Urban geography

Urban geography

Urban geography is the study of urban areas. That is the study of areas which have a high concentration of buildings and infrastructure. These are areas where the majority of economic activities are in the secondary sector and tertiary sectors. They probably have a high population density.

It can be considered a part of the larger field of human geography. However, it can often overlap with other fields such as anthropology and sociology. Urban geographers seek to understand how factors interact over space, what function they serve and their interrelationships. Urban geographers also look at the development of settlements. Therefore, it involves planning city expansion and improvements. Urban geography, then, attempts to account for the human and environmental impacts of the change. Urban geography differs from urban studies where it focuses on the city in the context of space throughout countries and continents. For example, urban studies may examine the financial district in one particular city, such as New York City, whereas urban geography would look at the financial districts of cities such as New York City, London, and Tokyo and how they may or may not relate with one another.

Urban geography forms the theoretical basis for a number of professions including urban planning, retail store site selection, real estate development, crime pattern analysis and logistical analysis.

Areas of Study

There are essentially two approaches to urban geography. The study of problems relating to the spatial distribution of cities themselves and the complex patterns of movement, flows and linkages that bind them in space. Studies in this category are concerned with the "city system". Secondly there is the study of patterns of distribution and interaction within cities, essentially the study of their inner structure. Studies in this category are concerned with the "city as a system". A succinct way to define urban geography that recognizes the link between these two approaches within the subject is then, that "urban geography is the study of cities as systems within a system of cities."citequote

ite and situation

Site describes the location of a city with respect to its soil, water supply and relief, or more still the actual point on which a settlement is built while situation describes the surrounds of the city in terms of other settlements, rivers, mountains and communication. Locations for cities are usually chosen for good reasons. Benefits of certain locations can include:
*A wet area: water is a constant necessity for urban areas and is difficult to transport. For this reason many cities are located near or adjacent to rivers.
*A dry area: in wet areas a dry area offers protection from flooding and marshland.
*Easy access to building materials: stone, wood or clay are necessary for the construction of cities and are difficult to transport long distances.
*A strategic defensive position: historically many cities have been constructed on high ground in order to make attack more difficult and to give a good view of surrounding land. River meanders are also used as partial moats.
*fuel supply: most cities were initially constructed near wood for burning and cooking. Today many cities are constructed near coal, oil and gas mines to make use of those resources.
*A food supply: cities need some nearby land to be suitable for animal grazing or crop growing
*A travel intersection point and bridging points: it is often useful for a city to be located at the intersection of rivers, roads or train lines in order to facilitate travel and trade. Bridging points are shallow areas that allow easy construction of bridges.
*Shelter and aspect: it is desirable to construct cities located on the side of a slope that is protected from incoming winds, and in a direction that receives maximum sun exposure.

The City System

Much of the world is increasingly urbanized. Before 1850 no country could claim to be predominantly urbanized and at the turn of the century, only Great Britain could be regarded as such.

Urbanization is the process whereby society is transformed from an essentially rural one to a predominantly urban one. Its most visible expression in the landscape is the growth of cities and an increase in their number, size and importance. Also, urbanization process can be closely allied with economic colonization.

Urbanization, however is not just the growth of cities but rather it is a complex change in economic, social and political thinking. As cities grow, new definitions have been introduced for census purposes in which the concept of the "extended city" is commonly used. Definitions such as the urban area based on the physical extent of the built-up area and minimum requirements of population size and density as well as the metropolitan area, based on urban population size and commute patterns as a measure of spatial integration give us a much better indication of the population size of cities than the use of political entities like the municipality. One of the definitions that have raised much interest is that based on the concept of urban field which is a new form of urban habitat of relatively low density involving a good transportation system and a broad array of economic, social and recreational opportunities. Each urban field is centered on and dominated to a certain extent by a metropolitan area of at least 200,000-300,000 people. It's outer limits can be defined by two criteria: (1) The maximum time or distance that most people are prepared to commute. (2) The time or distance that most people are prepared to spend traveling to or from weekly or weekend recreational activities. Many of these urban fields come into contact with each other and they interact.

