Obviously I know that everyone who is living there is going to want a house but what comes after? Do they build a butcher’s building next or maybe a blacksmith’s building? And what comes after that? Is a town hall only built once a village has become a town? Basically I want to know which buildings come first and in each successive step until you get to a city. Also, I’ve been looking at fantasy maps and the buildings all seem to surround a central spot that usually has a statue or fountain in it. Is that where the buildings first started?

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    $\begingroup$ It is vitally important how it is being started. Many villages started when an inn -- set up a day's journey from the last inn -- slowly accumulated buildings because it was easier to make things locally than import them. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Dec 25, 2020 at 14:48
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This depends a lot on why there is a town, for a satellite community it starts with processing whatever resource they are after, if not then it starts with food, farms or fishing. and you will have a lot of farms/homes before you get anything else. What comes next depends on the technology level and the local resources. there is no one answer. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 25, 2020 at 17:28
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It can't be general. When building a new village we start by building the exit lane from the highway, but I don't think you mean that. In the middle ages, I think the first communal building is usually the church (or maybe a barn in agricultural villages). $\endgroup$
    – D.J. Klomp
    Dec 25, 2020 at 21:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yet another "it can't be general" comment. They're started for a reason, and you have to decide the reason. The two standard reasons are #1 trade (like at a crossroads, river ford, being a day's journey from the next town, etc) and #2 agriculture (there are many small farms in the area, and they petition the Church for a chapel. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Dec 26, 2020 at 21:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So many possibilities. The answer changes depending on the circumstances - so give some background. Is it a planned settlement? What is the tech level? How hostile are the neighbours? Why did people want/have to settle there? What is the climate and terrain like? A settlement growing around a gold rush is different to a farming or fishing community, which is again different from a trade hub. $\endgroup$
    – Gwyn
    Dec 27, 2020 at 3:47

9 Answers 9


First is a little house, next to some sort of resource:
Farmable land, a stand of good wood trees, a nice fishing spot, whatever.

If the spot does not have good water, a well will soon follow. Of course, the spot needs to be really special for a settlement to start without a pre-existing good water source. And wells do not easily facilitate unlimited growth, so most villages start next to a river or around a fountain.

Goods are traded with distant neighbors or at the even more distant regional marketplace. Still, footpaths are established between places worth visiting. This starts the initial road network, along paths of necessity but along easy walking slopes in good terrain. Fences appear around valuable spots, and along the footpaths. You don't want the visitors to raid your orchard, and oh the headache if your sheep wander off onto the neighbor's pasture!

The population grows, the house(s) expand. They get tired of carting their produce to the marketplace over the hills, so they setup their own market stall. People start visiting this market, footpaths become cart-tracks become roads. The marketplace starts selling other settlements' produce. Some more permanent shops are set up. People build their houses nearby, as all that traveling is too much effort.

All of these people buying and selling want a place to eat, drink, socialize, so you get a tavern or similar gathering spot. The religious types complain about the louts frequenting the tavern, so they set up a church.

Everyone starts having kids, and the kids should not be stupid. So, lets build a school.

Now you have a rich community with lots of victims and valuables. Crime both internal and external. Better set up some Law.

The new sheriff keeps the peace well. More traders arrive, more settlers build houses. Growth everywhere. People start storing goods in bulk, and manufacturing new goods from those. Mines might be set up to satisfy the needs of this industry.

The village becomes prosperous, but the people start complaining about the few Elders wanting to run the whole show. They want a say in what happens, too! It doesn't help that by now most people have gone through school and can read and think for themselves. So, setup a town council. Hello politics! Hello large town tying to become a city.

The growth of a tiny settlement to a small village to a town to a city is a slow, organic growth system.
The extreme majority of such settlements die out, or stagnate at a smallish size, or are enveloped by their more successful neighbors. But the few that are truly successful will grow and become huge metros. And almost never is this growth planned in advance, the growth just seems to happen and then retroactive repairs to layouts get made to fix the silly mistakes of your ancestors. And some historical mistakes never get fixed, like those narrow, twist cobblestone streets of Europe. And some require gargantuan projects to fix the problem, like London's sewer and underground railway system.

