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Stunning Images Of The World's Planned Cities, As Seen From Space

Most planned cities probably aren't designed with the view from space in mind, but, as Wired.com's Betsy Mason notes, some of them create incredible patterns on the landscape that can only be truly appreciated from above.

 

Via Wired.com,

Planned cities are laid out all at once and built from scratch. They are designed with a purpose in mind: to optimize traffic flow, or to maximize access to green space or to keep everyone in their proper place. They are born from many different inspirations. Some are a compromise between two cities vying to be their country's capitol, built in between in neutral territory on previously undeveloped land. Some are built to keep workers near a nuclear power plant or copper mine in the middle of nowhere. Some are intended to be a utopia -- with public gardens, promenades, throughways and harmony -- to cure the "urban disease" rampant in most ad hoc cities.

These cities, towns and communities can be found all over the world and throughout history, hundreds of years into the past and several decades into the future. Here are some of the best views of planned cities from space.

Brasília, Brazil

NASA's EO-1 satellite took this natural-color image in August 2001.

Brazil's capital is one of the best known planned cities in the world. From space it looks like a bird, or a plane... or Superman.

Brasília was almost entirely built in 41 months, at great expense, and opened in April 1960. It was intended to be a more central, neutrally located capital for the country whose previous capital, Rio de Janeiro, sits on the southeastern coast in the midst of much of the country's commercial activity. Today, Brasilia's greater metropolitan area is home to nearly 4 million people. It is one of the largest cities in the world that was built since 1900.

Canberra, Australia

Above: Google/GeoEye, taken Sept. 26, 2011. Below: Close up of Canberra's Capital Hill. GeoEye.

At the end of the 19th century, Australia's two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, were vying to be the capital of the country. The compromise was to build a brand new city in between the two, and in 1908, Canberra was chosen as the site for this new planned city.

A competition was held to decide who would design the new Canberra, and in 1912 the plan of American architect Walter Burley Griffin (right) was chosen.

"I have planned a city that is not like any other in the world," Griffin famously said. "I have planned it not in a way that I expected any government authorities in the world would accept. I have planned an ideal city -- a city that meets my ideal of the city of the future."

Griffin was eventually ensnarled in bureaucratic infighting and was kicked off the project in 1920 when barely any construction work had been done. The legislature did not move in to the city until 1927. The city continued to be expanded for decades. Today it is home to more than 350,000 people.

In the image above, Griffin's Parliamentary Triangle can be seen straddling the artificial Lake Burley Griffin. In the southern corner is Parliament House on Capital Hill, in the eastern corner is the Defence precinct and in the north is Market Centre.

Palmanova, Italy

Image: Google/Digital Globe, taken Apr. 2, 2006.

This nine-pointed fortress is perhaps the best example of a planned city from the Renaissance. Palmanova was built in 1593 and is located in the northeastern corner of Italy near the border with Slovenia.

It was intended to be home to a completely self-reliant utopian community that could also defend itself against the Ottomans. It had three guarded entrances, ramparts between each of the star points and eventually a moat. Sadly, nobody was willing to move there. Eventually it was used as free housing for pardoned criminals. Today it is a national monument, a tourist destination and home to around 5,000 people.

El Salvador, Chile

Images: Google/GeoEye, taken Feb. 11, 2010.

El Salvador is a small town in the middle of nowhere in Chile (see below). After discovering a huge amount of copper ore in 1954, the Anaconda Mining Company had to build a self-sustaining town to house its workers. Designed by an American architect, it is supposedly built in the shape of a Roman helmet. The town was finished in 1959, the same year that the El Salvador mine was opened. The city was home to as many as 24,000 people but today has around 7,000 and is still an active mining town.

La Plata, Argentina

Image: Google/Geoeye, taken Nov. 15, 2011.

In 1880 Buenos Aires became the capital of Argentina, leaving the Province of Buenos Aires in need of a new capital. The governor of the province decided a new city was in order and in 1882 La Plata was founded.

The square city is dominated by diagonal throughways, while every other street is on a square grid system with a park every six blocks. In 1884 the city was the first in Latin America to have electric street lighting. In 1952 the city was renamed Eva Peron City, but reverted back to La Plata three years later. Today the city is home to around 700,000 people, the largest church in Argentina and two buildings designed by Le Corbusier.

Washington, D.C.

Images: Above: Google, taken Aug. 28, 2010. Right: Library of Congress. Below: GeoEye.

In 1791, after the location of the country's new capital city had been settled on, George Washington chose French-born American architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant to design plan the city. L'Enfant centered the city on Jenkins Hill where the Capitol building would stand. He laid the streets out in a north-south, east-west grid with larger diagonal avenues cutting through the city. Where the diagonals intersected, there were circles and plazas with open space.

L'Enfant subsequently had a falling out with the rest of the city planning commission and was dismissed. Andrew Ellicot took over and made a few changes resulting in the plan that would form the basis for the construction of the city (right). In 1800, the government moved in.

The National Mall (shown below during President Obama's inauguration in 2009) was later designed and built on the broadest road in the district, which had been designed as a 400-foot-wide grand avenue.

Jaipur, India

Image: Google/GeoEye, taken Nov. 13, 2011.

Jaipur was based on the principles of Vastu Shastra, the ancient Indian science of architecture. It was planned to be a new capital of India's Rajasthan state and built in four years beginning in 1727. It was made up of huge blocks separated by 111-foot-wide streets and surrounded by walls. At the time, the design and architecture was very advanced. In 1853, the entire city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales, and today the avenues are still painted pink. Today the city has grown beyond its walls and is home to more than 3 million people.

Adelaide, Australia

Image: Google/Digital Globe, taken Dec. 31, 2007.

When you have a lot of open space, it can be tempting to plan and construct new cities. Three of Australia's biggest and best known cities were completely planned in advance: Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide.

Once South Australia became an official British colony in 1836, its surveyor general set out to plan a brand new capital city. Like many planned cities, Adelaide was built on a grid system. But what sets it apart is the wide swath of parklands that rings it.

Today the urban sprawl has outgrown the planned city center and Adeliade is the country's fifth largest city, with a population of more than 1.2 million.

New Haven, Connecticut

Image: Google/USGS, taken Mar. 31, 2008.

New Haven was the first planned city in the United States. It was built on a plan of nine squares with the central block comprising a 16-acre park. The city is now a National Planning Landmark and has more than 800,000 residents.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Image: Google/Digital Globe, taken July 19, 2006.

Like many planned cities, Belo Horizonte was planned and built to be a new capital city -- in this case to replace Ouro Preto as the capital of the Brazilian state, Minas Gerais.

The city was built in the 1890s, and the planners are said to have taken cues from the planning of Washington, D.C. Today it is the third largest metropolitan area in the country, with a city population of around 2.5 million.