Cities do not and cannot exist in isolation. Whether you view the developments in transportation and communication as prerequisites or agents for the growth of cities, the concentration of surplus products in cities necessitated linkages initially with their surrounding regions and later as settlement proceeded westward and a spatial division of labour accompanied the geographic specialization of production, with other regions and cities. In order for the surplus to be concentrated at particular locations linkages were necessary and cities became nodes in networks comprising of the movement of goods, services, materials, people, money, credit, investment and information. These various forms of flows, movements, transactions and linkages are collectively referred to as spatial interaction and acts as the key to the city system. Interaction then plays a number of crucial roles in shaping the form and structure of city systems, as it does in the internal structure of cities. Four roles the city system plays are particularly important. Firstly, in the same way that the market economy is integrated through price-fixing mechanisms, so interaction performs a spatial integrating role. Second, interaction permits differentiation of functional specialization of cities within the city system. Third and most important, interaction is the medium of spatial organization. Lastly, interaction is extremely important in bringing about change and the reorganization of spatial relationships within the city system.

The diffusion of innovations is the ideal example of the function of the urban hierarchy. Large cities are more likely places for invention and innovation to occur and spread or diffuse to other cities below it in the hierarchy. As some cities grew and become more important they climb the hierarchy, with major metropolitan centers at the top and towns, villages and hamlets at the bottom.

Cities as Centers of Manufacturing and Services

Cities differ in their economic makeup, their social and demographic characteristics and the roles they play within the city system. These differences can be traced back to regional variations in the local resources on which growth was based during the early development of the urban pattern and in part the subsequent shifts in the competitive advantage of regions brought about by changing locational forces affecting regional specialization within the framework of the market economy. Recognition of different city types necessitates their classification, and it is to this important aspect of urban geography that we now turn. Emphasis is on "functional town classification" and the basic underlying dimensions of the city system.

The purpose of classifying cities is twofold. On the one hand, it is undertaken in order to search reality for hypotheses. In this context, the recognition of different types of cities on the basis of, for example, their functional specialization may enable the identification of spatial regularities in the distribution and structure of urban functions and the formulation of hypotheses about the resulting patterns. On the other hand, classification is undertaken to structure reality in order to test specific hypotheses that have already been formulated. For example, to test the hypotheses that cities with a diversified economy grow at a faster rate then those with a more specialized economic base, cities must first be classified so that diversified and specialized cities can be differentiated.

The simplest way to classify cities is to identify the distinctive role they play in the city system. There are three distinct roles. 1. "Central places" functioning primarily as service centers for local hinterlands. 2. "Transportation" cities performing break-of-bulk and allied functions for larger regions. 3. "Specialized-function" cities are dominated by one activity such as mining, manufacturing or recreation and serving national and international markets. The composition of a cities labor force has traditionally been regarded as the best indicator of functional specialization, and different city types have been most frequently identified from the analysis of employment profiles. Specialization in a given activity is said to exist when employment in it exceeds some critical level.

The relationship between the city system and the development of manufacturing has become very apparent. The rapid growth and spread of cities within the heartland-hinterland framework after 1870 was conditioned to a large extent by industrial developments and that the decentralization of population within the urban system in recent years is related in large part to the movement of employment in manufacturing away from the traditional industrial centers. Manufacturing is found in nearly all cities, but its importance is measured by the proportion of total earnings received by the inhabitants of an urban area. When 25 percent or more of the total earnings in an urban region are derived from manufacturing, that urban areas is arbitrarily designated as a manufacturing center.

The location of manufacturing is affected by myriad economic and non-economic factors, such as the nature of the material inputs, the factors of production, the market and transportation costs. Other important influences include agglomeration and external economies, public policy and personal preferences. Although it is difficult to evaluate precisely the effect of the market on the location of manufacturing activities, two considerations are involved: the nature of and demand for the product and transportation costs.

ee also

* Chicago School (sociology)
* Rural sociology
* Urban
* Urban agriculture
* Urban studies
* Urban field
* Gentrification
* Urban Ecology
* Urban sociology


* [http://www.bellpub.com/ug/ Urban Geography (ISSN 0272-3638)] at Bellwether Publishing

External links

* [http://www.openhistory.net A Dynamic Map of the World Cities' Growth]

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