locally,” she says. “They provide more jobs and they have a better connection to consumers so there are knock-on social benefits.”

10. Waste management

Sustainability is essential for a modern city, which means better waste management. “The idea is that people are cooking fresh, seasonal food from scratch, and that means – by default – they’re buying fresh produce, which shouldn’t need to be packaged,” says Clare Devereux.

“There is always unavoidable waste in the food system and that would be composted as much as possible and kept within the city,” she adds. “If you have got provision for food growing, you’ve got outlets for the result of the composting without it having to be moved around.” This could mean de-regulating food waste disposal to allow residents to converse resources by feeding leftovers to local livestock.

This post has been updated on 05 April 2019.

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What are the steps to build a city? ›

Here is a starter guide for how to build a new city.
  1. Step 1: Approach with caution. ...
  2. Step 2: Figure out what you're doing and why. ...
  3. Step 3: Do your homework.
  4. Step 4: Start Fundraising.
  5. Step 5: Land Acquisition: ...
  6. Step 6: Pre-Development.
  7. Step 7: Development Launch.
  8. Construction of Major Public Infrastructure.
22 Apr 2020

How do you make a model city for a school project? ›

  1. Sketch your city, and plan its layout carefully. Consider factors like downtowns, uptowns, shopping areas, transportation, and open spaces such as parks. ...
  2. Determine the scale. ...
  3. Create a base. ...
  4. Construct the buildings. ...
  5. Add details, like people, cars, lights, trees, animals, bridges and other objects.

How can I improve my city? ›

  1. Be a kind neighbor, be a friendly face. ...
  2. Volunteer your time.
  3. Take advantage of your community garden, or get one started. ...
  4. Support and create local art. ...
  5. Encourage your friends, family and coworkers to bike or carpool to work.

What are the 5 parts of a city? ›

He classified the contents of the city images into five types of elements which are paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. Paths are the channels which the observer moves. They can be streets, walkways, transit lines, canals and railroads.

Can u build your own city? ›

Though each state has its own rules on “municipal incorporation,” in general you'll need to get 51 percent of the eligible voters in the area to go along with you. (It's easiest to start a town from scratch, as opposed to by secession; most upstarts begin as “unincorporated communities” within a larger county.)

How do you make a planned city? ›

When planning a city, planners must consider many factors, including the economy, the environment, and cultural and transportation needs. City planners also must understand current uses of existing buildings, roads and facilities in their city, as well as how these uses may affect the city in the future.

What makes a good city to live? ›

Key points. The most livable cities have high-quality public health care and education systems, good housing, and good public transport infrastructure.

How a city should be? ›

According to the book, an ideal city should be resourceful, accessible, shared, safe, and desirable. Considering these principles as foundations, the metropolises of the future are perceived as greener, healthier, more sustainable, and inclusive.

What do cities need? ›

Physiological Needs

Basic infrastructure (land, water, sewer, power, roads, a food source) and a tax base are the most fundamental city needs.

How do you make a town in Minecraft survival? ›

It is easier to start by building your house. Then, you can build a house for a neighbor, then a neighborhood, then businesses, and gradually expand to a village. This can then expand to become a town and even a city.

What 3 things make a city? ›

It can be defined as a permanent and densely settled place with administratively defined boundaries whose members work primarily on non-agricultural tasks. Cities generally have extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, utilities, land use, production of goods, and communication.

What is a basic city? ›

base city means the municipality in which an Employee's Base Office is located.

What are the 6 characteristics of a city? ›

It's complicated, and the stakes are high.
Here are the top six.
  • Available real estate and office space. ...
  • A talented population. ...
  • A diverse economy. ...
  • Global connectedness and proximity. ...
  • Favorable financing.
26 Feb 2021

How do cities start? ›

Most new cities today start as rural or suburban areas that later decide to incorporate as a city. Why would they do this? Again, the reasons can vary by region and purpose. Some may incorporate to control their own destiny.

How many people make a city? ›

The Degree of Urbanization identifies three types of settlements: Cities, which have a population of at least 50,000 inhabitants in contiguous dense grid cells (>1,500 inhabitants per km2);

How do cities develop and grow? ›

Urbanization is often linked with economics – increased job opportunities, a centralized market, better pay and higher individual wealth have all drawn people into cities. And for a long time, these pull factors are what caused cities to grow.

What are your top 5 innovations for making cities smarter? ›

Top 10 Smart City Trends
  • Public Safety & Security.
  • Smart Energy.
  • E-governance.
  • Green Urban Planning.
  • Advanced Waste Management.
  • Smart Building.
  • Advanced Water Management.
  • Intelligent Farming.

What makes a good smart city? ›

In general, a smart city is a city that uses technology to provide services and solve city problems. A smart city does things like improve transportation and accessibility, improve social services, promote sustainability, and give its citizens a voice.

