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Urbanity (Latin: urbanitas , derived from urbanus : “urban”, in the following from urbs : “ city ”, in particular from urbs Romæ : ancient Rome ) denotes a series of attributions for the analysis , characteristics or ontology of the city, the “urban “, The city dwellers and their culture , especially their building culture , lifestyle , socio-spatial structures , milieus and communities .

The term is a complex subject of discourse , theories and concepts . It relates to a wide range of meanings in connection with the built and societal city, in particular to cultural techniques practiced in cities and to ideals or characteristics such as education , order and disorder, tolerance , freedom , indifference , social distance , networking , diversity , interculturality , Cosmopolitanism , open-mindedness, citizenship, refinement, sophistication, intellectuality , creativity , sexual preference , politeness , elegance and beauty as well as their expression in urban planning , infrastructure , architecture , interior design , art , handicrafts , fashion , politics , lifestyle , sexual practices , language , habitus and Etiquette . The term has always served to distinguish urban life from life in the country or in small towns. Opposite terms are therefore for example " rusticity ", "backwoods" and " provincialism ". The associated adjective is urban , its counter-terms are “ rustic ”, “rural”, “provincial”, “village”, “peasant” or (in educational terms) “ Boeotian ”.

The process of urbanization , on the other hand, describes the densification and enlargement of human settlements. The Urban deals as an interdisciplinary science with the study of cities.


Urbanity ( urbanitas ) was a central quality of style and language in the rhetoric of Roman antiquity , the Middle Ages and the Renaissance . She meant a refined elegance of style , the subtle, detached wit , the striking, piquant expression . Derived from the Latin terms homo urbanus ("townspeople"), urbanus homo (" beautiful spirit ") and sermo urbanus ("city Latin"), it refers to the literarily refined linguistic culture of the educated layers of ancient Rome , which differs from the simpler, dialectal Latin of Rural population, the sermo rusticus , or the vulgar Latin of the plebeians , the sermo plebeius .


Politics in Oyster House (policy in an oyster house) , Dusseldorf 1848 - The painting by Richard Caton Woodville , the two different types of city dwellers at a political conversation shows expresses bourgeois culture of debate and the emergence of public opinion as phenomena of urbanity of the 19th Century.

The pedagogue Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi stated in 1785/1786 that a cultivated person could deal with jokes and ridicule, "because he always stays within the limits of the good way of life and never becomes clumsy and rustic". He called this characteristic, which in a way reminds of the concept of the gentleman , which was coined in England, "Urbanitet". In particular, he assigned her the ability to have a neat conversation , without one-sidedness and enthusiasm in the points of view and with a certain independence from economic and financial entanglements (→ culture of debate ). Following on from this, the early 19th century understood urbanity as a “fine way of life” or “courtesy and politeness”.


Urbanity is sociologically established as a cultivated, educational , reflective and technology-orientated disposition , attitude or imprint in behavior and lifestyles, as they arise and can be seen especially in a big or cosmopolitan city : in critically cool, agile, distant behavior of the urban dweller who moves in numerous social roles and is informed in contrast to the ignorant, single-track “provincial” behavior of the rural population. Sociologically, urbanity is therefore understood as a phenomenon of “urban culture” and “urban life”, the decline of which - as the end of antiquity shows - can have epoch-making effects.


In social geography, urbanity describes, on the one hand, the city ​​characterized by functional differentiation , and, on the other hand, in the social-scientific sense, an everyday world characterized by urban lifestyles. Urbanity thus includes both urban planning and functional, socio-cultural and socio-economic elements of a living environment that can be interpreted as “typically urban”.

