My interest in this topic began with researching Hippodamus, the first recorded urban planner in ancient Greece and the person credited with the invention of the city grid. This is an image of Pirea, which is the first city to be laid out on a grid. How appropriate that rational Western thought would have created this structure that goes completely against natural growth of cities to make our lives more organized.
City planning in the far east was developed around more mythological theory, and geomancy or “earth divination” is a fascinating method that was used to generate street patterns in ancient China.
Then I discovered urban morphology, which explains how cities are developed based on a multitude of factors. Religious structures, topography, city planning, fortifications, harbors, subterranean networks, and suburbs are all components that contribute to the development of the street pattern in our cities.
I used the list of top 25 cities based on the quality of life study done by Monocle magazine to choose cities for this street pattern study (above). Maybe there is some correlation between the pattern and quality of life. Also, maybe there is one central factor that led to the appearance of the city layout. Medieval cities were developed around religious structures, whereas in Mesopotamia the city was built around the king’s palace. The United States has far more planned cities than in Europe and that contributes to their homogenous form.
The most interesting discovery I’ve found in this research so far is this paper that correlates the development of street patterns to the veins in a leaf. In fact, they compare transportation networks as structures that convey energy or matter in a variety of fields: city streets, plant leaves, river networks, mammalian circulatory systems, networks for commodities delivery and technological networks. Is the development of ALL of these structures related at a basic level?