Incorporated Society of Architects and Engineers of Germany

Municipal Journal and Engineer 22 (March 6, 1907):224-227.

This statement of planning principles modified and expanded on an earlier document whose text dated 1874 appears in another document in this series. The explanatory notes by Professor Baumeister, referred to in the first paragraph appear here in italics. The agreement at these dates on sets of planning principles reflects the early emergence of city planning as an accepted responsibility of German cities and the widespread preparation and adoption of urban expansion and redevelopment plans and programs.
Prof. Baumeister, Germany's greatest authority on city planning, has reported to the Incorporated Society of Architects and Engineers on the revision of the principles of town and city planning formulated by that society in 1879 These revised principles were unanimously accepted by the society. For the translation of these, and of Prof. Baumeister's explanatory notes, we are indebted to Mr. Frank R. Durham and The Surveyor.

General.--In the planning and laying out of towns and cities, esthetic, hygienic, social and economic principles should be considered individually and in combination. The esthetic principles include the architectonic treatment of space, landscape treatment to attain vista effects, and more especially regard for the preservation of monuments and maintenance of features of local and national interest.

This lays down the necessity of the collaboration of architects, engineers and surveyors in order to avoid one-sided and amateur designs, and likewise to direct the endeavors of the designers towards obtaining a general effect of expediency and beauty, rather than the individual treatment of a single architectural feature or small area. It recommends preserving existing buildings of architectural value and natural features, the incorporation of the same with suitable surroundings, but without neglecting the requirements of hygiene, social and political economy.

Provision for Future Extension.--All probable forms of traffic should be provided for, such as streets with rail tracks, bridle and cycle paths, footway communication, railways, waterways, and all works required for upkeep and cleansing. Railways should not be laid at street level, but should as a rule be designed either above or below ground. Certain streets or districts should be especially set apart for business and shop premises, factories, dwelling houses and villa quarters, in accordance with the local requirements. Likewise suitable plots should be reserved for the erection of public buildings and certain areas maintained as open spaces. As expedients to attain this subdivision into districts, adaptability of position, traffic facilities, size of building blocks, building by-laws and trade regulations can be named. The above principles demand that the designs should cover considerable areas, and certainly include immediate suburban districts in general planning, as well as provide for prospective districts.

Here is pointed out the importance of the planning and designing of town extensions to cover areas not only for the present needs, but also for the future. The design of small areas is to be distinctly deprecated on account of the difficulties which arise in providing for future requirements of traffic (railways, tram roads and main arteries for road traffic), and above all for systematic drainage. Further, the treatment and sub-division of areas into different zones for different purposes (dwelling, business, factory quarters, etc.) is highly recommended in order that the important questions of social economy can be fully coped with. Subdivisions of this kind are of service, as the requirements can be more easily accommodated.

Streets.--The street network should be treated in distinct reference to main arteries of thoroughfare and secondary streets. The design should above all include these main arteries, more especially in the consideration of direction, in the form of radial, circumscribing or diagonal roads, whereas only such secondary streets should be determined as the local conditions absolutely require. All subordinated side streets, such as dwelling streets, factory streets, footways or walks should only be laid out to meet the requirements of the immediate future or left to private enterprise to develop under the supervision and sanction of the controlling authorities. In as far as important economic reasons or traffic impediments do not arise, it is recommended in the design of new streets to utilize existing roads or ways, actual property boundaries and river or waterway banks, existing buildings of note and features of nature, as well as to consider the termination or interruption of long roads of equivalent importance, the conformity of the street to the irregularities of the ground, the avoidance of cuttings and hollow longitudinal sections. In this consideration the following questions will arise: Whether the streets should be straight or curved; whether the junction with another street should be at right or acute angles; whether a straight or a set-off crossing is to be preferred; and finally, whether and to what extent street corners are to be rounded off.

The breadth and the arrangement of the streets will depend on the traffic to be accommodated and the permissible height of the buildings. For main arteries a considerable breadth is preferable, and under certain conditions can be provided for by means of front gardens, either public or private, which can be dispensed with in the future when widenings are required. For secondary streets lesser breadths are sufficient, and front gardens can be prescribed where tall houses, avenues or villa quarters are designed. In the further subdivision of streets multiplicity of variety is desirable, and is obtainable by change of direction and a symmetrical arrangement of the front gardens and tree rows. As minimum street breadths the following dimensions should be accepted: For streets of secondary traffic requirements 26 feet, with tram lines 56 feet, with a middle boulevard 82 feet, and the space between tree rows and the building line should be at least 26 feet.