Architecture and urban planning

Urbanity of the pier and piazzetta on St. Mark's Square in Venice, depicted in a painting by Josef Püttner , around 1862
Urbanity of a street in Naples , photo by Giorgio Sommer , 19th century

In architecture , urban development and urban planning , urbanity is an empty phrase or an often unclear key, fashion and guiding term as well as a catchphrase that describes a quality of a space that enables and promotes urban behavior or urban lifestyles. As a target category, urbanity primarily includes the promotion of functional, structural, social and cultural diversity and mixture , the development of different social spaces and milieus (including specific spaces and milieus of sub- and countercultures ), the preservation and differentiation of private and public spaces with “quality of stay "And" urban architecture "(→ urban architecture ) as well as the perceptibility of the historicity , authenticity and identity of the city, districts and urban spaces (→ genius loci , atmosphere , landmarks ). Urbanity is perceived through the appearance of a room that creates the impression of a city (→ cityscape ). It arises from certain patterns of building structures - often not completely artificial, but in interaction with natural factors such as relief, vegetation (greening), water and climate, sometimes also with views of the ( urban ) landscape - and from certain patterns of functions or the use of a space by people and their interactions . If the perceived patterns match what a person or a plurality of people perceive as typically urban (“urban”), the corresponding space is assigned urbanity.

Urbanity through density

In the post-war discussion on urban development in Germany, Edgar Salin's lecture at the German Association of Cities in Augsburg in 1960 with the title Urbanity had a considerable influence on the urban development discussion of the 1960s and thereafter. Although Salin on the special quality of the enlightened - bourgeois had left the city and its cultural and social life, the concept of urbanity in the course was turned into Technical and narrowed the urban and spatial structure. It was assumed that urbanity results (primarily) from the density of urban development and is to be measured, for example, in terms of the structural use or population density . Under the catchphrase urbanity through density , in Germany - promoted by the " economic miracle " and a strong belief in the forces of technical progress - from the second half of the 1960s large housing estates and - as "cities on the edge of cities" according to the spatial planning concept of the decentralized units Concentration - "Relief cities" built (→ Neuperlach , New City Hochdahl , New City Wulfen ), in which a higher density through large-scale building forms was sought (→ Satellite City , satellite town , relief center ). An amendment to the Building Utilization Ordinance in 1968 also took account of the concept of urbanity through density by enabling higher building densities in the land-use planning . The new model propagated “compression” and “interweaving” and thus replaced the concept of the articulated and loosened city , which until then had determined urban planning in the modern era and, in accordance with the Charter of Athens (CIAM), a “disentanglement” of functions and urban planning schemes who represented "Entdichtung" ( " Light, Air and Sun " ).

Loss of urbanity as criticism

Lower urbanity in a housing estate on the outskirts of Dresden , 2010

A loss or a lack of urbanity since the 1960s a frequent theme of urban development and architecture critics , such as in terms of reconstruction , functionalism and post-war modernism in Europe at Alexander Mitscherlich , who - in 1965 - without the term urbanity to use our The inhospitality Cities , or Jane Jacobs , who in her major work The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961 presented a similar criticism in many respects with regard to large cities in the United States. In the 1970s, the criticism culminated in campaigns by the German Association of Cities under the slogans Save our cities now (1970) and Paths to the human city (1973). In response to the “crisis of the city” and the “desolation of inner cities”, urbanity became a collective term for ideas that were linked to a return to the traditional qualities of the “European city” and an attitude towards life associated with it. In the course of their architecture criticism , protagonists of postmodernism contributed to shaping urbanity or “new urbanity” into a model for an aesthetic conception of the city (→ New Urbanism ).

New urbanity

After decades of predominance of processes of suburbanization and desurbanization , a trend reversal has been observed in recent years (“renaissance of cities”, “renaissance of inner city living”), science and media - as a result of a re-evaluation of urban culture by the New Urban Sociology of the 1970s - also referred to as “new urbanity” ( Hartmut Häußermann , Walter Siebel ). This paradigm shift is characterized by a “return to the traditions of urban design”, urban redevelopment , reurbanization , gentrification and metropolitanization (→ theory of the creative class , knowledge society , glocalization , urban scaling ). In 2008 , the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe presented a “Manifesto for a New Urbanity” in a European City Charter .

