Built landscapes—patterns of streets, blocks, parcels of land, buildings, and related infrastructure at the scale of an urban neighborhood or greater—are often difficult for decision makers and the public to understand, especially within the complex “collage city” of the postmodern era. Yet understanding the variety of these forms can help stakeholders make wise choices regard- ing how to plan and design urban regions in the future to meet goals such as livability and sustainability. Based on aerials, maps, and images available through Google and other sources, I develop a typology of built landscape forms found within 24 metropoli- tan regions worldwide and use GIS to map these forms and compare regions. The analysis shows that 27 basic types of built landscape make up metropolitan regions worldwide, of which nine are very common. Traditional urban types now make up a small fraction of most metropolitan areas world- wide, while suburban and exurban forms comprise the vast majority of the land area. There are noted regional differences in the mix of built landscape types.
Takeaway for practice: Each built landscape form offers challenges and opportunities for planning objectives such as livability and sustainability. It is important for planners to a) help the public and decision makers understand built landscapes and their implications; b) include landscape-scale elements, such as street patterns and networks of green infrastructure, when framing urban development alternatives; c) ensure that local codes and design guidelines enable desired forms of built landscapes and discourage those that are problematic for sustainability; and d) encourage built landscape change that promotes sustainability.