I was under the impression some cities are built to make urban combat more of a mess than it already is. Specifically they are built to have bad sight lines, confusing routes for the enemy and planned areas that could be blocked off. Unfortunately I can't seem to find information on specific city planning of this nature. What cities were planned this way if any and how recently were they planned, also did any of these cities experience combat?

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    Paris comes to mind. Some cities are designed with wide boulevards to move troops. Others build in chokepoints/barricades/chains to limit troop movement. In teh 70's US buildings were built with narrow windows to reduce the damage of riots - we thought the 60's would last forever.
    – MCW
    Oct 5, 2019 at 17:20
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    The obvious answer would be walled cities when cities were walled. Not only there were walls (and usually a broad unobstructed street around its inner side, to move troops) but usually it was forbidden to build near the wall at the outside (up to one kilometer or two) so that the enemy could not hide in the buildings. Is there any reason that you do not consider the obvious answer valid?
    – SJuan76
    Oct 5, 2019 at 17:32
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    @SJuan76 What do external fortifications have to do with urban combat? Oct 6, 2019 at 2:40
  • What is urban combat if a siege does not count? Jun 3, 2020 at 15:19
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    I like this distinction, but other than the tangentially connected wide roadways, I just don't see any examples of cities "planned for combat". The only thing that comes to my mind is penitentiary complexes where the whole idea is repressing the residents. Jun 3, 2020 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


For Europe, I would say, that most of the major cities were not designed to make urban combat more of a mess than it already is.

Most of the original European cities were not planned at all

  • but simply envolved as needed

This lead to very unsanitary, fire prone, death traps.

Fortified cities, as allready meantioned, did have a military plan in mind for the external protection, but rarely for any internal.

On the contrary, such fortifications often lead to a overcrowding inside the fortifications.

Some modernizations (such as in Rome) were made mainly to the glory of the beloved leader of the day.

The assumption that the beloved leader was such a terrible military strategist that the city must be planned with the assumption that an urban combat would take place, would never had been openly stated.

During the middle ages the need for fortified cities was high.
Suburbs (in Paris Faubourg) envolved which often lead to the extension of city walls (sometimes only as tax walls).

Starting around 1700 suburbs were often planned with wide boulevards and building regulations with the intention of improving the living conditions (Berlin Friedrichstadt) and not for military reasons. The extended city wall became a tax wall as apposed to the previous which was a fortified wall.

In 1848 Paris began to envolve to its present form

Here the main goal was to rid Paris of the narrow and winding streets and foul sewers and not mainly for military reasons. For this the Thiers wall had been build in 1841/44 and was the last major fortified city wall. In most cases such walls were replaced with rings of fortified forts.

Allthough Haussmann himselfs confirmed the military advantage, he did so mainly to get further financing from Parliament as part of the national defense. During the Paris Commune uprising the wide streets played no role and the Prussian armies, during the Siege of Paris, had no intention in taking the city by force anyway.

One result of the negative experiences of the industrial revolution, lead to a rethinking of city planning.

In Berlin this lead to the Hobrecht-Plan in 1862, which worked out a concept of the city development expected to happen in the next 60 years. These area were incorporated into Greater Berlin in 1920.

Allthough similar in nature, the city planning in Berlin and Paris differed in one major area.

In Berlin the replacement of the areas created during the middle ages was planned to be done gradually (1880 to 1970), the last area being Fischerinsel.

In Paris this was done more radicaly and sometimes lead to social disruption.

In Vienna had a similar development, with modern suburbs being build in 1850 outside a cleared area (Vienna Ring Road) and started the removal of fortifications in 1857. Allthough new modern builings were build around the Vienna Ring Road, the historical city center remained relatively untouched.

  • Your answer is very comprehensive, thank you for the information. The piece about Paris was very interesting. Do you happen to know if any of the Soviet Union buffer zone cities might have been planned to slow down an enemies advance? That seems like the most likely place something like this would have happened but again I couldn't find anything directly mentioning this.
    – Max Young
    Oct 6, 2019 at 17:28
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    @Maxyoung sorry., I have no knowledge of Soviet city (i. e. Industrial cities) planning. Assumption: measures were undertaken to avoid sabotage (mainly internal, but possibly also external). Other, existing cities where industries were created, probably implemented measures to protect these industries. The major priority was, most probably, the protection of the industries and not the city's themselves. Oct 6, 2019 at 17:56
  • @MarkJohnson "but simply envolved as needed" - If the cities founded in the Middle Ages were planned is scholary disputed, afaik. For sure there were cities built for military purposes, e.g. Neuf-Brisach and Saarlouis (both around 1700). They had extensive walls but I have not found an example for designs for the needs of a combat inside the walls.
    – K-HB
    Jun 3, 2020 at 17:23
  • @K-HB 1) They weren't in general, thus the second sentence in my answer ; 2) Nor I, thus the first sentence in my answer. Jun 3, 2020 at 20:13

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