New urbanism is a separate movement in this context . Since the 1980s, criticism of modernism has led to an urbanism movement (which began with Team 10, among others ) and to the reactivation of concepts of perimeter block development ( urban repairs , careful urban renewal ) and the mixed use of quarters and, as a result, a new planning emphasis on the Urban density point of view. The plans developed in this way were evaluated as concepts that combine the advantages of urban life with a social and economic mix and with considerable savings in resources (e.g. with regard to travel, heating costs and infrastructure costs) and therefore modern settlement concepts (e.g. the concept of the satellite town ) are superior.


  • Christoph G. Leidl: Urbanitas . In: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric . Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1992 ff., Vol. 10 (2012), Sp. 1344-1364.
  • Hartmut Häußermann, Walter Siebel: New Urbanity . Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-11432-8 .
  • Christian Reder: Mediterranean urbanity. Periods of vital diversity as the foundations of Europe . Mandelbaum, Vienna 2020, ISBN 978-3-85476-878-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ A look at contemporary “urbanity discourses”, for example in: Peter Dirksmeier: Urbanität als Habitus. On the social geography of urban life in the country . transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8376-1127-4 , p. 21 ff. ( online )
  2. See Andreas Feldtkeller : The misappropriated city. Against the destruction of public space . Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1994, ISBN 3-593-34921-3 , p. 168, and Martina Baum: Urbane Orte. An urban concept and its application for the investigation of transformed industrial areas . Dissertation University of Karlsruhe (Faculty of Architecture), Universitätsverlag Karlsruhe, 2008, ISBN 978-3-86644-286-3 , p. 52 ( online )
  3. Tanja Kronenwett: New Urbanity - The new attractiveness of living in the center, illustrated using the example of Karlsruhe Südstadt . Diploma thesis, GRIN Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-640-87106-3 , p. 4 ( online )
  4. Bernd Radtke: City slogans for implementing the brand identity of cities. A theoretical-conceptual and empirical investigation . Dissertation Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, 2012, Springer Gabler, Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2013, ISBN 978-3-658-02872-5 , p. 184 ( PDF, online )
  5. Derived from the term Hinterwäldler , see further explanations in the entry Hinterwäldler in the portal textlog.de ( Otto Ladendorf : Historisches Keywordbuch , 1906)
  6. Cf. Marcus Tullius Cicero in his indictment against C. Verres and Domitius Marsus in the writing de urbanitate - Reinhold Klotz: Explanations of the second volume of M. Tullius Cicero's speeches . P. 694 ( online )
  7. Martin Schanz , Carl Hosius : History of Roman Literature. Second part: The time of the monarchy up to Hadrian . Munich 1935, Verlag CH Beck, unaltered reprint 1980, ISBN 3-406-01392-9 , p. 175 ( online )
  8. Carl Abel : About some basic features of the Latin word order . Ferd. Dümmler's Verlagbuchhandlung, 2nd edition, Berlin 1871, p. 6 ( online )
  9. ^ Roman Müller: Language Awareness and Language Variation in the Latin Literature of Antiquity . In: Zetemata. Monographs on classical antiquity . Issue 111, Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-48498-0 , p. 219 ( online )
  10. Hugo Schuchardt: The vocalism of vulgar Latin . First volume, published by GB Teubner, Leipzig 1866, p. 52 ( online )
  11. ^ Artur Buchenau, Eduard Spranger, Hans Stettbacher (eds.): Pestalozzi. All works . Volume 9, critical edition, published by Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1930, p. 327
  12. Rebekka Horlacher: Education theory before education theory. The Shaftesbury reception in Germany and Switzerland in the 18th century . Dissertation University of Zurich 2002, Verlag Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2004, ISBN 3-8260-2798-1 , p. 148 ( online )