About the specific question of a fountain, statue or square very often forming a centerpiece for a village: This would almost always be near the center of the village, where two or more big roads cross, thus a place that everyone passes by. In those cases where this feature is in a clearing or square, that would be because that was the location of the Marketpace, when the market was still an open-air feature. Later the surrounding buildings became shops that absorbed the function of the marketplace, leaving an empty spot that was nonetheless a focal point of everyone's activity. A perfect spot to put up a statue!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So planned communities do exist if you examine the colonial history of the Americas, or probably even elsewhere. A fortress with barracks, a company-town mine, a railroad stop, a trading site or harbor, etc. This answer doesn't address this variety of settlement. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Dec 27, 2020 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Yakk but would these ex-forts be called by the name "Village" as the OP asks? The answer tries to answer the question asked, not all similar questions $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Dec 27, 2020 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ A village starts outside the fort, and grows into a city. A colony ship arrives, and builds a settlement. Some land is granted to a new government, who shows up with a corps of engineers and constructs a market village every X miles along a road while granting farmland to homesteaders. Walt Disney wants to make a planned community near his theme park, and constructs a village before anyone moves in. A wealthy farmer sees that the area could use a market, and takes a plot of land and builds services and houses there in order to create a village out of whole cloth. Etc etc etc. $\endgroup$
    – Yakk
    Dec 27, 2020 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ @njzk2 Because -every- -single- small community in Europe, America, middle east, India, Central America and Africa has one. It is such an ubiquitous feature, one is much more likely to find a village with a church and no marketplace, than to find one with a marketplace and no church. Note "church" can also be "shrine" or "shaman's hut" or "druid's circle" or "ancestor's altar" or... any form of organized religion, virtually always with attendant priest/druid/shaman/toki/sangoma/whatever $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Dec 27, 2020 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ @njzk2 false. As an extreme example, the High Pastafarian of the CHURCH of the flying spaghetti monster recently declaimed the Prime Auditor of the CHURCH of scientology as a "profit-seeking kook".. The word "church" is much wider in scope than your limited definition of it. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Dec 27, 2020 at 21:49

Fence, or wall first, to ward off wild animals zombies (if any).

Community social place, to socialize especially while everyone busy building their own house, they need to rest somewhere, and socialize while resting. At first, it is a firecamp, and it may gradually grow into a tarvern.

Road, as people need to move around. So, the road will make itself (grass dies, make a trail).

Water sources, like a well, or a moat to lead water in farm.

Farm, as people need to eat. However, it might not be the case if every family want their own farm instead of collective farm. So, collective farm, or 1 farm for each family.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ fences often only show up very late in a villages growth, once space is less available. If it ever shows up. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 25, 2020 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ @John I think they are talking about an external fence/wall. $\endgroup$ Dec 25, 2020 at 23:30

Assuming a group of settlers came to an area with no prior settlement with the intent of settling down

Firstly people will need places of accommodation. So house constructions will start first with lower priority. While building the houses people will also need food and water. So at the same time people will plow the land to grow food and build wells,drinking fountains. Villagers will need somewhere to store the game they hunted, berry they picked and the grain they harvested. So they will also build a barn. These buildings are not queued but built at the same time with barn and well being the priority. Houses will be built in a longer time as storing and protecting the group's resources is a priority and the villagers can acommodate in the barn until the houses are built.

After basic need production chains are secured people with different professions might move in or villagers might find time for other professions such as tailoring, blacksmithing etc. That also depends on natural resources and trade opportunities with other settlements.

Building for taverns, especially Inns and brothels will be built if the village is on a trade route or a lot of traders visit the town.

Also regarding the last question of yours, the square with fountain/statue is most probably where the village started if it is the only square like that.


Depends. The technology level, the reason for moving, the resources available, culture and traditions, threats, geography, climate... In some cases, the resource extraction could be the only building. In some, the communal house complete with storage, cooking, and sleeping functions. One thing for sure, it's not a government building of any kind :)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yup, a Polynesian island harbour tavern getting fresh resources by ship every week has a lot fewer requirements then a self-sufficient mining outpost in the middle of Russian taiga (or a roman border outpost in Germania Magna). $\endgroup$
    – mishan
    Dec 26, 2020 at 11:00

Unless otherwise specified the settlers have domesticated animals for food and other uses and have also developed agriculture. This means they would probably prioritize as follows:

Immediately upon arrival;

  1. Temporary animal pens;
  2. Simple basic shelters;
  3. Land clearing for food production (also produces fuel and construction material. PLUS construction of stockades and permanent animal pens- because the first process produces the material needed for the second as it progresses.
  4. Permanent Shelters;
  5. Barns,stables and other food storage and processing buildings;
  6. Basic civic and/or religious buildings;
  7. Specialized trade/crafting structure (forges, potteries, butcheries etc)

At first the village's growth is defined and limited by the need for protection and water. So a defensible site near a watercourse or spring initially sets the boundaries of the community.

As the population rises the community becomes large enough to outgrow these initial starting conditions. And this introduces the need for more planning and organization.

  1. Sewers/drains & paving (at least at key points), warehouses/storage sheds, formal market squares & shops plus government buildings (depending on the type of government) civic halls/courts & jails, the rulers home etc plus higher walls enclosing a larger area with at least some degree of 'town planning' to regulate what work can be done where.

