Why aren't cities developed in circular area? Just as the grid system of city planning circular system can also be opted. What will be the pros and cons of circular cities?

(Assume the terrain to be plane , new land and just you and your ideas)

  • $\begingroup$ Are you talking about cities that are shaped like one big circle, or one where the roads are mostly circular sections? (Kind of a circular "grid", if you will.) $\endgroup$ – Cadence Sep 12 '18 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence Yes the second one! Cities which are just as the orbits of atom .i.e concentric circles $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ Streets of circular shape and one common center which opens to all streets of city $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 7:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Relevant, if not even duplicate worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/120096/30492 $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 12 '18 at 7:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ That being said, I consider this to be on-topic for the site. Real-world questions can be on-topic. Understanding why something isn't done is important for in-universe consistency and maintaining suspension of disbelief. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 12 '18 at 12:17

True curves are relatively difficult to construct, especially over large distances. Obviously you can't take a huge compass and draw a city-sized circle on the ground, so you have to make a lot of measurements and everything needs to be very precise or it falls out of shape. On the other hand, straight lines are comparatively easy to work with.

However, radial cities don't necessarily have to be circular: they could take the shape of a polygon with many sides, with streets radiating out from the center, and avenues parallel to each side of the outer perimeter. This sort of city planning was popular during the Early Modern period, in conjunction with a style of fortification called "star forts". For instance, here's a map of Palmanova, Italy ca. 1597:

Palmanova, Italy, 1597 (from Wikimedia)

(Image courtesy of Friend Wikipedia)

As you can see, the city is laid out in concentric rings, although those rings are nonagons (nine-sided polygons) rather than perfect circles. Polygonal ring streets are easier to lay out and easier to fit buildings into, while in turn being easier to fit into the structure of the fortress wall. (It should be noted that many cities with such walls had perfectly ordinary rectangular street grids, or irregular streets. They just cut them off wherever they needed to build walls.)

  • $\begingroup$ What about the 10th century civilization of bagdad? $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ It was purely circular $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ google.co.in/…:. Have a look at it $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 8:00
  • $\begingroup$ To answer ways ...it is not that we only draw circle by a compass . We can draw small circle and the a figure at constant distance from each point which is possible in large calculations too! $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 8:11
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The Round City was indeed round, but it wasn't really the whole city, just the core as shown on the map. It was also something of a vanity project for a ruler's new capital, not something that was intended to be scalable. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Sep 12 '18 at 8:15

Why aren't cities developed in circular area?

Sometimes they are

Palmanova, Italy, founded in the 16th century

Palmanova, a town and comune in northeastern Italy; founded in 1593. (Photograph from Wikimedia; CC0 license.)

Place Charles-de-Gaulle, formerly Place de l'Etoile (Star Plaza), Paris

Place Charles-de-Gaulle, formerly Place de l'Étoile (Star Plaza), Paris, France; built in the 19th century during the Second Empire of Napoleon III as part of Haussmann's renovation of Paris. Map by user Paris 16, from Wikimedia; licensed CC BY-SA 4.0.

Baghdad, the Round City

The Round City of Baghdad, built by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur in AD 762–767. Map by William Muir (1819-1905), from Wikimedia; public domain.

Plan of the Round City of Baghdad

Plan of the Round City of Baghdad, from Tareekh Al-Islam Al-Musawwar (Ilustrated history of Islam) by Umar Farrukh, Lebanon, 1964. Public domain.

Old city of Shanghai

Map of the Old City of Shanghai, by user World Imaging. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0; from Wikimedia.

