Tourism and Cities

Urban planning, where it has succeeded or failed. Two years ago I had the opportunity to fly to Malta and visit every part of the island (its small enough to travel it in 3-5 hours). What intrigued me were two cities: Valleta and Mdina. I was originally going to write my essay on how tourism is what allows these cities to flourish but that traffic is a variable that affected their economies, but there are not enough resources in Canada.

What strikes me is that these two cities thrive on tourism, but one has been modernized and the other appears to be locked in time. When you visit Valetta there is ample parking outside, an intrinsic bus loop, and tourists everywhere. It was built in the 16th century during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (these guys built fascinating watch towers all around the island) and is on the ocean with two natural harbors. When doing some research I discovered that the city’s principal designer’s plan deviated from medieval Maltese architecture, which exhibited irregular winding streets and alleys. Instead, he designed the new city on a rectangular grid, and without any collacchio (an area restricted for important buildings). After the Knights’ departure and the brief French occupation, building projects in Valletta resumed under British rule that included widening gates, demolishing and rebuilding structures, widening newer houses over the years, and installing civic projects. The city is always busy and alive, except in the evenings where everyone has gone home and the buses have stopped running (but Malta in general shuts down after 6pm)

In Mdina, the “silent city,” it appears to be a ghost town and everything has been frozen in time like a museum. It’s eerie because nobody travels in this city and you feel almost trapped because of all the high walls. There is a bus loop but it’s far into the island and traffic was never addressed, mostly because there were no automobiles when this city was built. There are no ports nearby, but rather the city exists on higher elevation and can view the coastline as it was originally built as a defensive Roman castle and dates its origins back to 700 BC. It has had sections rebuilt or redesigned, as the Knights of St John altered the cathedral and focused on restoration projects, but the main focus was preservation instead of modifying it to become modernistic. If you visit Mdina bare in mind people are residing within the walls, so be careful you don’t end up in their living room like many mistaken tourists have made (not myself). While Valetta is constantly upgrading, Mdina is being preserved.

Essentially I just find it intriguing how these two cities are still functioning in this modern age. They both rely on tourism and contain residents dwelling within these archaic and Baroque stylized buildings but their locations are strategic to their flow of traffic. Although Mdina used to be Malta’s capital, it is clear why they transferred it to Valetta because of the strategic location. No longer is defense a concern like Max Weber described, but instead the city focuses on furthering its economic interests.


November 8th

For November 8th’s class we were allowed to choose out own groups and then were required to answer questions on different types of Urban Planning. The Question’s focused on  Gaston Bardet’s French Urbanisime, Systems Planning, and Communicative Planning (both of which can be found in Ch. 10 of Cities of Tomorrow). I have provided a summary of the questions we answered in class but have also attached two questions that were unanswerable in class. These two questions are necessary to our last summation so if anyone has an answer please leave a comment!

Did designers of the Athens Charter-style developments think about the importance of the street?

Were they able to effectively address the kinds of issues that Jacobs ben satisfied?

Gaston Bardet:

Objections to Athens Charter

–       archaic and false simplicities

–       don’t apply to the modern world – too idealistic

–       social nature into question

–       ignores existing societies

–       infatuation with high rises – superior – not based on real evidence

–       town activities not taken into consideration

–       society should not adapt to machine – they dictate life


–       focus Marseille Poette – father of French Ubranisime steeped in history – influenced by the past

–       plan through deep understanding of city and how it evolved

  • do not tear it down and rebuild

–       social science should be applied to the city – different than earlier social scientists – not decadent or a problem, he appreciates it, complex organism that has evolved – not just buildings and social problems, defined by collective identity = CULTURAL DIMENSION


–       Based on functionality with a shift towards the human component

–       Based on regional understanding of planning – school of regional planning that develops {Patrick Gettes and Louis Munford}

–       Can’t plan individual settlements

–       Planner should be a facilitator – not as much of a designer

  • Create open ended plan – take in different opinions and then revise them

Departure from Athens Charter

–       didn’t take in modernist ideals – high rises, everything else archaic

–       different scales of community – taken into consideration

–       functionalism bypassed spirituality

–       regionalism – self-contained


Systems Planning

What was it?

–       using direct evidence to plan a city

–       seeking for a scientific/imperial method for planning a city

–       Engineering based – studies traffic, locational patterns of activity taken into consideration

–       Identifying systems in the city: traffic [where you locate things influence how they use roads and transportation method], land use, sewage, water filtration, public facilities, etc.