  13. Morgenblatt for the educated classes , April 25, 1812; Brockhaus Real-Encyclopädie, 1820, p. 249. - Cf.: On the meaning of urbanity . In: Peter Neumann: On the importance of urbanity in smaller industrial cities - examined using the example of Hennigsdorf and Ludwigsfelde in the area around Berlin . Münster 2002 ( excerpt, PDF, online ( memento of the original dated August 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.tu-cottbus.de
  14. See Louis Wirth : Urbanism as a way of life . In: The American Journal of Sociology, 1938, 1-24; in the succession of: Georg Simmel : Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben , 1903.
  15. ^ Karl Bosl : State and city in their historical development . In: Anton Wittmann (Hrsg.): Handbook for social studies . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1956, AV1, p. 35 ( online )
  16. Cf. - in relation to the social geography of Germany - for example: Carsten Große Starmann, Petra Klug: Demographietypen (PDF) , Type 2: Socially heterogeneous centers of the knowledge society (PDF) and Type 7: Urban centers with heterogeneous economic and social dynamics (PDF) in the portal wegweiser-kommune.de (Bertelsmann Stiftung), as of July 2012
  17. The urban planning historian Angelus Eisinger deals with this influence in detail in the following article: Angelus Eisinger: Urbanity: An element of contemporary location policy? In: Maria Louise Hilber and Ayda Ergez (Ed.): Stadtidentität. The right way to city marketing . Zurich: Orell Füssli 2004, pp. 93–103 (online version at: Archived copy ( Memento of the original from March 7, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ) ISBN 3-280-05083-9 . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.tg.ethz.ch
  18. Thomas Sieverts: Zwischenstadt: between place and world, space and time, city and country . Bauwelt-Fundamente, Volume 118, Vieweg Verlag, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 3-528-06118-9 , p. 32
  19. ^ Martina Hessler: The creative city. To reinvent a topos . transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-89942-725-7 , p. 256 ( online )
  20. ^ Wolfgang Pehnt : Between modesty and hubris . In: Sinja Hnilica, Markus Jager, Wolfgang Sonne (Ed.): At second glance. Post-war architecture in North Rhine-Westphalia . transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1482-4 , p. 22
  21. Steffen Krämer: "Urbanity through density": The new maxim in German urban and settlement construction in the 1960s . Series of publications by the Winckelmann Academy for Art History, Munich, Article No. 17, January 2014, p. 3 ( [1] )
  22. Alexander Mitscherlich: The inhospitableness of our cities. Incitement to strife . Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1965
  23. Beate Binder: Urbanity as a “Moving Metaphor”. Aspects of the urban development debate in the 1960s / 1970s . In: Adelheid von Saldern (ed.): City and communication in times of upheaval in the Federal Republic of Germany . Contributions to the history of communication, Volume 17, Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 978-3-515-08918-0 , p. 54 ( online )
  24. Martina Baum: Urban Places. An urban concept and its application for the investigation of transformed industrial areas. Dissertation Universität Karlsruhe 2008, Universitätsverlag Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe 2008, ISBN 978-3-86644-286-3 , p. 41 ( online )
  25. Federal Institute for Building, Urban and Spatial Research: Renaissance of the Big Cities - an interim balance . BBSR Reports Compact, 9/2011, pp. 4, 6 ( PDF, online )
  26. Back to the cities: Urban lifestyle attracts young people , n-tv.de from April 19, 2013, accessed on June 27, 2014
  27. Neue Urbanität , article in the Lexikon der Geographie of the portal Spektrum.de , accessed on June 26, 2014
  28. Jürg Sulzer: Paths to a New Urbanity: The Dream of the Beautiful City , nzz.ch from November 12, 2013, accessed on June 26, 2014
  29. ^ Dankwart Guratzsch: The anger of sociologists about the new urbanity , welt.de from June 15, 2012, accessed on June 26, 2014
  30. Charter of New Urbanism - German translation of the Engl. Charter of the New Urbanism