Augustus B. Woodward's design plan of Detroit

Augustus B. Woodward's design plan of Detroit, after the fire of 1805. "Detroit's monumental avenues and traffic circles fan out in a baroque styled radial fashion from Grand Circus Park." (Wikipedia) Map from Dickens, Asbury & Forney, John W., eds. (1832) "Plan of Detroit" (Map), in American State Papers. Vol. 6: Public Lands. Image available on Wikimedia. Public domain.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What are you trying to depict by those pictures? Sorry, not being rude brother! $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 11:37
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Every one of these examples show the opposite - despite some authority planning a central part which is a circle, the city grew outward in straight lines at 90 and 45 or 30/60 degrees. $\endgroup$ – Pete Kirkham Sep 12 '18 at 11:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Another example: Nahalal, a town in northern Israel, where every family got a "slice", the public buildings are near the center of the circle, and the private fields are near the circumference $\endgroup$ – GilZ Sep 12 '18 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ @LolOlo: The question asks "why cities aren't developed in circular area". The answer provides historical counterexamples of cities or parts of cities developed on radially symmetrical plans, which is what is my understanding of "developed in circular area". (If the question is really asking for circular(-ish) areas, then the counterexamples are countless.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 12 '18 at 12:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @WGroleau true, the first example has a hexagon at the centre and has no circular features at all. $\endgroup$ – Pete Kirkham Sep 12 '18 at 13:04

Why aren't cities developed in circular area?

Because it doesn't make sense to. There are no perfect circles in nature and any irregular shape will be better filled with a grid system. It's also much easier to expand in any direction. Circular is constrained to expanding in all directions.

Also in engineering it is generally easier to engineer a straight line than a curve, importantly it is also easier to calculate areas, stresses etc, this holds true for most of our engineering. Hence many things we make that looked curved are actually just a curved facade built on mostly straight lines.

Worth mentioning is transport, straight lines are preferable for many reasons.

Imagine the difference in difficulty calculating a 1/4 acre section with curves rather than straight lines. And the total difference in shape of the quarter acre as you progressed from inner to outer.

The most important reason to use straight lines is it's much CHEAPER.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Means according to u till the Earth is alive we humans will live in grid system of city? As it is efficient? There may be some way which I can't explain but might the future will explain. $\endgroup$ – Lol Olo Sep 12 '18 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ We have always used straight lines, long before cities we were using them for fields, boundaries etc. Cities just use more and scaled it up a lot. Imagine the difference in difficulty calculating a 1/4 acre section with curves rather than straight lines. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Sep 12 '18 at 7:53
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I agree with you, but it does depend on age of the city, European cites tend to be a lot less grid based then US cities as they expanded slowly over many centuries, and used to follow geographical features a lot more. US cities have a more formal grid system as when they began constructing they built them square by square and expanded that way $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Sep 12 '18 at 8:21
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @LolOlo, not "according to Killisi", but according to human nature, straight lines are more efficiant because it lowers building cost uses less space and various other benefits over curved. the exception to this will be if humans travel to mars or screw up out atmosphere so much we need to live in domes, as domes are a half sphere this would make circular city designs more efficient in terms of space used $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Sep 12 '18 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Lol Olo: Remember that it's only in quite recent history that the majority of humans lived in cities. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Sep 12 '18 at 17:31

A thing I would add to the other answers:

The vast majority of cities grow organically. Meaning they expand, when needed, in any direction possible.

As Kilisi pointed out in his answer, it is significantly simpler to build somewhat rectangular than circular. You need to put a lot more effort and knowledge into it. And since most cities were not designed from inception they grew somewhat randomly.

People were just like "I am gonna build a house next to the other house". And that several thousand times over decades and centuries. Why would you expect that to form a circular shape?

Current day city planning

The reason it is mostly based on a grid as it can simply be scaled into any direction. It is a lot easier to grow. A circle would always have to expand as a circle. That is extremely unflexible.

Especially if you also want to keep it somewhat symmetrical in there. Just imagine the same circular city passing through the ages. In the very beginning there might not even have been plumbing. And now it would need to have that, electricity and internet.

Unless someone would supervise every single construction work that was to be done over the centuries your city will never stay somewhat symmetrically circular.

Possible advantages of circular cities

They are nice to look at structure-wise. Not really an objective bonus, though.

