Urban geography

Urban geography is the subdiscipline of geography that derives from a study of cities and urban processes. Urban geographers and urbanists[1] examine various aspects of urban life and the built environment. Scholars, activists, and the public have participated in, studied, and critiqued flows of economic and natural resources, human and non-human bodies, patterns of development and infrastructure, political and institutional activities, governance, decay and renewal, and notions of socio-spatial inclusions, exclusions, and everyday life.

New York City, one of the largest urban areas in the world

Research interest

Urban geographers are primarily concerned with the ways in which cities and towns are constructed, governed and experienced. Alongside neighboring disciplines such as urban anthropology, urban planning and urban sociology, urban geography mostly investigates the impact of urban processes on the earth's surface's social and physical structures. Urban geographical research can be part of both human geography and physical geography.

The two fundamental aspects of cities and towns, from the geographic perspective are:[2]

  1. Location ("systems of cities"): spatial distribution and the complex patterns of movement, flows and linkages that bind them in space; and
  2. Urban structure ("cities as systems"): study of patterns of distribution and interaction within cities, from quantitative, qualitative, structural, and behavioral perspectives.

Research topics

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. One can trace these differences back to regional variations in the local resources on which growth was based during the early development of the urban pattern and in part to the subsequent shifts in the competitive advantage of regions brought about by changing locational forces affecting regional specialization within the framework of a market economy. The recognition of different city types is critical for the classification of cities in urban geography. For such classification, emphasis given in particular to functional town classification and the basic underlying dimensions of the city system.[3]

The purpose of classifying cities is twofold. On the one hand, it is undertaken 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, dominated by one activity such as mining, manufacturing or recreation and serving national and international markets

The composition of a city's 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.[4]

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 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 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 derive from manufacturing, that urban area 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
  • transportation costs


Urbanization, the transformation of population from rural to urban, is a major phenomenon of the modern era and a central topic of study.[5]

History of the discipline

Urban geography arrived as a critical sub-discipline with the 1973 publication of David Harvey's Social Justice and the City, which was heavily influenced by previous work by Anne Buttimer.[6] Prior to its emergence as its own discipline, urban geography served as the academic extension of what was otherwise a professional development and planning practice.[7] At the turn of the 19th century, urban planning began as a profession charged with mitigating the negative consequences of industrialization as documented by Friedrich Engels in his geographic analysis of the condition of the working class in England, 1844.[8]

In a 1924 study of urban geography, Marcel Aurousseau observed that urban geography cannot be considered a subdivision of geography because it plays such an important part. However, urban geography did emerge as a specialized discipline after World War II, amidst increasing urban planning and a shift away from the primacy of physical terrain in the study of geography. Chauncy Harris and Edward Ullman were among its earliest exponents.[9][10]

Urban geography arose by the 1930s in the Soviet Union as an academic complement to active urbanization and communist urban planning, focusing on cities' economic roles and potential.[11]

Spatial analysis, behavioral analysis, Marxism, humanism, social theory, feminism, and postmodernism have arisen (in approximately this order) as overlapping lenses used within the field of urban geography in the West.[12]

Geographic information science, using digital processing of large data sets, has become widely used since the 1980s, with major applications for urban geography.[13]

