Top 5 Urban Planning Quotes and their Meanings


With Urban Planning growing as a field, there are many new scholars and academics who are contributing to the field. People of older generation are also well known in academic fields. Many of the quotes said by such people, resonate in our cities to this day. While car-oriented cities dominate the developed world, and traffic or congestion dominate the developing world, cities are facing challenges unparalleled to that of previous generations. Sometimes growth is inevitable as population and resources double, but at the same time, it is important to sustain our vegetation and improve our natural resources. Some of the below quotes are not necessarily said by Urban Planners, but the interdependence of the subject makes it exciting and makes it a universal phenomenon worthy of discussion.

Below are a few Urban Planning quotes and a brief explanation of what they mean:

1. “Growth for the sake of growth, is the ideology of the cancer cell” – Edward Abbey

Urban Planning Quote - Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey was known for defending environmental issues in the 19th century. The above quote indicates that we cannot make a city grow just for the sake of development and increasing infrastructure because many times they are unplanned and are just used for namesake. Instead, if we use the resources we already have and maintain it by improving it gradually, it is a much better way to ensure a city grows and improves with time. Edward Abbey suggests that if cities grow needlessly, they will become a cancer and there won’t be any purpose to their growth. If you are a planner or in the government sector, this quote might be particularly relevant before you start a development project which is not really necessary for the city.

2. “A city always contains more than any inhabitant can know, and a great city always makes the unknown and the possible spurs to the imagination.” – Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit is a feminist author who has written widely about cities as well. According to her, in the above quote, cities are what people make of them. This is particularly important in  building a city on a human scale and having a clear agenda in mind before constructing a city. There needs to be space for play, imagination and a feeling of unknown where, even if people get lost, they can always find their way back. Creative energy needs to be present in the cities and this is particularly important in the 21st century where our cities are changing rapidly. Art and infrastructure need to be encouraged and new public spaces need to emerge such as city squares and new places for socialization.

Related: Jan Gehl’s Promotion of Urban Public Life

3. “In the planning and designing of new communities, housing projects, and urban renewal, the planners both private and public, need to give explicit consideration to the kind of world that is being created for the children who will be growing up in these settings. Particular attention should be given to the opportunities which the environment presents or precludes for involvement of children both older and younger than themselves.” – Urie Bronfenbrenner 

Urie Bronfenbrenner was known for his work in environmental planning although he practiced psychology. He provided good insights about urban planning, particularly for young people and children. In the above quote, Urie suggests that its important to build child friendly urban spaces, such as parks and playgrounds where children can use often. From a child’s eye, a city can seem intimidating without having much freedom to navigate, so it is important to build inclusive cities for young people and older generation alike. Having good footpaths, pavements and play areas can be a good start to make this a possibility.

4. “Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.” – Jane Jacobs

If you’re an urban planner, it is very unlikely you wouldn’t have heard about Jane Jacobs and her famous book Death and Life of American Cities. Her quote rings true even in this generation, because to create a city full of energy and intensity, it is necessary that the cities address the problems they have and do not dwell on them. Creating spaces which are friendly for all people and not just traffic is important. Making walkability a priority and encouraging people to use the amenities offered in the cities are equally important. Jane Jacobs suggests that if you live in a dull city, then the destruction of the city is in it’s own hands. Cities need to take more responsibility for the way they are built which suggests that each person who lives in the city is responsible for making it what it is. It should not just be left to the governments and the municipalities to improve the cities, it is all our responsibility in creating vibrant environs.

5. “Our public spaces are as profound as we allow them to be” – Candy Chang

Urban Planning Quote - Candy Chang

Candy Chang is a recent public space activist around the world and has also given a few Ted Talks on the subject. Her works are very important in the way we understand the psyche of public spaces and what they stand for. Public spaces such as city squares, parks or even the street, are all spaces of congregation and supportive of people oriented spaces, where their impact is measured on their impact on the city’s population. They give people a breather and a space to get together with friends and family. Such spaces are very important and especially for a country like India, we need to have more public spaces available for the public. Although this seems like a less important topic compared to transport and housing, it needs to be given a priority for good urban planning.

Related: Doreen Massey on Urban Space


The above are just a few quotes about urban planning and it’s effect on cities and people who live in them. It is important that we place people first in our cities and not traffic or infrastructure. From Jane Jacobs to Candy Chan, all the above quotes advocate for positive urban planning and getting the most from our cities on a daily basis. Whether you are a citizen, resident or in a position of power in your city, no matter where you live, you have the power to create change and advocate for better city planning. We all need to take more control of cities in our own hands and approach the relevant authorities to cooperate in order to improve our cities.

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