The main arteries will generally follow the existing principal roadways. The circumscribing or "ring" roads will help to decentralize and develop suburbs, by affording them an easy means of intercommunication. It is not necessary to plan all the subordinate side streets as their requirements will develop gradually with the extension of building. but the fixing of the general lines (the main arteries and secondary streets) will materially assist in the creation of a beautiful and well laid out town. In this consideration it is a matter of highest importance that the city authorities should decide how far and to what extent such plans should be published in order to keep under control land and building speculation. In designing a street the question of straight or curve alignment will depend considerably on the object to be attained. A straight street will sometimes give an opens view to a fine vista. whereas a curved street will be more applicable to the contour of the ground.

Open Squares, spaces should be amply provided, but only few will require to be of an extensive nature. In accordance with the ultimate purpose and in proportion to the relative importance of such spaces the following rules should be observed, viz.: The plan of the open space and the positions of the streets entering should be so chosen that the main traffic lines are kept to the sides, or, if not, be distributed as much as possible over the whole area, but on no account be directed towards a central crossing or the middle of the space. The immediate surroundings of open spaces should be preferably close built, while street entrances may be treated as gateways or arched. The surfaces of open spaces may be graded or sloped and the central area sunk or hollowed. The sites for public buildings or monuments require the following considerations: The possible raised position, the correct length of vision (two or three times the height), the effective view from the distance or the surprise effect due to proximity, and the completed background. Plantations in the immediate neighborhood of important architectural features should, as a rule, be laid out regularly and geometrically, but if they are of an extensive character and planned for a distinct purpose in the neighborhood of ordinary buildings a free picturesque treatment is preferable. A transition from the one style of plantation to the other, or a combination of both, will sometimes be appropriate.

In laying out open spaces it is not necessary, and even disadvantageous, to give them too considerable areas. Numerous small open spaces are to be preferred to a few large ones. Such small spaces can be easily obtained by simple street widenings. Such open spaces should be considered as regards their purpose whether as traffic centers, gardens, or for the erection of monumental buildings and monuments. In the treatment of the latter it should be carefully considered whether such structures should form a part of a view, as seen from a distance, or whether they should come as a surprise on turning a corner.

Planning and Class of Buildings.--Of three classes of dwelling houses, self-contained houses containing two to four flats and large tenement blocks, the two former should be encouraged, whereas the last must be only permitted within the older parts of the town with restrictions of their defects, and should be condemned in new districts. Limitations of areas and heights of buildings must be legally prescribed not only from the hygienic but also from the economic point of view. Regulations in this respect should be differentiated in the case of a large city or town, either according to districts or zones, or certain subdivisions of area, or to particular streets and roads. This differentiation should be treated partly in respect to the actual ground value, and partly with a view to the class of buildings required. Adequate depths for the plots of dwelling houses, business premises and combined business and dwelling houses should be adjusted in consideration of height covered, court and garden areas, and for small buildings should be 50 feet to 100 feet, medium size buildings 80 feet to 165 feet, and large structures 130 feet to 230 feet, and for factories more especially, the distance between road and railway or road and waterway 195 feet to 330 feet. The so-called open building (detached) is suitable for small houses, as well as for larger types of buildings, more especially in the villa districts, but not for business quarters. The correct space should be proportionate to the height of the buildings. Hygienic and esthetic advantages of detached buildings can be to a certain degree attained by semi-open building (semi-detached blocks containing three or more houses, but not in a continuous row), and proportionately diminish the economic disadvantages. The reservation of a sufficient proportion of air space within an area surrounded by continuous blocks will serve the same purposes as open building. This same regulation is to be recommended in the case of the reservation of a public garden or courtyard within the area of blocks of buildings. Back houses should be as far as possible avoided, and in preference intermediary streets should be constructed. It is often advantageous to place the building line I foot 8 inches to 6 feet 6 inches behind the street line in order to create a variety of offsets without prescribing front gardens. Further, the voluntary set-back of the house is permissible with due consideration to the neighboring houses. The two lines (building line and street line) need not lie parallel in such cases.

