City planning and building is an ancient art. Among its earliest practitioners were the Romans who, in building military outposts to support their expanding empire, laid out a number of new cities with considerable precision. The sites of many of these new com-munities became, in later times, major European centers. European colonists, particularly the Spanish and, in some cases, the English, came to North America with well-developed ideas on how the various parts of a city should be laid out. Many South American capitals, for instance, display the influence of the initial city plans laid out by the church and military officials accompanying the early Spanish explorers. In our own country, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Savannah, Georgia, are examples of English and French influences on early city planning and building. During the Industrial Revolution, little attention was given to the art of building cities. Urban concentration extended across the landscape as a result of the real estate industry's skill at dividing up and selling off the land as rapidly as possible. The unrelieved grid patterns of many American cities west of the Alleghenies show this trend.
In the late 1800s, interest in city planning suddenly revived. A number of major American cities developed extensive plans for remodelling and beautification of their central areas. Today, in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Cleveland, and San Francisco, this interest is evidenced in extensive parks, open space, and rather formal public buildings in their central areas. Much of this planning was the work of a small group of people frequently led by Daniel Buraham, a Chicago architect.
From the 1920s through the 1940s, growing interest in city and regional planning extended to increased zoning codes, subdivision regulations, and other controls placed upon the use and development of land. Following World War II, rapid population growth and increased use of automobiles resulted in a sudden need for more housing, schools, shopping centers, highways, industrial parks, airports, and other facilities. There was great concern that these facilities be adequately serviced by utilities and that they are properly related to one another. This concern gave rise to increasing interest in environmental pollution and conservation issues brought about by post-war construction.
Out of all this activity came the development and recognition of the city and regional planning profession with all its disciplines, ranging from resource planning and physical design, through urban sociology and economics, to political science and public management. Today, the planning profession offers varied and attractive career options to those trained and experienced in architecture. Many students who have completed their first degree in architecture choose to take advanced work in urban planning. Others find their first employment in public or private planning offices, which feature programs in urban design. The architect in private practice frequently contributes to city planning to some degree in order to better fit a building project into its neighbourhood.
Given our increasing concern for the proper use of land-based resources, there can be little doubt that the planning profession will continue to offer many career opportunities to architects interested in urban design. These professions can be pursued in private practice or in public agencies. The architect/urban designer/ city planner in the public agency will most likely find development of broad public policy to be the principal assignment. In private practice, this same person will find the principal work to be support of the public policy through the design and construction of a particular project. Thus, there is a choice between approaches to utilizing a wide range of talents and interests.
In the last few years, yet another unique combination of career opportunities has emerged and is being refined into a new discipline within the environmental design and construction field. One might refer to this new discipline as "city rebuilding." Individuals and private firms who practice this discipline contract with municipalities to rebuild significant portions of the municipality. Work in and around the Baltimore Inner Harbor area is an example. Similar work has been completed in the Boston waterfront area, the Navy Pier facility in Chicago, and the South Street Seaport in Manhattan.
To date, these activities have concentrated on "people places," i.e. those areas of a city that have certain historic features that, if rehabilitated, promise to draw large numbers of visitors seeking relaxation and entertainment. They have brought a completely new level of ambiance to the centers of those cities. These successes are producing private firms that specialize in the rehabilitation of the older parts of our cities. They bring a very high level of organizational talent, design sensitivity, and construction expertise to the client community, thereby relieving that community of the need for such on-staff talent. Their organizational talents include expertise in public and private financing and thorough knowledge of the many local, state, and federal regulations governing the design and construction of public facilities. These organizations are now turning their attention to the rehabilitation of the more commonplace retail, office, and industrial portions of our cities and the opportunities for the architect, urban designer, and city planner are increasing.