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High Line, NYC
Rather than demolish it, New York took
an old elevated railway and transformed
into an urban green space, the High Line.

What is urban planning?

The simple answer is that urban planning aims to layout, reorganize, or re-purpose cities and towns so that they are more functional, easy to navigate, and serve its inhabitants more efficiently.

The need for early urban planning arose most notably when the Industrial Revolution attracted more people to the big cities in search of jobs and careers. As they grew, large population centers saw more demands for basic services like hospitals, schools and transportation, not to mention parks and playgrounds.

Meanwhile, making sense of ancient winding city streets called for bold solutions like laying out large central boulevards in Paris or the institution of the Manhattan grid which transformed American city life forever after its completion in the 19th century.

Today, as big cities grow even larger, improvements such as bike paths and larger pedestrian areas -- which reduce air pollution and noise from vehicular traffic -- are only some of the ways in which urban planners are helping to modernize the city landscape.

Notable urban planning projects worldwide

In addition to one-shot improvements to make an area more livable, more dramatic schemes continue to take shape worldwide. These projects are made possible by major investment in the billions of dollars by local and federal governments, as well as businesses with a stake in attracting more people to a livable city. Some of the most notable ongoing urban projects include:

toronto waterfront project
Waterfront Toronto is considered the largest urban renewal project in North America. Work began in 2001
and will continue for two decades as the city's waterfront is transformed into acres of city parks,
40,000 new homes and office space for 40,000 workers.

tianjin city
Tianjin Eco-City - located about 90 miles from polluted Beijing, Tianjin Eco City has been rising since
2007 from its once-spoiled wastewater surroundings and continues to grow as a Chinese model of an
ecologically-friendly green city. With a large urban park located downtown, the city already boasts mixed
income housing, neighborhood centers, and low-carbon impact energy sources.

leith walk, edinburgh
Leith Walk - Taking its cue from Manhattan's High Line (see above), Leith Walk goes a step further by adding
on to the former Caledonian Railway tracks to build an entire green belt around the city of Edinburgh, Scotland.

masdar city, abu dhabi
Masdar City - With Abu Dhabi's population projected to grow to 30 million in the next decades, a project 20
miles from the city's downtown in the United Arab Emirates is boasting one of the world's most sustainable
developments. The next phase of development includes a futuristic urban transportation system linking
Abu Dhabi, the airport, and planned beach communities along the Persian Gulf.

Elsewhere around the Web, learn more about the history of urban planning, along with new and developing ideas and best practices in urban planning that are making modern cityscapes greener and more livable ...

More about urban planning around the Web:

Project for Public Spaces
- This non-profit group offers technical assistance, education, and research through programs that make cities more livable. Also includes highly readable essays, articles and a public forum to get visitors involved.

Planetizen - Check out loads of current story articles, news, book review, job ops, and lots more in a concise, well-organized format.

Cyburbia - This extensive resource directory also offers an active bulletin board and image hosting gallery, with regular updates from the site's resident curmudgeon, Perry Norton.

Urban Planning - Here's the Wikipedia overview with a history of the discipline plus a detailed discussion of various aspects of urban planning including urban decay, reconstruction, the environment and more with suggested reading and related resources.

Urban Planning: 1794 - 1918 - Do a deep dig on the early years, with articles and bibliography on the subject; searchable by key words, author, date or subject.

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