If your village-to-city is build according to plans to grow into a city, it follows other rules than a village that grows and grows and people find they are in a city one day.

The accidental growth.

A few families build houses quite near each other, maybe because the ground there is higher than the ground around in a low laying area or because there is a natural well or a small stream that provides them with water.
Once there are a few houses and the owners do well, they will likely build smaller houses, or add extra structures to their property, to house the people working for them.
I guess the first people are farmers, as that is what I am most used to, but fishermen and trappers/hunters could start villages as well.
When there are enough people to make a start of a village, more people may come in. I would say 'will' except that in many cases it did not happen and it would stay a hamlet, grow into one big farm or disappear completely.
Crafts people may have been part of the farms or may have had their own buildings as soon as there was enough of a village to give them enough work. And the blacksmith was likely one of the first with a separate dedicated building.

When there are enough people in a little village, it is not unlikely that a church/temple/mosque/whatever is build so the people have a special space for their religious services.
One of the houses may start selling tea and coffee, beer or wine (in places where those are drunk) or even stronger spirits, and grow into a tearoom, pub or kind of place where people can also stop overnight, call it a simple kind of hotel but in many cases not called that. (In Europe hotels are a rather recent addition, in the USA and all other countries that were filled with Europeans at that same time or after, hotels were there almost from the start.)

With enough people, trade started to get a structure, in a shop or a regular market, and with more people more trade and more shops (or a bigger market) came.

In the parts of Europe I am most familiar with, villages would stop growing once they had a certain size, as they covered the need of those people near them and an other village would take care of those a bit farther out. Some villages would be picked out by the lords of the area and given extra rights, so they could charge more taxes but for those could offer more protection to their people, often building walls once they grew over a certain size.

Not all those villages grew into walled towns, some failed and disappeared, others stayed and did not grow over the size of a small town.
Villages growing around castles or religious buildings or army camps have also grown into cities.

Once the size of a small town, buildings would start to appear that had no actual need for living or trade, like guild houses and city halls. This can be besides the old village but if the first farms have stopped being a farm those buildings may well be taken down and the space used for other reasons. The first huts of a trappers or fishers village have even less protection.
The more a small town succeeds, the more people come and often the towns build up all the ground within the walls and start to spill over. Then the town had to build new set of walls, bigger, and often take down the earlier walls once the new ones are secure.

When warfare had gone beyond protected cities and castles, the cities stopped with putting up new walls and most of them took down the last set to have some more space.
Depending on the location, a cathedral would be build and the town would be called a city. Around that same time a university might be started and of course enough schools that all boys from rich families could get lessons.
Again, by the time people spread in the USA, school would be available to (almost) everybody, not just to the males and not just to the rich, but by that time most of the current cities in Europe were established.

Of course when the society changed, like it did with industrialization, the smaller villages and small towns would grow again, mostly with 'random' growth but a lot of factory owners would have housing build for the people working for them, often small villages grew into towns because of that.
And sometimes cities were planned to house the people who did no longer fit in the villages and towns, and older cities, when too many people wanted housing and there was not a lot of space to build there anymore. But that brings you into the next part of this answer.

Planned cities
Most planned cities are relatively young, but there have been cities before the start of written history and some of those, from excavations, seems to have been planned rather than grown.
Planned cities can be started with any of the building, but again a start with series of houses and/or farms is likely. Extra buildings can be any kind, a community center combining school, a shop or even a doctors office.
Most planned cities will have a certain size they expect and they might have city squares and central buildings from the start or they might be build from an edge and grow around a center, which get purpose when enough of the city is build.

Also see the difference between a planned city and a new suburb in the USA (and other countries) where the new residents have to have a car and are basically cut off from the center of the city they 'belong' to, with long distances and filled motorways. With malls out in nowhere with nobody living within walking distance and even the old city centers often falling in ruins.

How to make your own village or town
For a city growing in a book or game, or an other thought up environment, you can use whatever building suits your plans.
Consider the age and the environment the town grows in, combine whatever buildings your story needs and can be explained to the age you set your story in. The most recent of build cities are very new now. In the Netherlands we have several which are no more than 60 years old and most of their buildings way newer. In each science fiction book that has build cities you will find future ideas how cities will grow.
If you have a new city on a new planet, you may well mark the place of the 'first landing' as the center of the first city they build. But it may take a few generations before the 'fountain of the first landing' is in the middle of a city, as new societies need time to grow and earn before they can afford to build the cities.