What is a plan of a city? ›

Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural planning, is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as ...

What makes a good city design? ›

Good urban design focuses on public places where people like to be and will feel safe. Empty streets and spaces feel isolated, uncared for, and potentially risky or dangerous.

What is an example of city planning? ›

Early examples of efforts toward planned urban development include orderly street systems that are rectilinear and sometimes radial; division of a city into specialized functional quarters; development of commanding central sites for palaces, temples, and civic buildings; and advanced systems of fortification, water ...

What should a good city look like? ›

The ideal city offers resources such as attractive public parks, well-designed roads, efficient public transportation systems, well-stocked public libraries, appealing public spaces and adequate housing for all the area's residents.

Why do people want to live? ›

We live because there are people who love us, and people we love back. We live because we want to find out things, and learn, and become able to do things that we would like to do. We live because others want us to, and we want them to live along with us. We live because we have hope, and want to see what happens next.

What things are in a city? ›

school; hospital; supermarket; department store; restaurant; hotel; bank; post office; museum; library; movie theater; factory; plant; police department; fire department; city hall; town hall; prison; jail; church; cathedral; temple; chapel; mosque; synagogue.

What are 10 things found in a village? ›

Answer: huts, villagers, farms, fields , fresh air , gardens, cows, buffaloes..

What is city life? ›

People living outside the towns and the cities are known as rural life. And people living in towns and cities are known as city life. City life and rural life are quite distinctive. Both have some different advantages and disadvantages. In rural areas, people live in an open atmosphere.

What's important in a city? ›

A great city also must be easily accessible, safe, and friendly. It also must include a wide array of well-maintained amenities that are open to anyone and provide something for everybody. And, most important, it must offer people a chance to achieve their dreams. These were certainly characteristics of a great city.

How do you make a giant village in Minecraft? ›

Place 1 door, then a line of cobblestone, then another door for the entrance. Transform two zombie villagers back into villagers. Place two beds.
Breeding huts
  1. Place 10 beds.
  2. Place a bell where villagers can gather.
  3. Place at least one Composter to make at least one villager adopt the profession of farmer.

Can villagers open gates? ›

The Minecraft community has realized through observation that while villagers can walk through things like wooden doors, they are unable to cross through wooden fence gates. The gate must be open for them to proceed through. They are incapable of opening them themselves.

How do you make a Minecraft gun? ›

To easily make a gun in Minecraft, gather a dispenser, 3 redstone, 4 redstone torches, a lever, and arrows. Place your dispenser on the ground and a redstone dust behind it, with 2 blocks behind the redstone dust.

What is the first step to building a city? ›

How to build a city from scratch: the handy step-by-step DIY...
  1. Step 1: Choose a location. ...
  2. Step 2: Ensure a reliable water supply. ...
  3. Step 3: Ensure a reliable money supply. ...
  4. Step 4: Think about jobs. ...
  5. Step 5: Do not alienate locals. ...
  6. Step 6: Devise a masterplan. ...
  7. Step 7: Integrate transport. ...
  8. Step 8: Consider banning cars.
30 Jun 2015

What goes into creating a city? ›

When planning a city, planners must consider many factors, including the economy, the environment, and cultural and transportation needs. City planners also must understand current uses of existing buildings, roads and facilities in their city, as well as how these uses may affect the city in the future.

What parts make up a city? ›

In essence, a city consists of buildings, roads, and open spaces. These components of course occupy a natural setting.

What is city example? ›

City definition and example

A city is a large or important town. In the United States, cities are incorporated municipalities with local governments. In Great Britain, a borough with a bishop's seat is called a city.

What makes a big city? ›

Businesses, a large population, and a unique cultural landscape identify a city, whereas urban locations include non-rural areas like the city and suburbs. Common characteristics of significant cities include having a downtown area, large buildings, and a highway and transportation network.

What is needed to build a smart city? ›

Smart cities use applications, networks and sensors to gather data to optimize infrastructure, energy use, traffic management and emergency response. They also use technology to engage citizens to improve public services, such as transportation and utilities, and make cities more livable.

Why are cities built? ›

Throughout history, people have been drawn to cities as centers of trade, culture, education, and economic opportunity, but the resulting urban population growth has not always been steady. Indeed, urbanization is a relatively recent phenomenon; until recent years, the vast majority of people lived in rural areas.

What is our city? ›

Our City is a national nonprofit that brings people together to build things that improve cities.

What makes a city special? ›

Every city has its own unique DNA—geographic, demographic, economic, and institutional characteristics that make it different from other places. These differences play a key role in creating opportunities for economic development. Not every city is equally well-suited for every kind of industry or economic opportunity.

How many cities are in the world? ›

Up-to-date: It was last refreshed in March 2022. Comprehensive: Over 4 million unique cities and towns from every country in the world.


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