Principles of Planned Urbanization – Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director UN-Habitat

By on 12/03/2015

In this lecture, Dr Clos discusses planned versus spontaneous urbanization, the issues this entails and three concrete principles for planning sustainable cities. Together they form a three-legged approach to sustainable urbanization.

mp3 icon Principles of Planned Urbanization – Dr. Joan Clos



In this opening session for the second season of the Global Urban Lecture Series, Dr. Joan Clos introduces three fundamental principles behind planned urbanization: Rules and Regulations, Urban Design, and a Financial Plan. Together they form a three legged approach towards sustainable urbanization.

Starting point for the lecture is the distinction between spontaneous and planned urbanization. A planned urbanization emphasises the benefits of cities, such as the capacity to generate wealth, employment, as well as coexistence benefits and the diversity of cultural exchanges. A spontaneous urbanization on the other side usually doesn’t provide enough public space, enough basic services or attention to the principles of good urbanization that would enable its citizens to enjoy the benefits of living in a city.

As most of the urbanization in the developing world currently is spontaneous, Dr Clos goes through three essential principles to bare in mind as the world urbanizes, in order to achieve planned urbanization and avoid the pitfalls of a spontaneous development.

The first principle involves “Rules and Regulations”. Rules and regulations have the power to shape the form and character of the city. Within this principle, three specific areas are of essence: the regulation of public space, the building rights, and the building codes regulating the quality and standards of buildings. Dr. Clos place specific emphasis on the public space, as the quality of this space is what is ultimately going to determine the quality of the rest of the city.

The second principle is ‘Urban Design’. Within this principle Dr. Clos discusses the areas of spatial layout, design of the open space, and the importance of a well planned street pattern.

The third principle deals with the “Financial Plan”, in which the budget, the local authority taxation system and central government funds are discussed. Within this principle, Dr. Clos also brings up the concepts of value sharing and land readjustment, as it is important to think in innovative manners when planning modern cities, Dr. Clos mentions that concepts such as these should be incorporated in the financial plan from the start.

In closing, Dr. Clos stresses the need to balance these three principles, as their interconnectivity is of the utmost essence in a achieving successfully planned sustainable cities.


Since October 2010, Dr. Joan Clos is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) at the level of Undersecretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly. Dr. Clos is a medical doctor with a distinguished career in public service and diplomacy. He was twice elected Mayor of Barcelona serving two terms during the years 1997-2006. He was Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade of Spain between 2006 and 2008. Prior to joining the United Nations, he served as Spanish ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan. At the international level, Dr. Clos has previously served as President of Metropolis – international network of cities; President of the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities, (WACLAC) ; Chairman of the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities, (UNACLA), and member of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, (CEMR). Dr. Clos has received a number of awards, including a gold medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1999 for transforming Barcelona, and in 2002 he won the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for encouraging global cooperation between local authorities and the United Nations.

Main Menu