Another thing they bring is defense. Since a circle has a minimal outline you need less wall per area than a rectangular city would need. Unfortunately, that is completely pointless in modern times and would more likely be a defense catastrophy, since the introduction of long range artillery, bombers, etc.. Nobody could escape in a walled city, especially not if the wall is minimized and has a few entrance/exit points as possible.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Exactly! Furthermore, when settlers started creating new cities, they had observed the growing pains of a circular grid, and opted for rectangular grids instead. $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Sep 12 '18 at 13:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A grid makes the task of surveying and city planning quite easy. The city needs to expand? Just add another row of street blocks. In Australia I visited a small town, which had number streets, starting from 1st street. However, as the town expanded in all directions, they started to name the streets, as sticking to numbering them would have necessitated a 0-th street, a -1-st street, and so on. This would have made for a funny address: -1.2-nd street $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Sep 12 '18 at 14:19

There are some cities that are developed in a circular area. In developed countries, a lot of city layouts follow the Concentric Zone Model. In this model, the central business district, which is the city's center and provides business and public services, is circular. Outer rings surround the city and provide consumer services and housing. While the city itself may follow a square layout of buildings and streets, the general shape of these rings are round. So to answer your question, yes, a lot of cities are circular in shape, although that doesn't mean they have a circular layout.



The circle is the shape with the largest area for a given length of circumference. Thus, if you want to erect city walls, a circular shape, or an approximate circular shape gives you the most city for your wall.

Extending a circular city is much harder, i.e. more expensive, than expaning an irregular-shaped city, since you need to build a full, bigger circle.


A rectangular is self-similar when divided. If you divide your city in quarters, then each quarter of your rectangular city will be a rectangle. This is most evident in the way the Romans built their legionary camps. Such Castra are the seed of many a European city.

Real world

The strict grid-like cities are an invention of modern times. If you take a look at remaining medieval city centers, e.g. here is the inner district of Regensburg, which has largely retained its medieval layout, you will see the layout is pretty chaotic, compared to modern cities.

Real world cities will in most cases assume some irregular shape, due to

  • geographical features
  • political contrains
  • opportunity
  • $\begingroup$ I think the point about geographical features is important. Most cities are not built upon a featureless plain, but instead are built around rivers and mountains. For many city sites, it's simply not possible to build in a circular plan that makes any kind of sense with the natural terrain. How would one circularize New York or San Franciso or Pittsburgh, for example? $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Sep 12 '18 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, a harbour city will always spread out along the coastline. Check out how Volgograd, the former Stalingrad, hugs the river Volga. However, inland cities may well assume a circular shape, such as Moscow. $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Sep 12 '18 at 14:15

Some circle-ish cities do exist - take Beijing for example:

enter image description here

It has Ring Roads, to enable easier travel around the city. However it is still based off a square grid pattern, for the reasons people mentioned earlier.

  • Building's tend to be square, so they fit most efficiently in a grid pattern
  • Straight lines are just easier to build and plan
  • Better for travelling - No need to constantly correct because the road is drifting imperceptibly to the left

But as you can see Beijing did expand in a somewhat-circular fashion. Some of this can be attributed to strict central planning for the government.


The original EPCOT Plan by Walt Disney (not the amusement park, the fully functional city) was a flower design where the city's buisness and commercial areas were in a central circle and the residential areas were smaller connected circles like petals on a flower... at various points, public transportation in the form of a train of some sort would circle the main hub and make connections to transport going into the center city and out to various residential areas. Vehicular trans power in the central area was to be entirely through tunnels leaving the open air portions of the city center were entirely pedestrian with the public transport being elevate train lines.


After reading all the answers above .... I recognize that most of them are saying that circular township would be expensive than grid or irregular township

But I would remind you all that when the first civilization should have been set up it would also be too expensive.

The point is that if earlier people started building circular township we (HUMANS) have bring in technology to it and we would have made it cheaper .

If you or anyone of you understand my point please upvote it and comment for more.

  • $\begingroup$ What tech level do you have in mind? For ancient or medieval civilization, proper circular cities will always be more difficult. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Sep 12 '18 at 17:19

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.