The New Cities Map is a project to identify, and map every modern new city in the world.
Hundreds of master planned cities have been built in the 20th and 21st centuries, and many more are being planned for the future. We created the New Cities Map to document these projects, their governance, and their history. The map is designed to be digestible for the general public, but it will still offer useful information for the advancement of academic research.
The map was commissioned, financed, and designed by the Charter Cities Institute. The Adrianople Group planned, collected the data, and built the software which runs the map.
The Charter Cities Institute (CCI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering new cities with better governance to lift tens of millions of people out of poverty. The Charter Cities Institute is actively collaborating with governments in the Global South to advance policies aimed at utilizing special jurisdictions to mitigate diverse challenges. Through researching topics such as employment, economic growth, migration, and infrastructure development, CCI aims to impact city development and improve lives.
The Adrianople Group is a business intelligence firm that works closely with Special Economic Zones and master planned cities. The Adrianople Group offers a wide range of integrated services including economic cartography, financial research, financial marketing, and in-person site analysis. The Adrianople Group has worked with new city and economic zone projects in Latin America, the Caribbean, East Africa, West Africa, and Southeast Asia.
New Cities (sometimes called master planned cities) are centrally planned cities designed with a comprehensive master plan. Unlike other forms of urban planning, New Cities are envisioned as full-scale cities from the beginning. Their master plans specify not just land use and public utilities, but the overarching “vision” and purpose of the city. New Cities are also fully planned and developed from scratch, in contrast to the organic growth of most urban areas.
There are many types of New Cities. At the smallest scale, they resemble planned communities, districts, or towns. At the largest scale, New Cities are built on greenfield sites with commercial, residential, and industrial amenities suitable for over 100,000 residents. In some cases, New Cities substantially redevelop existing urban environments into completely new cities. Contemporary New Cities are motivated by a diverse set of visions, such as technology, sustainability, tourism, and political administration. They can be driven by government agencies, international coalitions, private companies, or even individuals.
Building New Cities from scratch has been a familiar phenomenon throughout human history. The long list of New Cities includes major metropolises like Baghdad (762 CE), Kyoto (794 CE), St. Petersburg (1712 CE), Washington, DC (1800 CE), Brasilia (1960 CE), and Abuja (1991 CE). In many cases, New Cities were isolated projects driven by a specific motivation. In Nigeria for example, the government felt that the then-capital Lagos was too congested and geographically inaccessible to function as the nation's political center. In the 1970s, Nigeria began construction of the new capital Abuja in the center of the country.
New Cities have also been built during concentrated historical periods. In Ancient Greece, Alexander the Great founded dozens of New Cities within a short 13 year period (336-323 BCE) to consolidate his military expansion. European colonial powers likewise used cities as a strategic tool to strengthen their empires. They established numerous colonial cities from the 16th to 19th centuries, many of which stand as major urban centers today.
New Cities have also been associated with social reform movements and utopian idealism. The Great Society and War on Poverty in the 1960s motivated the building of “model cities” in the United States (e.g. Columbia MD and Reston, VA). In the United Kingdom, concerns over overcrowding and pollution in the mid-20th century led to the New Towns Movement. The UK government funded, planned, and built new towns around large cities that promoted access to greenspaces and social cohesion. This movement spread internationally, with Singapore, Hong Kong, Russia, and Sweden building their own new towns.
Following the postcolonial period, another wave of city-building took place in the Global South. Postcolonial states used urban development and New Cities to modernize their infrastructure, grow their economies, and signal their newfound independence. In the heightened era of international cooperation after World War II, governments hoped that modernized New Cities could attract international market participation and foreign direct investments. The quintessential examples include Dubai and new towns in Singapore, both of which have positioned themselves as centers for global finance and trade.
Today, we are experiencing a new wave of citymaking. The vast majority of these projects are taking place in the Global South, particularly in Africa, the MIddle East, and Asia. Since the early 2000s, governments and private developers have partnered to dramatically reshape the urban environments of emerging economies, and in doing so, they hope to accelerate modernization and economic growth. Examples include Tatu City in Kenya, Eko Atlantic City in Nigeria, NEOM in Saudi Arabia, and Forest City in Malaysia. These projects reflect substantial public and private investments, and many are ambitiously targeting a population of hundreds of thousands of residents. They often align with national development agendas. For instance, Tatu City is the flagship project for the Kenya Vision 2030 agenda, and NEOM is similarly an initiative of Saudi Vision 2030.
