The task of getting from point A to point B in a sprawling, traffic-jammed metropolis often becomes difficult to solve. A clue should be found in the West, in the concept used by urban planners in Europe and America to improve the urban environment. This saving idea can be formulated in two words: a compact city.

What is a Compact City?

Don’t think of it as a matter of size. Compact does not mean small. In urban planning, compactness is a high density of buildings and good accessibility of any part of the urban environment. From this point of view, the ideal city is one where you can get from home to work, to university, to the cinema or supermarket on foot, without wasting hours of valuable time and kilometers of nerves.

The shape of the plan of the compact city is close to a circle:

The ratio of its perimeter to its area is minimal. Modern urbanism was incited to the idea of short-distance cities by the Canadian-American writer Jane Jacobs in her 1961 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” where she sharply criticized the urban planning system, tearing up the urban fabric. And in the 1970s, the very notion of the compact city took shape.

To better understand

what a compact city, you can go from the opposite. And look at most of the cities in the world, which go out of themselves and overflow. The main reason for their non-compactness is large-scale development in hard-to-reach areas. For years, a wasteland may gape within the city limits, but beyond the city limits, far from transport lines and highways, giant new buildings appear, constantly shifting these same boundaries, but without any infrastructure or transportation.

That is where the phrase “the city (insert name) is not rubber” is appropriate: you can not pull the urban fabric endlessly – sooner or later it will tear and cease to be a coherent environment. In this case, another disadvantage of such planning will crawl out – the monofunctional of districts, their fullness with a single function. Thus, most of the inhabitants of a torn, sprawling city live in one area, work in another, which is located at a considerable distance, a study in a third, have fun in a fourth, and so on to infinity. And when all these masses begin to move simultaneously along the same routes, collapse occurs.

Inner Growth

Although such schemes of cities are still alive in the whole world, the urban planners of the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have been actively changing the situation since the end of the last century. Their main principle is to develop cities not in the width but inside the existing borders: to increase urban density, use free or abandoned land within cities for construction, protect open countryside around cities, and reduce the pressure of cities on suburbs.

In China, for example, even though cities are expanding in breadth, it happens differently: new areas of dense construction are clustered in the vicinity of major transport lines. Russian urban planners in recent years are also beginning to attempt to make cities more compact, and therefore more comfortable. The principles of a short-distance city are already incorporated in the master plans of Perm, Nizhny Novgorod, Chita, and Zelenograd.

To be fair, it must be said that the format of the compact town has an inverse side: the higher the population density, the shorter distances residents have to cover in cars, but at the same time in a densely populated area itself, the number of cars inevitably increases. Here we have to look for compromises: impose parking restrictions, close some streets, and make some areas completely pedestrian.


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