For most of history, there were very few single-use buildings. A large majority of people were farmers, and also would do other crafts in their homes during their downtime. Most craftsmen worked outdoors, only the richest would work inside. Potters and blacksmiths would have their kilns and forges just outside their home. Most everyone would do some of their own textile work, spinning and weaving doesn't take much strength and can be a done a little bit at a time when taking a break from other work, and so would not warrant their own buildings.

If you don't count awnings built over a forge or kiln, which I wouldn't since they wouldn't have walls, the first non-residence buildings will be barns if the community is raising much livestock, granaries, or will be communal property like a church.

  • $\begingroup$ So at what point would they turn their craft into its own building $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2020 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ @user11937382 When the economics make sense. This will vary depending on population density. In a rural village, land is cheap, so the only real cost will be the construction materials and labor used. But in a city land is expensive, it might never be worth having a shop separate from your residence. Even in modern times, many people live in apartments above the business they own. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Dec 28, 2020 at 1:49

There is no Guaranteed Sequence

There are many reasons for a town to be formed. Some towns begin as a farming community, some as mines, some start off as nothing but a port or way-station to facilitate trade, some start off as communes of people who practice the same craft, some start off as remote monasteries, some start off as slave plantations, some start as suburbs, and some start off as a fortress placed in a strategic location.

The buildings you can expect will also depend a lot on the tech level at your disposal. A modern town will generally import a lot more of its basic supplies so you will get a lot less simple workshops. A less modern town will not have anything like a water sanitizing station, power grid, or paved roads like you tend to get pretty early on in more modern towns. A stone aged society may perform a lot more of their trades in open-air spaces than later civilizations such that you may not get buildings at all where certain crafts are performed. A future tech town started on Mars will have very different needs than even a modern town has.

Because towns can be formed for so many different reasons under so many different circumstances, the order in which buildings are made can not be put into any set formula. What may be the first 10 buildings in one town may not be seen in another town ever. In-fact, you can not even assume it will begin with a house since many towns start off with a resource, industrial, or military building that people then settle around later for convenience.

So, you first need to ask yourself: "When, Where, and Why was this town founded?" and that will inform the order in which you need to build things.



Redfrogcrab's Universal settlement development plan

A basic outline for the development of any settlement for any setting, whether the town is built on the soil of an alien world in the distant future or in a mystical forest in the time of knights and dragons

Phase one: most likely, your settlement with start off with a few homes built around or near something deemed important. Examples: a Science outpost in the times of space flight, a medieval inn, a gold mine in the time of cowboys. crops and other food sources will be brought along as well because we all need to eat. Homes would be built around a central location as a place to gather and meet. Only bare-bone necessities in this phase. things that settlers need and can't get from the environment at this point will be imported.

Phase two: this phase is about population and economic growth in your settlement (most likely from migrants) and the expansion of the facilities and skills there, mostly stuff like a blacksmith (or fabrication facility for sci-fi settings), place of worship, local law enforcement building, a general store; pubs and other recreational buildings are an additional addition to this phase, the central plaza is paved and residents move out away from the center, with markets replacing them. local food production would also be ramped up. This phase could be fused with phase one as well. What you are exporting at this point matches what you are importing.

Phase 3: Congrats; your town has gained a spot on the map, more and more people have come in and settled down, the central plaza is bustling with people, paved streets, massive farmlands, and more specialized "commodity" stores (or stores that specialize in selling non-essential goods like paints, flowers, specialty foods, glassware or textiles) have appeared. Maybe a fountain or statue commemorating a local hero or important event has been erected in the town square. Your town will probably keep growing unless whatever brought your settlers there goes away and a new thing to keep people coming isn't found. This town at this stage is primarily self-sufficient and exporters of goods.

Other things to consider:

Ghost town: Everyone in the settlement have either left or been killed, something happened in history that stopped growth and the population is down to near zero

Geographical factors: consider the geography of the region that's being settled, ocean towns will be centralized on the port while Prarie and desert towns will be centralized on the general stores and trading post. Resources also play into effect, what you can use to build and what you can sell in the environment can have drastic effects on the growth rate(how many people are being born or coming in-the amount of deaths and people moving out), longevity (from the first settlers to the last), and pull of a settlement (how much do people want to live there?)

Tech level: it's easier to build and grow a town when you have access to modern technology and above, Rome wasn't built in a day but with high enough tech and enough will power you could build it in an hour

Sci-fi/interplanetary factors: If: breathable atmosphere then: individual buildings. If: airless or non-breathable atmosphere then: Interconnected air-tight modules heavily shielded from radiation or buried underground around a water source or other important resource.

I use this flow chart for my towns, cities, and colonies for whatever I'm writing, fit it to your specifics. It also doubles as an in-universe classification system for the development of settlements.

Hope this helps


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