Notable urban geographers and urbanists

See also


  1. ^ Soja, Edward W. "Taking space personally." In The Spatial Turn, pp. 27-51. Routledge, 2008.
  2. ^ Carter (1995), p. 5–7. "[...] the two main themes of study introduced at the outset: the town as a distributed feature and the town as a feature with internal structure, or in other words, the town in area and the town as area."
  3. ^ Smith, Robert H. T. (1965-01-01). "Method and Purpose in Functional Town Classification". Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 55 (3): 539–548. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8306.1965.tb00534.x. JSTOR 2561571.
  4. ^ See Duncan, Otis Dudley, and Albert J. Reiss. "Social characteristics of urban and rural communities, 1950." (1956).
  5. ^ Carter (1995), p. 17. "This latter fact emphasizes that 'the most conspicuous feature of today's accelerated world population growth is its even greater rapidity of urbanization. In many periods of history, populations have grown, but the tempo and dimensions of recent years have never been equalled' (United Nations, 1969). It follows that urbanization is the predominant process in the spatial organization of the world's population and it is this which makes its geographical study an imperative and perhaps puts the niceties of definition into proper perspective."
  6. ^ Buttimer, Anne. "Social Space in Interdisciplinary Perspective." Geographical Review 59, no. 3 (1969): 417-26. doi:10.2307/213485.
  7. ^ Hall, Peter. Cities of tomorrow. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1988.
  8. ^ Engels, Friedrich. The condition of the working class in England in 1844. London: Allen and Unwin, 1892.
  9. ^ Carter (1995), pp. 1–4.
  10. ^ Kaplan et al. (2004), p. 4. "The first half of the 20th century saw the gradual emergence of the field of urban geography, which was based on several fundamental concepts developed by a limited number of scholars. The first courses in urban geography were not taught until the 1940s (by Chauncy Harris, the father of urban geography,at Indiana University and by Edward Ullman at Harvard University)> The second half of the 20th century then witnessed the development of urban geography as a major substantive subdiscipline in geography. At the dawn of the 21st century, only the technical field of geographic information sciences had more members in the leading and largest professional geography society, the Association of American Geographers (AAG) than the urban geography group did."
  11. ^ G.M. Lappo & N.V. Petrov, Urban Geography in the Soviet Union and the United States; Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1992; ISBN 0-8476-7568-8; pp. 15–20.
  12. ^ Kaplan et al. (2004), pp. 8–11.
  13. ^ Kaplan et al. (2004), p. 11–14.


  • Carter, Harold (1995). The Study of Urban Geography. Fourth edition. London: Arnold. ISBN 0 7131 65898
  • Kaplan, David H.; James O. Wheeler; Steven R. Holloway; & Thomas W. Hodler, cartographer (2004). Urban Geography. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-35998-X

External links


Commuting is periodically recurring travel between one's place of residence and place of work, or study, and in doing so exceed the boundary of their residential community. It sometimes refers to any regular or often repeated traveling between locations, even when not work-related. A distinction is also often made between commuters who commute daily or weekly between their residence to work place, often being suburbs to cities, and are therefore considered respectively local or long-distance commuters.

Geography of Lahore

The geography of Lahore comprises the various features relating to the land and climate of Lahore, Pakistan. Lying between 31°15′—31°45′ N and 74°01′—74°39′ E, Lahore is bounded on the north and west by the Sheikhupura District, on the east by Wagah, and on the south by Kasur District. The Ravi River flows on the northern side of Lahore. Lahore city covers a total land area of 1014 km² and is still growing.

Human geography

Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that deals with the study of people and their communities,

cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place. Human geography attends to human patterns of social interaction, as well as spatial level interdependencies, and how they influence or affect the earth's environment. As an intellectual discipline, geography is divided into the sub-fields of physical geography and human geography, the latter concentrating upon the study of human activities, by the application of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Industrial suburb

An industrial suburb is a community, near a large city, with an industrial economy. These communities may be established as tax havens or as places where zoning promotes industry, or they may be industrial towns that become suburbs by urban sprawl of the nearby big city.

Inner suburb

Inner suburb is a term used for a variety of suburban communities that are generally located very close to the centre of a large city (the inner city and central business district). Their urban density is lower than the inner city or central business district but higher than that of the city's outer suburbs or exurbs.

In the Commonwealth countries (especially Australia and New Zealand), inner suburbs are the part of the urban area that constitutes the zone of transition, which lies outside the central business district, as well as the (traditional) working class zone. The inner suburbs of large cities are the oldest and often the most dense residential areas of the city. They tend to feature a high level of mixed-use development. Traditionally, inner suburbs have been home to the working class, but as manufacturing jobs have migrated to the periphery of cities, many inner suburbs have become gentrified.

In the United States, inner suburbs (sometimes known as "first-ring" suburbs) are the older, more populous communities of a metropolitan area that experienced urban sprawl before the post–World War II baby boom, thus significantly predate those of their outer suburban or exurban counterparts.

