Mapping suburban areas

Posted by tule00 on 11 October 2017 in English (English)

Hey everyone,

I have some knowledge on how to map central city areas, but when it comes to city areas which are not urban or rural, I get very confused. I've mapped some suburban areas of Igwepir, which you can see here. I'm referring to Vagheen Nort -- a modern, densely populated suburb (similar to New Belgrade and Petržalka) It needs some work, but it looks decent. On the other hand, there's Kritzen, which is supposed to be a typical German suburb (like this, for example). But when I map Kritzen, it never looks good at all. It just looks like a bunch of randomly placed streets.

Do you all have some advice on how to make better suburbs?


Comment from Thunderbird on 11 October 2017 at 20:47

Here is an example of a suburban area I've been working on (when I have time) recently. It is modeled after 1950s New Jersey suburbs. There is a main road with strip malls here. I haven't completed the area yet, but feel free to have a look around to see how the streets are set up!

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Comment from tule00 on 11 October 2017 at 21:11

Thanks for the example, it is kinda useful, but the problem is, your city is obviously American-styled, while my cities are supposed to be mostly European-styled, and suburbs are a little different (look at the last link in the OP).

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Comment from EAJ on 11 October 2017 at 22:44

I think the key is to detail. If you try to map it in greater detail I think you would be more satisfied. If you look here you can see both the modern densely populated suburb such as Rinkeby and you have the more "traditional" European suburb of Bromsten. Either you can draw the streets and fill in with houses and details, or you can draw the houses and then draw the streets. I've sort of had the same issue as you where I think the streets look odd, but after I've filled in with some details (like here: I've become more happy with the results.

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Comment from Toadwart on 12 October 2017 at 00:29

Yes, all of us trying to map European non-grid style need to figure out how it's done.

My biggest city doesn't look too bad, but still something feels wrong about it. A place where I edited recently looks a bit more realistic.

But anyway, what makes roads look realistic or unrealistic.

  • + curves: Not perfect circle segments in your Vagheen suburb. I mean simple natural curves.
  • - junctions with sharp angles. Especially those where both roads are through roads. The road through Kritzener Garden has a nasty junction at the northern end of the park. Roads approaching a main road in a sharp angle should curve and meet the main road in a nearly right angle.
  • - uneven spacing between roads. That's not a good-bad thing, but unless there is a good cause, roads should be evenly spaced. About two houses with gardenes should fit between two parallel roads in the suburbs.
  • - unbalanced natural curving vs. geometrical figures. Look at your tram lines, ignore everything else. They somehow look "wrong". It's not too bad, it just doesn't trigger the "realistic"-neuron.

Anyway. I definitely don't say everything is bad. And I also don't say I did better. I am just trying to identify some of the keys to realistic mapping. None of them are absolute do-s or don't-s. But maybe we can gather some of them and update the tutorial about realistic cities

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Comment from Portopolis on 12 October 2017 at 02:19

My own style of suburbia which may or may not help- South Yuda Main thing I focus on here in this ancient suburb is curvier road and no network of any major roads in the area, making it feel less dense in general. also I avoid major rail too since in my country rail leads to really dense development.

Wakabayashi newer suburs closer to the American or better Canadian style suburbia. still has apartments and a strong grid to follow so it is denser than most American suburbs. Suburban technology park in the area to kind of allude to Raleigh/Durham or Austin and show that this city is a newer, quickly developing tech cities with a few really historic areas but not similar to Marie City in that the area was relatively small till 1980's or 1990's when it exploded. This leaves Wakabayashi with a sharper contrast from one age to another.

Westriver this area is more traditional disconnected suburb that instead of being completely new, spawned from a town (Most London "suburbs"). Mapping is probably bad as I did this a few years back.

Estates I don't have any apartment blocks yet but Ondo to Villas Estate and Zoo Estate is comparable to Bromsten/Rinkeby situation, of a traditional burb next to an apartment burb. I used curved roads to represent Ondo which is still a developing area and is an outer burb.

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Comment from tule00 on 12 October 2017 at 09:22

@EAJ Thanks for the advice. Your suburbs look satisfyingly realistic.

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Comment from tule00 on 12 October 2017 at 09:32


Tyngsbourne looks quite realistic.

Curves are a good point, but I don't think they are a bad thing in Vagheen Nort, since it's supposed to be a modern, planned suburb.

You're completely right about sharp-angle junctions. I'm going to fix it right now.

Spacing is a little tricky, especially if there is no particular grid (look at the Leipzig suburban area I've linked).

