Pre-modern cities grew organically based on each cities’ characteristics of identity and built form regarding fundamental values such as the church, military, and other beliefs. As a result of these cities not being planned or logically organized, it afforded spaces with various uses to be in the same area. Different people and uses developed near each other, with a shared public space that required the social and physical negotiation between the users in these zones. These cities provided various opportunities for social exchange and adjacency of heterogenous use activated the unplanned spaces within the city. In ancient Greek cities, such as Athens, the Agora is an example of a meeting ground that held various activities such as politics, education, market, and athletics. The development of the Agora took place along the Panathenaic Way, the principle thoroughfare of Athens and the main travel route for the festival that honored the city’s goddess. Another example of a heterogenous space would be the medieval plaza of the Middle Ages, such as the Piazza del Campo in Siena. The Piazza was a place where festivals, markets, executions and horse racing occurred and was created by the medieval city’s ability to provide unusual social exchange in the unplanned spaces of the medieval times.


The invention of the automobile was a prominent factor in the growth of the modern cities of today. During the twentieth century, urbanistic principles changed to celebrate the achievements of economic growth, industrialization, and new forms of mobility. The modern city’s partiality for industrial production grew as a response to the inability of the pre-modern city to adequately sustain this new form of production. Many architects and planners viewed the pre-modern cities as unsuitable for the period of industrialization and production that came about and with this came the development of strategic zoning and uses in certain areas. The city became rationalized, fully laid out and connected with transportation networks. This was the method to remove the inefficient and conflicted spaces that were found in pre-modern cities.


In the early 20th century architects and planners emerged with ideas in response to the automobile and the ambition to create a more efficient city. The first example was the based on the Garden City Movement by urban planner Ebenezer Howard. A central city surrounded by six satellite towns or “Garden Cities” that contained a certain number of residents. This method of planning decentralized the working environment found in the center and connected the housing areas via green belts because it required the need for the use of a transitory system to connect the center with the outer rings. The Garden City model was developed across the world and gave rise to suburbia. Following Howard’s Garden City was Tony Garnier’s Cite Industrielle. Garnier envisioned a city separated by zones, like Howard’s Garden City, as the zones tried to address all aspects of the city such as residential, governmental, and manufacturing. The functions of the city were related and linked by locations and circulation patterns for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.


These two utopian models for the modern city based on industrialization and the corresponding agency of the automobile became models on which modern urban planning was based on. Although the planners and architects sought out to fully calculate the needs of the city and order them to create a better functioning city they miscalculated a very important factor to the city: that was the unplanned, in-between spaces of the medieval city that allowed for various social exchange and that the adjacencies of various programs helped to activate these spaces. By eliminating the spontaneous spaces in the city in order to meet the needs of transportation, industry, and domesticity the modern planners created a lesser functioning city in terms of spontaneous spatial appropriation and the ability to create new social relationships, practices, and ideas.