The rise in New City developments is an incredibly interesting and important trend. Although building New Cities has been controversial, these cities also have the potential to improve lives. This is especially true in the Global South, where rapid urbanization is outpacing urban development and existing cities are overwhelmed by their growing populations. New Cities may offer more effective and sustainable urban systems for urbanizing countries. They also provide an opportunity for urban planners in developing countries to start from scratch and build cities that do not suffer from the harmful colonial legacies of existing ones.
However, while we are optimistic about New Cities, we recognize that we do not know much about them. Research into New Cities is nascent and underappreciated, and they are often limited to qualitative case studies. We don't have a comprehensive understanding of how these cities operate, what determines their success, what mistakes to avoid, or even how many are being developed.
These concerns motivated us to create the New Cities Map. There is a lack of accessible public data on New Cities developments, which limits rigorous research. The New Cities Map is intended to provide rigorous and high-quality data for those interested in understanding the modern New Cities trend, its characteristics, and its consequences. Not only does our map catalog every contemporary New City, but it also provides data on their development structure, finances, history, and governance. The map and the associated dataset will make it easier for researchers to study New Cities and generate policy solutions to improve our urban future.
The inclusion criteria defines the specific characteristics of New Cities included in the map.
Cities are conceptually difficult to define. Urban areas exist on a spectrum without clear lines and dividing them into concrete categories can be subjective. What differentiates a new “city” from a new “district” in an existing city? Where is the line between master planned and organic growth? Many New Cities are built on the fringes of existing cities (so-called satellite cities), while large-scale real estate development projects in existing cities can resemble New Cities. The inclusion criteria made difficult trade-offs in definition, but we believe an internally consistent and well-defined inclusion criteria is crucial for generating data useful for research.
We define a New City as a city that is orchestrated by a central planner and guided by a master plan document. These cities are built in a coordinated fashion with a pre-determined and multi-functional mix of uses fit for people of all ages (e.g. not a limited-use central business district, industrial park, or bedroom community). New Cities also have a distinct municipal government or local administration that separates them from existing municipal jurisdictions. The map focuses on contemporary cities that were planned from 1945 onwards.
The codebook is an instruction manual for the map and dataset. It provides details on the variables and information collected.
The New Cities Map is an ongoing project. So far, we have completed data collection for North America, South America, and India. In other regions, we have only collected the names and locations of new cities. We hope to raise more funding to help us complete the project.
New Cities Map is open data, licensed under the Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL) by the Charter Cities Institute. You are free to copy, distribute, transmit, and adapt our data, as long as you credit New Cities Map and its contributors. If you alter or build upon our data, you may distribute the result only under the same license.
When using New Cities Map data, please fulfill the following requirements:
Display our copyright notice and credit New Cities Map and the Charter Cities Institute.
Clearly indicate that the data is available under the Open Database License.
Charter Cities Institute. (2023). New Cities Map. Retrieved from www.newcitiesmap.com
Charter Cities Institute. "New Cities Map." Accessed [month day, year]. www.newcitiesmap.com
We'd like to thank the research teams of several existing new towns databases, which served as models for our own New Cities Map. Specifically, the database developed by Dr. Rick Peiser and Dr. Ann Forsyth of the New Towns Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Design was a great starting point for our own project. Likewise, their book New Towns for the Twenty-First Century convinced us of the need for a social science-oriented new cities dataset. Dr. Forsyth was kind enough to walk us through their inclusion criteria and the unanticipated problems they faced.
We'd also like to thank the research team that developed the Local Autonomy Index, which we used to design our own governance variables. Alexander Bastianen, who is part of the Local Autonomy Index team, very graciously answered all our questions.
Lastly, we'd like to thank Dr. Siqi Zheng and Dr. Zhengzhen Tan, whose edited volume Toward Urban Economic Vibrancy showed us that it was possible to conduct rigorous quantitative research on new cities. Dr. Zheng and Angie Jo's chapter on conceptualizing new planned cities was instrumental to refining our own definition of new cities.