Ban cars and build traditional (English version)

I just discovered Oskar Stålberg‘s excellent blog, with lots of imaginary cities, drawn from common objects.


A particularly interesting article on his blog is the game « Brick Block » where you can build a piece of town with two mouse strokes (left button to add a block, right button to break a block)


What is interesting in this game is that you can create very interesting constructions with just 2-3 mouse strokes. you can create massive constructions, or castles with bridges and passageways, anyway, you’ll always manage to create something interesting: creating an ugly building just seems impossible.

I talked about this game with fellow architects / planners, and we came to the following question:

Why does a relatively simple game create cities that are more interesting than most architects / planners?

As a reminder, the city created by architects and urban planners is this:

The solution is relatively simple:


In order to build a beautiful and pleasant city, two things are enough:

  • ban cars
  • build traditional

let’s see the two points one by one.

Ban cars.

Contemporary urban planning is largely the science of finding the right place for cars in cities.

The task is almost impossible, as a small number of cars needs a large surface to move.

If  we put traffic flow as the only planning criterion, we get a city designed around driving.

(source image)

In an old city, cars can turn a pleasant place into a real nightmare.

(source image)

Whereas, if you completely remove the cars, you easily get a pleasant place to live.

This image is from the same village as the previous image. But, in this image, cars pass behind the protograph. (source image)

One could object that, without cars, it becomes difficult to carry out daily tasks. But the problems that arise from the need to do daily tasks without cars are easier to solve than those that come from cars themselves.

Zermatt, a city without cars: the only vehicles allowed are these small carts, travelling at low speed. (source image).
Electric minibus in the pedestrian streets of Rome (source image)
(source image)
(source image)
(source image)

Build traditional.

We have already talked a lot about traditional architecture, so I will just make a quick reminder. Basically, traditional architecture is about building while emphasizing the role of the different structural elements (doors and windows, bricks, roofs)

An over-door: the shape of the door is repeated in the columns, and each element is richly decorated. (source image)
The eaves of a roof, where you can see the structure from the outside (source image)
Decoration with false bricks, made of plaster (source image)

And organize the facades through one (or more) axis of symmetry.

Division of a long building into three parts, with a primary axis of symmetry in the center and two secondary axes of symmetry at 1/6 and 5/6 of the building (source image)

If it’s so simple, why don’t city planners do it?

Until a few years ago, urban planning was dominated by the Modern Movement, which imposed an architecture made of reinforced concrete and a transport system based only on cars.

A typical modernist city. (source image)

In the West, and in general in all countries where progressive movements exists, people are gradually asking for a reorganization of public spaces in order to give less space for cars and more space for people.

On the other hand, these same progressive movements see any return to traditional architecture as a return to the Middle Ages, to patriarchy, to religion, to the traditional family, to clearly visible social classes… concepts which, for progressives, are difficult to digest.

As a result, we have modernist neighborhoods, but without cars.


In Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and in all the countries where there is no concept of progress, traditional architecture is alive and well. Traditional patterns are everywhere, and we build with lots of decorations and lines of symmetry.

But, since there is no concept of progress and therefore no progressive movement, nobody questions the distribution of public spaces, which is largely dedicated to cars.

Architecture 1
A typical city in Central Asia (source image: Dahir insaat)
A typical city in Central Asia (source image: Dahir insaat)
Astana (source image)
Astana (source image)
Bucarest (source image)

Now, we should combine the two trends, and manage to build a city that is at the same time traditional and without cars.

Which city will be the first to take up the challenge?

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