Cities as art: Exploring the possibility of an aesthetic dimension in planning

Emily Talen, Cliff Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This article argues that the integration of art and planning has been inadequately developed, and calls for a renewed exploration of their inter-connection. City planning has had a variable relationship with art, moving between organic, civic minded ideals, and despotic notions of grandeur. Yet, rather than eschewing this history as nostalgic or irrelevant, there are ways in which a connection can be made between planning and art—if art is defined in a particular way. To accomplish this, it is necessary to first recognize that in the history of the human attempt to design cities, the loss of a connection between city planning and art is relatively recent. It is argued that the lost connection is in part a result of a rejection of modernist notions of urbanism. Spanning the history of city planning and city making, the notion of planning as art was in evidence until the mid-20th century, about the time when modernist spatial ideas took hold. It is argued that divorcing all notions of art from city planning practice and theoretical development has been detrimental to the profession. The relevance of art to city planning needs to be reinvigorated, but this will require new ways of thinking, an acceptance of traditionalism broadly defined, and may entail new conceptions about the merger of planning with recent cultural and even scientific theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-32
Number of pages22
JournalPlanning Theory and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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