Core Concepts in Town-Plan Analysis

  • Michael P. ConzenEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


‘Town-plan analysis’ developed to account for those portions of the intricate patterns of spatial organization and visual character of towns and cities that can be retrieved from a study of the chief elements of their ground plan. It investigates the configurations of streets, plots and buildings created over time as cities have grown from unpretentious beginnings or bold designs into complex territorial compositions of built environment. Inevitably, the pressures of urbanization have usually triggered extensive modifications to original layouts, producing often complex alterations to the spatial structure of the urban core and variable impacts on the successive urban fringes of cities as they have expanded and been absorbed into the urban mass. Advances in town-plan analysis have created many useful concepts to explain the dynamic processes that have shaped and altered the ground plans of cities, and a selection of the most successful concepts is presented here. They lie at the core of a coherent system of urban morphological explanation.


Town-plan analysis Townscape Urban form Urban morphology Urban morphological processes Urban tissue 


  1. Baker NJ, Slater TR (1992) Morphological regions in English medieval towns. In: Whitehand JWR, Larkham PJ (eds) Urban landscapes: international perspectives. Routledge, London, pp 43–68Google Scholar
  2. Barke M (1976) Land use succession: a factor in fringe-belt modification. Area 8:303–306Google Scholar
  3. Barke M (1990) morphogenesis, fringe belts and urban size: an exploratory essay. In: Slater TR (ed) The built form of Western cities. Leicester University Press, Leicester, pp 279–299Google Scholar
  4. Bobek H, Lichtenberger E (1966) Wien: Bauliche Gestalt und Entwicklung seit der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts, Böhlau, Graz/KölnGoogle Scholar
  5. Caniggia G, Maffei GL (2001) Architectural composition and building typology: interpreting basic building. Editrice Alinea, FlorenceGoogle Scholar
  6. Conzen MP (1978) Analytical approaches to the urban landscape. In: Butzer KW (ed) Dimensions of human geography: familiar and neglected themes. University of Chicago Geography Research Paper 186, pp 128–165Google Scholar
  7. Conzen MP (2008) Retrieving the pre-industrial built environments of Europe: the historic towns atlas programme and comparative morphological study. Urban Morphol 12:143–156Google Scholar
  8. Conzen MP (2009) How cities internalize their former urban fringes: a cross-cultural comparison. Urban Morphol 13:29–54Google Scholar
  9. Conzen MP (2015) Urban mapping. In: Mon-monier MS (ed) The history of cartography: cartography in the twentieth century. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 1649–1655Google Scholar
  10. Conzen MP, Gu K, Whitehand JWR (2012) Comparing traditional urban form in China and Europe: a fringe-belt approach. Urban Geogr 33:22–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Conzen MRG (1960) Alnwick, Northumberland: a study in town-plan analysis. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, no 27, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Conzen MRG (1981a) The plan analysis of an English city centre. In: Whitehand JWR (ed) The urban landscape: historical development and management: papers by MRG Conzen. Academic Press, London, pp 25–53Google Scholar
  13. Conzen MRG (1981b) Geography and townscape conservation. In: Whitehand JWR (ed) The urban landscape: historical development and management: papers by MRG Conzen. Academic Press, London, pp 75–86Google Scholar
  14. Conzen MRG (1981c) Historical townscapes in Britain: a problem in applied geography. In: Whitehand JWR (ed) The urban landscape: historical development and management: papers by MRG Conzen. Academic Press, London, pp 55–74Google Scholar
  15. Conzen MRG (2004) Thinking about urban form: papers on urban morphology, 1932–1998. Conzen MP (ed). Peter Lang, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Hopkins MIW (2012) The ecological significance of urban fringe belts. Urban Morphol 16:41–54Google Scholar
  17. Kropf KS (1997) When is a plot not a plot? problems in representation and interpretation.In: 4th International Seminar on Urban Form, BirminghamGoogle Scholar
  18. Lafrenz J (1988) The metrological analysis of early modern planned towns. In: Denecke D, Shaw G (eds) Urban historical geography: recent progress in Britain and Germany. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Larkham PJ, Conzen MP (eds) (2014) Shapers of urban form: explorations in morphological agency. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Lilley KD (2001) Urban planning and the design of towns in the Middle Ages: the Earls of Devon and their ‘new town’. Plan Perspect 16:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lilley KD (2009) City and cosmos: the medieval world in urban form. Reaktion Books, LondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Lilley KD, Lloyd CD, Trick S (2007) Mapping medieval townscapes: GIS applications in landscape history and settlement study. In: Gardiner M, Rippon S (eds) Medieval landscapes. Windgather Press, Macclesfield, pp 27–42Google Scholar
  23. Simms A (2013) Unity in diversity: a comparative analysis of the morphological agents creating medieval towns across Europe: Kilkenny, Kalkakr and Sopron. In: Duffy S (ed) Princes, prelates and poets: essays on medieval Ireland in Honour of Katherine Simms. Four Courts Press, Dublin, pp 11–68Google Scholar
  24. Slater TR (1981) The analysis of burgage patterns in medieval towns. Area 13:211–216Google Scholar
  25. Slater TR (ed) (1990) The built form of Western cities. Leicester University Press, LeicesterGoogle Scholar
  26. Slater TR (2008) Roads, commons and boundaries in the topography of Hertfordshire towns. In: Slater TR, Goose N (eds) A county of small towns: the development of Hertfordshire’s urban landscape to 1800. University of Hertfordshire Press, HatfieldGoogle Scholar
  27. Ünlü T (2013) Thinking about urban fringe belts: a Mediterranean perspective. Urban Morphology 17:5–20Google Scholar
  28. Whitehand JWR (1981) Background to the urban morphogenetic tradition. In: Whitehand JWR (ed) The urban landscape: historical development and management: papers by MRG Conzen. Academic Press, London, pp 1–24Google Scholar
  29. Whitehand JWR (1984) Rebuilding town centres: developers, architects and styles. University of Birmingham Department of Geography Occasional, Publication, p 19Google Scholar
  30. Whitehand JWR (1987) The changing face of cities: a study of development cycles and urban form. Institute of British Geographers Special Publication no 21. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  31. Whitehand JWR (1988) Urban fringe belts: development of an idea. Plann Perspect 3:47–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Whitehand JWR (1994) Development cycles and urban landscapes. Geography 79:3–17Google Scholar
  33. Whitehand JWR, Carr CMH (2001) Twentieth-century suburbs: a morphological approach. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Whitehand JWR, Conzen MP, Gu K (2016) Plan analysis of historical cities: a Sino-European comparison. Urban Morphol 20:139–158Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations