What Is Urbanology

Urbanology is the study of problems and issues that are specific to urban environments. These problems can be of any kind from making physical infrastructure work better to providing the right support to vulnerable members of society. It falls into the category of social science, but usually these problems require a multi-discipline approach to solve. This includes the input of architects, planners as well as official bodies such as the police and city council.

Increasingly city residents are also being asked to become involved. Their day-to-day lives give them a special insight into how well their city functions and means that they can often see potential solutions professionals could easily miss entirely. The involvement of city residents in the design or problem solving process is helping officials from all areas to better understand and meet the needs of city residents. This approach coupled with radical new ideas that are coming from the urban planning and design community has resulted in some radical new approaches to city planning.

New Urbanism

A good example of a new way of planning and building a city is new urbanism. The concept is simple, to provide a city environment that is designed so all essential amenities are within walking distance of residents. It is also known as walkable urbanism. Each neighbourhood has its own amenities. The combined walkable neighbourhoods make up the city as a whole.

It is an approach that has been mainly used in the United States since the 1980s. However, the earliest example of such a development, The Cotton District in Starkville, Mississippi predates the movement because it was built in 1968. The area was originally built to house college students.

Interestingly, the movement draws its inspiration and basic principles from old planning standards. Planning standards that were used before the rise of car use, in the 1920s.

Urbanology Also Finds Solutions from the Past

Likewise, urbanologists also look for solutions from the past. They are not always looking for ‘bleeding edge’ radical solutions rather ones that work and have a proven track record. Of course, where appropriate they will use new technology and approaches. Often the combination of new and old ideas provides the best solutions to the unique problems modern cities face.


To find out more about urbanology and the work of the BMW Guggenheim Lab visit their website.