Introduction to Human Settlements

Topics: City, Town, Settlements Pages: 5 (1296 words) Published: March 23, 2013


Why people build environments?

In order to understand built environments, one should know how the human mind works. The human mind imposes an order on the world. The world is chaotic and disorderly which; the human mind classifies, orders and onto it, imposes cognitive schemata. Settlements, buildings and landscapes are results of this activity. Hence, built environments including settlements are one way of ordering the world.


Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements (1976) defined human settlements as “the totality of the human community - whether city, town or village - with all the social, material, organizational, spiritual and cultural elements that sustain it. The fabric of human settlements consists of physical elements and services to which these elements provide the material support”.

The physical components comprise,

Shelter, i.e. the superstructures of different shapes, size, type and materials erected by mankind for security, privacy and protection from the elements and for his singularity within a community;

Infrastructure, i.e. the complex networks designed to deliver to or remove from the shelter people, goods, energy or information;

Services cover those required by a community for the fulfilment of its functions as a social body, such as education, health, culture, welfare, recreation and nutrition.

All settlements essentially involve the making of places.

Each place is a differentiated portion of the earth’s surface of previously undifferentiated space, a portion that is distinguishable from other such portions and has a specific meaning. What makes a place is always some schema, some ordering principle, which varies in different cultures. In most traditional cultures these schemata are related to the sacred. The purpose of place is to create a space that is habitable and usable in terms acceptable to the culture.

All settlements are ordered and organized.

Settlements not only impose an order on the larger domain but also are themselves organized. There is an ordering system both in the settlement, ceremonial centre or whatever and at the larger scale; there are systems within systems.

All settlements are designed.

Settlements are designed in the sense that they embody human decisions, choices and specific ways of doing things. Designed environments include places that are cleared and planted, areas where rivers have been diverted and fields that have been fenced in certain patterns. In fact many apparently commonplace activities have a greater impact on the earth than design in the traditional sense. The way cities, regions and countries look depends in the final analysis on the design activity of many individuals and groups at different times.


Origin of settlements can be traced back to the caves where people gathered for protection against the natural forces or for defence against rival tribes. These places of communal living gave way to the village. The village was a by-product of the development of agriculture in areas where there was an adequate water supply and fertile soil. Many of these earliest villages arose adjacent to what are now the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers. In addition to the role of providing shelter to its people, the village was also an appropriate sanctuary for the altar of their Deity, a meeting place for assembly, and a centre for trade. As this environment became increasingly populated, urbanization resulted.

Communities larger than the village came as a result of the growth of crops and the breeding of stock on a more permanent basis than before. The production of hard grains that could be stored for a longer period of time offered stability, since it assured insurance against starvation. The ability of these urban areas to preserve food made it...
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