Table of Contents

Barcelona Spain landscape
Barcelona, Spain. Courtesy of Author.



0. Human settlements are scalar and co-dependent.



1. Human settlements are the product of different forces and serve to satisfy the human needs of inhabitants and others.

2. Once created, unforeseen functions and needs must be satisfied, over and above initial ones. These grow with the development of the settlement.

3. The goal of settlement is to satisfy the needs and desires of its inhabitant, particularly those related to happiness and core physical needs, such as clean water and safety.

4. Fulfilling the needs of those who live in settlements extend beyond core physical needs to social, political, economic and cultural spheres of life.

5. Human settlements are the created and maintained by their inhabitants.

6. Settlements are created only when they are needed and live only as long as they are needed—that is, as long as they are satisfying the needs of the forces placed upon them.


7. The development and renewal of settlements is a continuous process. If it stops, conditions for its death are created, but how long it will take depends on many factors.

8. The survival of a settlement is greatly influenced by its geography and role within its larger co-dependent system.

9. The total investment across all facets of settlement life—economic, social, cultural, etc.—depends on the role it plays within the larger co-dependent settlement system, and the forces being placed on it by this system.

10. The values created in a settlement, in addition to the initial needs leading to its creation, act as ‘secondary forces’ contributing to its speedier development; or in case of depression, they slow down or even arrest and reverse its decline. The process is continual, adding different forces intermittently over the lifetime of a settlement.

11. In a growing system of settlements the chances are that the largest settlements will grow faster than the others.

12. The per capita cost of a settlement’s infrastructure decreases in relation to the size of the settlement – the doubling the size of a particular settlement decreases the cost of infrastructure by approx. 15%)

13. Settlements are in a constant state of adaptation and, as such, time is a factor necessary for the development of settlements and is physically expressed within them.

14. Considerations around speed are indispensable to the understanding and design of settlements.


15. The gradual death of a settlement begins when the settlement no longer serves and satisfies some of the basic needs of the its inhabitants or of the Society, in general. As people move they carry their values with them.

16. The death process of all or part of a settlement will not occur until its initial value has been amortized from the economic and cultural points of view.

17. In the death process of a settlement, its elements do not die simultaneously. The same holds true for the values that it represents. As a consequence , the settlement as a whole has much greater chances of surviving and developing through renewal, even if some of its elements are dying.

18. During the process of death, inertia caused by existing forces, especially buildings, plays a very important role in slowing down—or even reversing—the process.

19. The death process of a settlement is complete when every reason for its life has ceased to exist and/or when the needs it fulfilled within its larger system can be provided elsewhere to a better degree and/or with easier access.

20. The creation, development and death of settlements follow certain laws unless humans decide otherwise.


21. The elements in each part of a settlement tend toward balance.

22. The balance among the elements of a settlement is dynamic balance.

23. The balance of the elements is expressed in different ways in each phase of the creation and evolution of a settlement.

24. The balance between the elements is expressed differently at each scale of a settlement, while each scale interacts dynamically with others.

25. Across all scales of settlement, achieving balance within the range of the human scale is critically important for its long-term success. This scale corresponds to the extents of ones control, as well as the body and senses—roughly a ten minute walking distance.



26. The geographic/topographic location of a settlement depends on the needs it must serve for itself (its inhabitants, natural setting, etc.) and the larger co-dependent settlement system to which it belongs.

27. The geographic/topographic location of a settlement depends on its needs, geology, anticipated physical size and technology available.


28. The population size of a settlement depends on its roles in serving certain needs for its inhabitant and for its larger settlement system.

29. The physical size of a settlement depends on its population size, its needs, culture (technology, etc.), its role within the larger settlement system, and its geographic, topographic, climatic, and geologic conditions.


30. The functions of a settlement depend on the geographic and topographic location, geologic conditions, technological development, population size, and the role within the larger settlement system.

31. The role of a settlement within its larger co-dependent system depends on its function, geographic/topographic location and population size.

32. The functions and role of a settlement are interdependent with geography, topographic conditions, geological circumstance, as well as population and physical size.


33. The basic cell of human settlement is a physical scalar unit that is an expression of its community—politically, socially, culturally, economically, etc. The settlement will only function properly only if this unit is not fragmented in any way.

34. All communities, and therefore, all settlement scalar units tend to be connected to each other hierarchically. Every community of a higher order serves a certain number of communities of a lower order, and the same is true of specific functions with each unit.

35. The fact that all communities tend to be connected in a hierarchical manner does not mean that this connection is an exclusive one. Many other connections at the same level or at different ones are equally possible, but for organizational purposes the connection is hierarchical.

36. The existence or creation of communities and functions of a higher order does not necessarily mean the elimination of those of the lower one.

37. The types of services and satisfaction provided by a settlement’s scale, community and function of a higher order to those of a lower order, depend on cost-distance and time-distance.

38. The overall physical texture of a human settlement depends on its scale and the smaller components of which it is composed.

39. The texture of a human settlement changes as its dimensions change.


40. The main force which shapes human settlements physically is centripetal—that is, the inward tendency towards a close interrelationship of all its parts.

41. Although the centripetal force at play ideally appears as settlements of concentric circles, the ultimate forms of settlements are conditioned by curves of equal effort defined dominantly by physical exertion, time, and money. These, in turn are influenced by related factors such as geography, geology, topography, and technology.

42. Linear forces lead to the formation of linear parts of settlements; under certain conditions, this may lead to a linear form of the entire settlement for a certain length only, and after a certain period of time.

43. Undetermined forces, usually caused by the form of the landscape, lead to the formation of settlements of undetermined form.

44. The form of a settlement is determined by a combination of central, linear, and undetermined forces in adjustment to the landscape and in accordance with its positive and negative characteristics.

45. A settlement grows in the areas of the greatest attraction and least resistance.

46. A factor with a direct impact on the form of a settlement is the need for security which may, at times, be even more important than the main centripetal force.

47. Another force that exercises an influence on the form of a settlement is the tendency towards an orderly pattern.

48. The final form of the settlement depends on the total sum of the forces already mentioned, as well as others such as tradition and cultural factors, which play a greater role in the smaller scales. The final form is a result of the interplay of these primary, secondary, and tertiary forces.

49. The form of the settlement is satisfactory only if all the forces of varying importance within it, can be brought into balance physically.

50. The right form for a human settlement is that which best expresses all the static positions and dynamic movements of humans, animals and machines within its space, while ensuring a healthy ecological setting.

51. The right form is that which expresses the importance, class, and consequently, the relative scale of every scalar settlement unit and their subdivisions.

52. The densities in a settlement, or in any of its parts, depend on the forces which are exercised upon it.

53. In human settlements formed by a normal process, the pattern of densities changes in a rational and continuous way, according to the scale of the settlement and the functions it serves.

54. The satisfaction derived from the services provided by a settlement to its inhabitants depends greatly on the proper density of the settlement.





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The Laws of Settlement Copyright © 2020 by Erick Villagomez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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