–       All interconnected systems – change of one variable catalyst facilitates other systems

–       Computing based

–       Forecasting future methods

Where did it come from?

–       comes from the Cold War – changing technology – aerospace and defense

–       academia – fields researching (geography, social sciences = conversions in data)

–       locational theory – amalgamation of disciplines


–       based on science

–       viewed as mechanical – broken down city – maximize resources


–       didn’t work with organic nature of planning – supposed to maximize, but only works – has to work, if one part doesn’t work it all fails

–       people matter – less predictable

–       didn’t take social dimension and individuality into consideration

–       have to delegate with multiple persons – collect massive amount of data and implement it with help from bureaucracy

–       contradictory goals


Communicative Planning

What was its approach?

–       planning is politics – who gets what they wants, who has power and can dictate the city

–       try to empower people who were disempowered (lower classes, those ignored)

–       leftist turn towards people power

Short comings

–       Top-down planning

–       Increasing paranoia of systems approach – everyone’s a skeptic (towards the systems approach and government influence)

–       Previous – physical content – destroying existing communities

  • Collective good made more important

Impact on planning profession

–       changes from design and system to the actual residents, bottom up approach – advocate planners

–       planer lost amount of power – gives suggestions and knowledge’s, offer mediation

–       have nothing left to do – no more expertise or authoritarian control

–       become educators – group think

  • no individual opinions


What was the Marxist critique of planning?

–       complete questioning of planning

–       a questions of Marxists looking into society as it was

  • not what planners were
  • historical stage that is capitalism and how planners fulfill it

Summation of September 11th

On Tuesday’s class we discussed Max Weber’s definition of a city; the city is a settlement where the inhabitants move away from an agrarian society to an urbanized one in which they transition into a life that flourishes from trade and commerce rather than agriculture. A city is made up of three key points that we agreed upon in class: a market which generates trade and commerce; a political-administrative with at least partial autonomy (controls government and law); a fortress or garrison which allows for a defensive military function; and an interconnectedness of these activities in a city to allow for it to function. An example of a symbiotic relationship we discussed was between a City’s military and it’s market. This relationship functions because each party benefits from the other where the Military provided protection and a consumer for the markets products, whereas the market supplied goods and also taxable persons providing further funds for the city.

Further questions could be invoked from our discussions in this course like whether this definition can applied to all cities; can our modern day city be defined by Weber’s ideas; what is missing or dated about weber’s definition of a city. All these questions were answered in class, and the general consensus is that the city has evolved from Weber’s definition while also maintain some of the core elements. I chose to focus on what could be added to Max Weber’s original definitions because I found the additions to be multi-faceted where they could define today’s cities or not. Architecture, Culture, numerical and spatial factors, and the ability to provide activities or fulfill people’s desires are all important options that could fit the definition but were arguably not appropriate.

The Cultural aspect would provide a distinction between urban life versus rural since in today’s society one can order things online whereas arts must be seen and are therefore irreplaceable. An example is that a person can not order or view certain aspects of art which are essential to culture like the opera, plays, art exhibits, and more. Arguably, this could provide a negative connotation towards a city because Culture is very subjective and therefore cannot be applied to all.

The Numerical or Spatial element could also differentiate a city from a village. Further into our discussion, however, more observations provided a clear disassociation with this element as part of Weber’s definition. When comparing the population factor, refuge camps have the same population as large metropolitan areas but are distinctly different from each other because of the conditions within the two areas. These poorer nations also can be quite grand in space but it is because they must travel larger distances to acquire their resources. We can also look into the history of the city back in Europe and compare the population, which was small, but did not prevent this area from becoming labeled as a city. A key characteristic that helped define these ancient cities was the machinery and the specializations that their markets provided that drew people to it and therefore a minimum population could possibly be applied but not a maximum.

The last few comments we discussed in class touched on a few added points that could be added to the definition. Along with the specialties that these ancient markets provided that drew people to cities there was the question of whether a city provides activities and fulfill desires and was apparently proposed by Weber in a separate definition. There is also the architectural structure that a city has that elevates it from a township or rural community.

To sum up this class we mainly focused on Weber’s definition of the city, added to it with our own ideas, deconstructed his to apply it to Modern cities, and discussed if it does apply to our cities. We found that it could be applied to our modern cities, but they needed to be revamped by altering the language to fit appropriately. What I mean by this is that a garrison has evolved to our Nations Army and our markets have grew into grander shopping malls. Just as our cities have evolved from Weber’s times, so must his definition grow to fit these modern times.