The self-contained house and the tenement house form the two extremes of dwellings. The ideal self-contained house will not be attainable everywhere from economic reasons, and therefore the house containing two to four flats will form the means of the two extremes. Tenement houses, which are undoubtedly both hygienically and morally the worst form of dwellings, are to be condemned, but the erection of such tenement blocks will sometimes have to be permitted out of economic principles where the ground values are extremely high, with a limitation as to the number of dwellings allowed to be contained therein. The open building has a great number of advantages, more especially free air circulation and light, as well as the avoidance of ugly party walls during the development of a city area. The main disadvantages are the greater expense and the extravagance of frontage required, but these disadvantages may often, in the case of large dwelling houses, be outweighed by the accruing advantages. Smaller houses cannot be treated thus on account of the economic standpoint. The semi-open building or groups of houses incorporate to a certain extent the above advantages and are distinctly more economic structures. In the case of continuous building the free circulation of air is of greatest importance, and therefore the open spaces behind the rows of buildings should be a first consideration, and when back houses have to be permitted their height should be limited to less than that of the front buildings, and perhaps even prohibited as dwelling houses.

Town Plans--The rights of expropriation of municipal corporations and bodies should extend over all private properties which the planning and laying out of town or city require for the welfare of the community. Legal assistance should be granted to afford relief in the form of expropriation and compulsory incorporation of fractions of plots resulting from the laying out of streets, compulsory powers to reconstruct unbuilt upon plots whose form impedes development, and further expropriation rights over districts to meet the requirements of hygiene and the demands of traffic. After the plan has been legally sanctioned, such areas as are required for public streets and open spaces may not be built upon, or if built upon are to be subject to the removal of the building. The cession of properties can be demanded by municipal bodies at such times as suits their convenience. Municipal bodies should be bound to construct a street as soon as the general demand for houses requires it, and certainly when the erection of houses covering half the length of the adjoining frontages is secured, as well as taking over under the same conditions any street constructed by private enterprise. Special by-laws should be framed for isolated buildings which lie beyond the existing alignment, more especially in reference to approach and drainage; at the same time such isolated buildings can be limited to certain purposes--factories, villas, self contained houses or otherwise.

To create a really satisfactory town plan far-reaching expropriation rights are necessary. In order to avoid the cutting up of plots requiring heavy compensation, it will often be found more advisable for the municipality to acquire the whole of such plots, or have some powers to attain the incorporation of such fragments with neighboring plots such as a redistribution and division. All powers should be brought to bear in order to prevent isolated and planless building lying beyond the existing alignments, and strict by-laws regulating such buildings should be drawn up in order to ensure proper approach, drainage, etc.

Regulation of Cost.--In the calculation of the contributions to the actual cost of construction of a new street which the adjacent proprietors have to pay, the cost of ground purchase, leveling and construction, as well as drainage over the whole length of the projected street, should be summed up and proportionately divided. In case of a large district where uniform conditions exist fixed standard charges are to be recommended. Further, the outlay incurred for specially expensive objects should be proportionately divided between the immediate and the adjacent landowners who derive benefit from the same. In the division of cost between the individual adjacent proprietors, the frontage of the plot, as well as the type of building, including the area built upon and capable of being built upon, as well as the number of stories, should be taken into consideration. The municipal authorities should have the powers to diminish these contributions when the buildings projected (workmen's dwellings, etc.) are for the furtherance of public welfare. In this case certain by-laws should be framed in reference to the size and construction of such dwelling houses, in reference to the methods of letting or renting, and further in reference to the limitation of profits.

The expense of laying out new streets should be considered with regard to the ultimate success accruing from the development, the enhanced value and the increased utility of the ground to the proprietors. The most usual form of assessment for land value is made on the frontage, and in some cases the length of frontage liable has been limited from 45 to 85 feet. The most satisfactory method is the adoption of fixed standard charges. Often the erection of public works, such as bridges, laying out of parks, flood works, etc., will increase the value of property, and therefore the cost of such works should be partly borne by all those landowners who derive direct benefit. Regulations of this kind already exist in many cities. The cost of street construction should likewise be borne by the individual proprietor. These contributions are generally calculated on frontage, but it would be more fair to take into consideration the building erected thereon in consideration of the frontage, number of stories, cubic contents, and number and size of dwellings. It is a question whether it is right to assess these contributions on the actual value of the ground when originally laid out or on the enhanced value resulting from the construction of the new streets. With regard to the erection of workmen's dwellings and such like, it may be to the advantage of the municipality to allow certain leniency in the case of contributions in order to relieve the demand for such dwellings. Whether such concessions should be made to private companies, building societies or private speculators is a matter for careful consideration, not only from the technical but also from the economical point of view.   

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: 
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