List of industrial regions

Industrial region or industrial area refers to a geographical region with extremely dense industry. It is usually heavily urbanized.


A metropolis () is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. The term is Ancient Greek (μητρόπολις) and means the "mother city" of a colony (in the ancient sense), that is, the city which sent out settlers. This was later generalized to a city regarded as a center of a specified activity, or any large, important city in a nation.

A big city belonging to a larger urban agglomeration, but which is not the core of that agglomeration, is not generally considered a metropolis but a part of it. The plural of the word is metropolises, although the Latin plural is metropoles, from the Greek metropoleis (μητρoπόλεις).

For urban centers outside metropolitan areas that generate a similar attraction at smaller scale for their region, the concept of the regiopolis ("regio" for short) was introduced by German academics in 2006.

Metropolitan area

A metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as a metro area or commuter belt, is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industry, infrastructure, and housing.

A metro area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalities: neighborhoods, townships, boroughs, cities, towns, exurbs, suburbs, counties, districts, states, and even nations like the eurodistricts. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions. Metropolitan areas include one or more urban areas, as well as satellite cities, towns and intervening rural areas that are socioeconomically tied to the urban core, typically measured by commuting patterns. In the United States, the concept of the metropolitan statistical area has gained prominence. Metropolitan areas may themselves be part of larger megalopolises.

For urban centres outside metropolitan areas, that generate a similar attraction at smaller scale for their region, the concept of the regiopolis and respectively regiopolitan area or regio was introduced by German professors in 2006. In the United States, the term micropolitan statistical area is used.

Northwest Hills, Austin, Texas

Northwest Hills, sometimes referred to as Far West after its main street, is a suburb in the northwestern part of Austin, Texas, United States. The neighborhood is home to the largest concentration of Jewish residents in Austin, and includes a 40-acre complex housing a number of Jewish community organizations, synagogues, and schools.

Out growth

An Out Growth (OG) is an urban settlement contiguous to another urban area like Statutory towns, Census towns or a City. Though it possess all the urban characteristics, it is not qualified as an independent town. It should not possess any uninhabited areas and strictly be a contiguous to the town.As per 2011 Census of India, it is defined as:

"A viable unit such as a village or part of a village contiguous to a statutory town and possess the urban features in terms of infrastructure and amenities such as pucca roads, electricity, taps, drainage system, educational institutions, post offices, medical facilities, banks etc. Examples of OGs are Railway colonies, university colonies and port areas, that may come up near a city or statutory towns outside its statutory limits but within the revenue limit of a village or villages contiguous to the town or city."


A pentapolis (from Greek πεντα- penta-, "five" and πόλις polis, "city") is a geographic and/or institutional grouping of five cities. Cities in the ancient world probably formed such groups for political, commercial and military reasons, as happened later with the Cinque Ports in England.


Peri-urbanisation relates to those processes of dispersive urban growth that creates hybrid landscapes of fragmented urban and rural characteristics.

Trailer park

A trailer park is a temporary or permanent area for mobile homes and travel trailers. Advantages include low cost compared to other housing, and quick and easy moving to a new area, for example when taking a job in a distant place while keeping the same home.

Trailer parks, especially in American culture, are stereotypically viewed as lower income housing for occupants living at or below the poverty line who have low social status and lead a desultory and deleterious lifestyle. Despite the advances in trailer home technology, the trailer park image survives as evoked by a statement from Presidential adviser James Carville who, in the course of one of the Bill Clinton White House political scandals, suggested "Drag $100 bills through trailer parks, there's no telling what you'll find," in reference to Paula Jones. It is also seen in the Canadian mockumentary Trailer Park Boys.

Tornadoes and hurricanes often inflict serious damage on trailer parks, usually because the structures are not secured to the ground and their construction is significantly less able to withstand high wind forces than regular houses. However, most modern manufactured homes are built to withstand high winds, using hurricane straps and proper foundations.

Transport geography

Transport geography, also transportation geography, is a branch of geography that investigates the movement and connections between people, goods and information on the Earth's surface.