  • When it comes to trams, there are some things to fix:

  • Extend the tracks for Spentel, Bergtorf and Flusstat

  • Fix the Nortkap track

  • Maybe create a track to Kritzen

Anyway, thanks for the criticism. I like it when people are honest about my work, even if it's bad.

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Comment from tule00 on 12 October 2017 at 09:38


South Yuda is useful to look up to.

Wakabayashi is okay, but too American for Reeland.

About Westriver - I try to make my suburbs in the same way (because I figure that's how European suburbs usually are) - I make it look like a former town. For example, look at Ruppir.

From your description, Estates are supposed to be the same thing as Vagheen Nort with Kritzen - an old suburb next to a new one.

Thanks for the examples!

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Comment from tparigo on 12 October 2017 at 09:54


I have this exemple of how I "finished" a European-styled city here.

Around the city historical core, you have several examples of transition between urban areas and countryside. The main idea is that the development of new suburbs followed the historical roads and of natural features (here mainly the river on the north). Then you have the creation of a ring road which became the support for newer development (including retail and industries).


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Comment from tule00 on 12 October 2017 at 11:06

Thanks for the example! Your city is very realistic and good-looking. Only the railway looks a bit unnatural.

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Comment from Ūdilugbulgidħū on 12 October 2017 at 11:59

In theory, development of a suburb would be linked to two main components: natural features (especially topography) and sociological features (including economics and planning rules and the relative location of the main urban area). So I'd approach it first by designing the topography. Uneven topography would make your map more interesting, but the flatter it is, the easier it would be to map. Its a compromise, but adding in a few basic features - like a river with woods along it - might really help it look interesting. When you have your sociological ideas and timeline in your imagination you could then move to implementing the results of sociological interactions on the map.

So much for the theory...

If you just want it to look like somewhere in the real wold, without taking any of this into account, its not a problem, but be careful when extrapolating back to what you have mapped. If you don't understand why things are laid out in a particular way, and then you try and fit them into your imagined culture, it may not work. Then if you add another bit of mapping based on somewhere else - which you also only partly understand - it will just look wrong. Perhaps that's what has been happening here.

For Iction, which of course is rural rather than suburban, the map incorporates development over time, around 1000 years. The imagined process is slow, but accelerates in the 20th century. Therefore, there is as much mapped development from the last 100 years as in the previous 900. For your suburb, it might be much easier than this since all your development could have occurred in say, 10 years. So you can get away with copying and pasting buildings, because they'll all be very similar. In your case, the interface between the agricultural/rural and the urban is most likely to have been decided by the planners - but how did the planners envisage the suburb, why did they put it there? What demarcates the boundary between the rural and the urban - is it a fixed boundary, perhaps a park or natural feature, or is it temporary, with consideration of space for future expansion? Are there any relicts of earlier landuse, natural or built?

I think imagining who the planning architect was and why they designed things like that could really help.

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Comment from tule00 on 12 October 2017 at 13:24

Wow, that's a VERY detailed explanation. I see you know a lot about this.

I've already heard about the "imagine the planning/building process" thing, but whenever I try to do that, I get stuck, and then, out of impatience, I just start drawing random streets. Do you have some more advice on how to do "historical planning"? And perhaps something about how streets get along with different terrain?

Best regards

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Comment from MrOobling on 12 October 2017 at 14:00

The key is practice. While all these aspects about planning and history are very important to note, just knowing these things won't make your city perfect, and you shouldn't expect it to be perfect or even any good.

Just keep making suburbs in various places, with various methods and various ideas. You will get better at drawing suburbs, and you can redo the ones you don't like. I didn't like my first 'suburbs' (not really suburbs but just part of the city):, but since then, I have drawn much more and I am now much more pleased with my more recent edits (unfinished): Your problems about getting stuck when planning will also improve, and it will all come naturally.

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Comment from tule00 on 12 October 2017 at 14:17

Ah, practice. I hate that. It makes me so depressed. But I guess you can't do anything without it...

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Comment from No Way on 12 October 2017 at 17:24

@Thunderbird Is this a refinery that is mapped here?

-28.9648, 38.0205

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Comment from stjur on 13 October 2017 at 08:16

I feel like for me, the best and easiest way of building suburbs is the Italian suburb style (Vincenza, Ravenna, Brescia etc.) - same-sized houses located on perpendicular streets. I feel like it's very easy to create those neighborhoods in OGF, especially because you can copy and re-use rows of buildings in other places (of course, only if you map buildings). Unlike New Belgrade, these areas don't have a dense population, but they tend to become huge. I tried to recreate one Italian-styled suburb here.

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