Tag Archives: Streets

Urban Patterns | St Louis, Missouri USA

“I will be your tootsie wootsie,
If you will meet in St. Louis, Louis,
Meet me at the fair.”
— Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland

Urban Patterns | St. Louis, Missouri USA
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

St. Louis is an independent city (meaning it is not part of St. Louis County) and major American port in the state of Missouri, built along the western bank of the Mississippi River, on the border with Illinois. The city had an estimated population of 311,404 in 2016. It is the cultural and economic center of the Greater St. Louis area (metropolitan population of 2.9 million people), making it the largest metropolitan area in Missouri and the 19th-largest in the United States (Source: Wikipedia).

A map of St. Louis in 1780. From the archives in Seville, Spain (Source: Wikipedia).

Prior to European settlement, the area was a major regional center of Native American Mississippian culture. The city of St. Louis was founded in 1764 by French fur traders Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau, and named after Louis IX of France. In 1764, following France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War, the area was ceded to Spain and retroceded back to France in 1800. Nominally, the city operated as an independent city after 1764 until 1803, when the United States acquired the territory as part of the Louisiana Purchase. During the 19th century, St. Louis developed as a major port on the Mississippi River. In the 1870 Census, St. Louis was ranked as the 4th-largest city in the United States. It separated from St. Louis County in 1877, becoming an independent city and thus, limiting its own political boundaries. In 1904, it hosted the World’s Fair/Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Summer Olympics (Source: Wikipedia).

Satellite view from 15 km of St. Louis, Missouri in the USA (Source: Google Earth).

The St. Louis urban pattern is composed of a series of small-scale regular grids of varying size, which are offset in relation to each other. This originally occurred due to adapting the regular grid layout to the topography of the Mississippi River adjacent to the riverfront at this location to ensure that most valuable lots were rectangular in shape for the purposes of buildability. Like other cities in the world composed of offset, regular grids (such as Athens, Greece and New Orleans, Louisiana), this – in combination with the distribution of land from afar by the French/Spanish crowns during the Colonial period – had a ‘cascade effect’ in shaping the layout and orientation of future parcels of small-scale regular grids in the city. Later, railroad lines running east-west introduced a very strong north-south divide in the city, which persists to this day. Oddly, this divide (historically reflecting a post-war racial divide in the city, e.g. whites in south St. Louis and blacks in north St. Louis) has been reinforced by Federal, state, and city planning efforts such as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (i.e. Gateway Arch) grounds on the riverfront in downtown St. Louis.

St. Louis’ Warehouse District – same size as two New Orleans’ French Quarters – demolished during the 1930s to (eventually) make way for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds and Gateway Arch though this riverfront land remained vacant for over two decades.

Urban Patterns is a series of posts from The Outlaw Urbanist presenting interesting examples of terrestrial patterns shaped by human intervention in the urban landscape over time.

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NOW AVAILABLE | The American City Track | Planetizen Courses

“The American City” Track (3.25 credits)
Many people see American cities as a radical departure in the history of town planning because of their planned nature based on the geometrical division of the land. However, other cities of the world also began as planned towns with geometric layouts so American cities are not completely unique. Why did the regular grid come to pervasively characterize American urbanism? Are American cities really different? “The American City” answers these questions and much more by exploring their urban morphology. In some ways, American cities are unique including a strong historical preference for geometric regularity in town planning, which endures to this day. However, in more important ways, American cities are still subject to the same processes linking street networks and human use found in all cities of the world.

Part 1: A Brief History of the Regular Grid
Part 2: The Invention of a New Scale
Part 3: Learning from the Grid
Part 4: Complexity and Pattern in the City

Featuring Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A. Click here to purchase this Planetizen Courses track.

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AVAILABLE | The American City | Complexity & Pattern in the City | Planetizen

The American City, Part 4: Complexity and Pattern in the City course featuring Dr. Mark David Major is now available from Planetizen Courses. The course is approved for 0.75 professional development credits with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and Congress for New Urbanism (CNU).

Watch an extended preview here.

The American City, Part 4: Complexity and Pattern in the City
The course discusses the design of the urban pattern in several American cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Seattle, St. Louis, Orlando, and Phoenix). The course examines: 1) the synergy between different scales of movement patterned into the urban grid, which contributes to the “urban buzz” of distinctive neighborhoods and places; 2) the large role that local topography plays in allowing, limiting, or denying certain possibilities for urban growth, due to the massive horizontal scale of American cities and the practical necessity of overcoming topographical conditions; and 3) the consequences of government regulations, Euclidean zoning, modern transportation planning, and suburbanization during the post-war period in generating a hierarchal grid logic to the American regular grid planning tradition. The implications of development patterns and land consumption unseen during the history of city building over the previous 10,000 years are discussed.

Click here to purchase the course by subscribing to Planetizen Courses.

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AVAILABLE | The American City | Learning from the Grid | Planetizen

The American City, Part 3: Learning from the Grid featuring Dr. Mark David Major is now available from Planetizen Courses. The course is approved for 0.75 professional development credits with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and Congress for New Urbanism (CNU).

Watch an extended preview here.

The American City, Part 3: Learning from the Grid
The course covers the formal composition and spatial process of the American urban grid. The course demonstrates a well-defined spatial logic to how American cities tend to evolve over time, conserving the importance of the “center” (e.g., historical area and/or Central Business District) in relation to the ever-expanding edges. By understanding these concepts, we can better understand how “bedrock” urban attributes (such as block size and dwelling entrances) and common growth trends (such as strip malls and leapfrog development) play a role in the spatial logic of American cities. The objective of this course is to better understand the spatial implications of design decisions when intervening in the American city.

Click here to purchase the course by subscribing to Planetizen Courses.

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AVAILABLE | The American City | Invention of a New Scale | Planetizen

The American City, Part 2: The Invention of a New Scale featuring Dr. Mark David Major is now available from Planetizen Courses. The course is approved for 0.75 professional development credits with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and Congress for New Urbanism (CNU).

Watch an extended preview here.

The American City, Part 2 | The Invention of a New Scale
The course covers subjects related to land consumption, which has been a defining characteristic of American town building almost from the very beginning of colonization until the present-day. William Penn’s 1682 plan for Philadelphia demonstrated town building could occur on a previously unimagined scale in the abundant lands of the New World. The course also compares the characteristics of block and street length in several American and European cities to demonstrate how Americans used the regular grid to build on a massive scale in the horizontal dimension of the city, which suburban sprawl has accentuated and abused since World War II. Finally, the course also discusses implications for sustainable cities in the 21st century.

Click here to purchase the course by subscribing to Planetizen Courses.

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