United Nations Human Settlements Programme

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) is the United Nations programme for human settlements and sustainable urban development. It was established in 1978 as an outcome of the First UN Conference on Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat I) held in Vancouver, Canada, in 1976. UN-Habitat maintains its headquarters at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, Kenya. It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group. The mandate of UN-Habitat derives from the Habitat Agenda, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996. The twin goals of the Habitat Agenda are adequate shelter for all and the development of sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world.

Since January 2018 the Executive Director is Maimunah Mohd Sharif, who had served as the Mayor of Penang Island prior to her appointment in UN-Habitat by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres.

Urban-type settlement

Urban-type settlement (Russian: посёлок городско́го ти́па, romanized: posyolok gorodskogo tipa, abbreviated: Russian: п.г.т., romanized: p.g.t.; Ukrainian: селище міського типу, romanized: selyshche mis'koho typu, abbreviated: Ukrainian: с.м.т., romanized: s.m.t.; Belarusian: пасёлак гарадскога тыпу, romanized: pasiolak haradskoha typu; Polish: osiedle typu miejskiego; Bulgarian: селище от градски тип, romanized: selishte ot gradski tip) is an official designation for a semi-urban settlement (or a former town), used in several Eastern European countries. The term was historically used in Bulgaria, Poland, and the Soviet Union, and remains in use today in 10 of the post-Soviet states.

This type of locality has been used in all 15 member republics of the former Soviet Union since 1922 when it replaced a number of terms which could have been translated by the English term "town" (Russia – posad, Ukraine – містечко, mistechko, Belarus – мястэчка, miastečka (the latter two are diminutives from місто and места, correspondingly, similarly to the Polish word: miasteczko, lit. 'small town' being derived from miasto) and others). It was introduced later in Poland (1954) and Bulgaria (1964). All the urban-type settlements in Poland were transformed into other types of settlement (town or village) in 1972, while in Bulgaria and five of the post-Soviet republics (namely Armenia, Moldova, and the three Baltic states) – in the early 1990s. Today this term is still used in the other nine post-Soviet republics – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

What counts as an urban-type settlement differs between time periods and countries, and often between different divisions of a single country. However, the criteria generally focus on the presence of urban infrastructure or resort facilities for urban residents.

Urban Geography (journal)

Urban Geography (ISSN 0272-3638) is a peer-reviewed academic journal that was first published in 1980. It appears semi-quarterly and covers topics concerning urban policy and planning, race, poverty, ethnicity in urban areas, housing, and provision of services and urban economic activity.

Urban Geography was published by Bellwether Publishing Ltd. until 2013, when it was acquired by Taylor & Francis Group. It is available online and in print.

Urban Indian reserve

An urban Indian reserve (French: réserve indienne urbaine) is land that the Government of Canada has designated as a First Nations reserve that is situated within an urban area. Such lands allow for aboriginal commercial ventures which enjoy the tax exemptions offered to traditional reserves. They may be located within either a municipality or, in the case of Saskatchewan, a Northern Administration District.An urban reserve may result from either encroachment of a municipal area into existing reserve lands, or from the designation of land in an existing urban territory.Some commercial urban reserves exist as satellites to rural reserves. It has been suggested that the generated revenue will help maintain the economic well-being of the associated rural community.


A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though villages are often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighborhoods. Villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings; however, transient villages can occur. Further, the dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over the landscape, as a dispersed settlement.In the past, villages were a usual form of community for societies that practice subsistence agriculture, and also for some non-agricultural societies. In Great Britain, a hamlet earned the right to be called a village when it built a church. In many cultures, towns and cities were few, with only a small proportion of the population living in them. The Industrial Revolution attracted people in larger numbers to work in mills and factories; the concentration of people caused many villages to grow into towns and cities. This also enabled specialization of labor and crafts, and development of many trades. The trend of urbanization continues, though not always in connection with industrialization.

Although many patterns of village life have existed, the typical village is often small, consisting of perhaps 5 to 30 families. Historically homes were situated together for sociability and defence, and land surrounding the living quarters was farmed. Traditional fishing villages were based on artisan fishing and located adjacent to fishing grounds.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.