Welcome to Part 9 of my World Building blog series :D I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know :)
City planning is another one of those subjects that seems intensely boring, but is really important. You don’t have to go incredibly in depth here, but you should be aware of the basics.
First things first, if you want to have a city where people can survive, you need to give them a water source. There’s a reason most cities in the world are built along coasts, lakes and rivers. Water is definitely the most important when you’re choosing a location because it’s so vital to life.
Now that you have a location, you need to consider population. It can be tempting to have sprawling metropolises with populations numbering in the millions, but depending on your tech levels, it can be really impractical. For a city that’s relatively easy to design and manage, you’re going to see populations in the low thousands. For example, Jericho only had about 2000 people. If you want to go all out and have a city with a million people, then by all means go for it. Ancient Rome is a great example. Other cities like Kaifeng, Beijing and Ayutthaya took several hundred years more to reach near the population of Rome. Look at the infrastructure and design of these cities to get a better understand of what it takes to keep that many people in a condensed area.
Once you have your population settled, you can figure out how to keep your population alive. How are you getting food and water to people? Where are their necessities coming from? Things like cisterns, aqueducts, silos, etc. can be part of your city design to show there’s a way to keep people fed and watered. What is infrastructure like? Do you have garbage collection, sewage, street cleaning, etc.? Do these things vary between areas?
Consider whether you’re going to have a wealth divide and if so, how does this affect the city design? Do you have wealthy and poor districts or are people intermixed? How does the division of wealth affect the distribution of private vs public lands?
When you’re designing the city you also want to consider districts and layout. Are you going to have random sprawl, grid system, rings, spoke and wheel pattern? Look at the design of old districts in different cities that were at their peak during the time you’re considering. How are things divided between residential and commercial? Determine proper places for markets, schools, etc. and figure out the most likely area for your characters to live. How accessible are the necessities to them? Things like this can be plot important if you want them to be. Maybe there are protests because of the wealth divide and the lack of accessibility to resources for those in poorer districts.
As your cities grow in size, keep in mind that you’re going to run into issues that pop up more frequently. The most common problems you’ll encounter with hundreds of thousands of people in a small area is the spread of disease and the increase of crime, especially if there is a wealth divide. How are these things managed in your world? History is full of examples of how crime and disease were dealt with and they’re not pretty. Choose or create methods that work best for the cultures you’ve developed.
Be aware that the more people you have in close quarters the greater demand there is going to be for resources in the area of your world. If you lack infrastructure it’s going to affect the standard of living, so be aware of how you’re developing your city and culture. Figure out how you want the people to live and establish the infrastructure accordingly.