How We Think About Cities

How We Think About Cities

The origin of cities has always been to bring people together. When we create places that encourage human interaction a city can thrive, and in turn, a collection of these places defines a great city. Human interaction facilitates the interchange of ideas, commerce and culture, and historically, cities have been designed to advance this exchange. More recently, however, we have moved away from designing cities for people and focused instead on accommodating the automobile, resulting in a dramatically different scale and character of development.

City building occurs at three different scales: the city, the neighborhood and the block.  Appropriate planning at each scale influences the civic fabric in a different way: the city scale addresses the location, character and relationship of distinct places; the neighborhood scale addresses the context, pattern and unique attributes of each place; and the block scale addresses the relationship of private development to the public realm.


When we plan to build value, or rather plan for people and not cars, the design details at each scale play a key role in establishing the authentic, vibrant, human-scaled places that define a great city.

There are five planning principles that guide our work, refocusing our team’s thinking and actions at each scale of city development:

1. Know Your Elevator Speech  – Collective action can be coordinated through a clearly articulated vision.

2. Create Places for People – Community is built through human interaction.

3. Create a Quality Public Realm – Design of public space expresses the context and priorities of your community.

4. Get the Red Right – Market-based and right-sized development creates financial stability.

5. Spend your Green Wisely – Public investment should stimulate valuable private action.

Building great communities needs to be a lot easier. When it comes to the art and science of city-building, it’s important to remember that cities are made to create human interaction. Essential to creating enduring value is knowing what matters to your community, creating and connecting places, respecting the development market and focusing limited resources.

Keep an eye out for future posts that will expand on each of our five planning principles and the three scales of city development.  We welcome your feedback.

-The Kansas City Planning Studio of Gould Evans