In the design of cities, you add a style factor to a city to flesh it out for your readers and players to give it a solid foundation as a place to visit.

The primary style is its architecture. Taking your fantasy city and modelling it based on medieval and other ancient architecture styles, you can give it a flavor that everyone understands and can relate to a picture in their minds.

Architecture styles also are adopted by other cities and move through a country or around the world based on how they are received and appreciated. As a popular style, others will want to emulate it themselves.

The framework for this question and your answers:

  • Is based on medieval era motifs
  • Works for a fantasy world that has more races than just humans driving culture and style
  • It is realistic
  • Includes things that other cities would like to adapt for their cultural value

Using architecture as the model, what other things can be considered style for a city?

  • $\begingroup$ Can you provide a specific, concise definition of style in the body of the question? I disagree with the one "opinion-based" VTC as there are specific, concrete answers to this - but I agree with other VTCs that right now this question lacks clarity. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 10 '20 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ SO, I see that crap questions asked on this forum are given a pass while my well thought out question with a very specific ask is closed. This is not a world-building anything it advertises to be. The inconsistent application of the VTC power as it is being exercised has determined that this forum isn't worth my energy or creative participation. The city style example provided was Architecture. The framework asked for specific things like architecture that contribute to style. Adios, I'm out. $\endgroup$
    – user72081
    Feb 10 '20 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry you feel that way. While this community doesn't always get it right, we're always willing to improve. Consider heading over to meta if you want to discuss your concerns constructively, otherwise, take care. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 10 '20 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ I think the word style is giving the impression this is just a matter of opinion. Rewording along these lines: "Aside from architecture, what properties of a medieval-era city make it distinct / define its identity?" would produce concrete answers based on real world examples. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Mar 3 at 5:41

I hope I'm answering your question properly. Here it goes:

  • Efficiency vs Aesthetic: what was the purpose of a structure? Sure, a building may house a library, a DMV, etc., but is it built to be pretty or to be functional?
  • Symbols/Flags: Kind of cliche, but do the citizens of this city show off their patriotism? Is it embedded in their culture? This can be shown by literally having residential areas of the city having flags sticking out of windows near independence/national holidays.
  • Centrality of government: This isn't entirely medieval but by no means is it a new phenomenon. USSR and other Soviet/Communist nations had a serious thing for squares - basically large open areas (often near important administrative buildings) where celebrations, marches, etc. would take place as a demonstration of power and authority. This vibe can be set up by not only describing the existence of the square, but also what is near it. Is it surrounded by the government + military? Or is it like Times Square, filled with tourists and large advertising? The purpose of such a location is to see what the dominant interest in your society is. Both are central nodes of their cultures. When comparing the Red Square to Times Square, we can say that the comparison is between totalitarianism and consumerism, for example. Also consider the different species/cultures that would be frequenting these areas.
  • Neighborhoods/Ghettos: These have existed forever. People like to be defined within boxes, and like defining others in boxes too. So, communities based of ethnic groups have formed over time (e.g Turkish community in Germany, Chinatowns around the world, etc.). Perhaps your communities are also separated by species? They don't have to be - perhaps a community could be formed by a multi-species culture who emigrated for financial reasons, but it may influence the look and vibe of at least parts of your city.
  • Homogeneity/Exclusionism: Kind of described that above as well but kind of worth mentioning. If interspecies racism is a thing (and I expect it to be if humans have anything to do with it) perhaps you can incorporate hostile design into the city planning and architecture. Search up New York's park benches - some have been designed to make it difficult for a homeless person to sleep on. Similarly, if werewolves exist and their weakness is silver, lining every door-handle and utensil with a little bit of silver is subtle way to make sure no werewolf feels welcome.

For some reason, the saying below comes to mind:

The jocular saying is that, in England, "everything which is not forbidden is allowed", while, in Germany, the opposite applies, so "everything which is not allowed is forbidden". This may be extended to France—"everything is allowed even if it is forbidden"[6]—and Russia where "everything is forbidden, even that which is expressly allowed".

From this link. The reason I think about it is because the quote above generalizes the lifestyles/cultures of England, Germany, France, and Russia (while stereotyping humorously). But this generalization is rooted in truth, and its logic can be used to determine the activities of the citizens of your city. Depending on whether the government wants to enable it or not, citizens may be allowed to do whatever they want, or nothing that they want.

Depending on the society you're trying to go for, base it off of what we see in our world and work towards what's most similar. The odds of creating a truly alien/new vibe is 0, but mixing characteristics can build you something uniqe.

Please let me know if this is what you're looking for - otherwise I will modify/delete my answer.


Good Urban Planning

If architecture is the design and style of buildings, urban planning is the design and style of an entire city. While it is true that we tend to reflect on the character of a city by the prevalent building designs, the reality is that those buildings that impress us in a given city are usually in the CBD or similar. The fact that there is a CBD, and an industrial sector, and residential suburbs, and 'ring roads' that connect inhabitants to businesses and jobs, etc. is often overlooked.

Good urban planning is so much more than just making sure that the Eiffel Tower isn't built in the middle of a housing suburb, or that chemical factories aren't in close proximity to farms. Those are the obvious manifestations, but then look at cities like Washington DC and even Canberra where there are wide boulevards leading up to the houses of government in both cases. The memorials are strategically located in a way that reflects their importance to the nation, and there is a focus on quality of life in how suburbs are laid out.

In the case of Canberra for instance, lifestyle is baked into the early city design and many of the older suburbs have walking and bike tracks through them that allow you to get to regional centres without a car if you prefer. Shopping and other necessities are laid out in way that makes it easier to get to and limits traffic between suburbs or regions as much as possible, and parks are laid out in every suburb and region in a way that encourage people to walk or ride as personal pursuits.

Taking that to the extreme, you can go to Transition Cities which are designed to maximise reliance on local resources as much as possible, limiting the amount of transport required to haul goods in and out of the city and wherever possible, establishing a hermetic environment in which everything that is consumed is created locally.

Ultimately, Urban Planning, when done well, takes a philosophy that defines what a 'good life' might look like and bakes it into the zoning and city layout as much as possible so that those that live there don't even notice that the city has been planned with that lifestyle in mind; it's just intrinsically easier to live that way in your city as the assets you need to do so are just... there.

If anything, your architecture can take a back seat to urban planning, not the other way around. Good urban planning would inform the sense of style needed by your architects and inform what is good design by how well it fits into the landscape envisaged by your urban planners.

  • How welcoming the city is of strangers.
  • How the city is oriented (spread wide like LA and Paris or tall like New York and Tokyo)... or buried like Moria.
  • How regimented the activities (random wantonness of New Orleans or regimented order of Pyongyang).
  • Clothing: functional, decorative-but-modest, decorative-but-risqué (or absent, if warm enough)
  • Polyglot or monolingual (particularly in signage)
  • Historical artifacts or lack thereof