What is urban geography
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What is Urban Geography?. A sub-discipline of geography It examines the places we live, the structure of our cities, and the pattern of cities on the landscape Topics we ’ ll cover in this unit: The history of urban areas (cities) City placement Primate cities Urban sprawl Smart growth

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What is Urban Geography?

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What is urban geography

What is Urban Geography?

  • A sub-discipline of geography

  • It examines the places we live, the structure of our cities, and the pattern of cities on the landscape

  • Topics we’ll cover in this unit:

    • The history of urban areas (cities)

    • City placement

    • Primate cities

    • Urban sprawl

    • Smart growth

    • Gentrification

    • Sanitation issues

When and why did people start living in cities

When and Why Did People Start Living in Cities?

Agricultural villages

Agricultural Villages

  • Agriculture began 10,000 to 12,000 years ago

  • People became more sedentary

  • Before urbanization, people often clustered in agricultural villages

    • Relatively small in size and population

    • Subsistence farming

    • Egalitarian in nature

How cities came to be

How cities came to be:

  • Two components enable the formation of cities:

    1. An agricultural surplus

    2. Social stratification

    (a leadership class)

Modern definition of city

Modern Definition of City

  • City - conglomeration of people and buildings clustered together to serve as a center of politics, culture, and economics.

  • Globally, more people live in cities/towns than in rural areas

Definition of urban

Definition of Urban

  • Urban:The buildup of the central city and the suburban realm - the city and the surrounding environs connected to the city.

  • Non-rural and non-agricultural

The first urban revolution

The First Urban Revolution

  • The innovation of the city

  • Cities developed independently in 5 separate hearths.

5 hearths of urbanization

5 Hearths of Urbanization

  • Mesopotamia, 3500 BCE

  • Nile River Valley, 3200 BCE

  • Indus River Valley, 2200 BCE

  • Huang He and Wei River Valleys, 1500 BCE

  • Mesoamerica, 200 BCE

5 hearths of urbanization1

5 Hearths of Urbanization

The second urban revolution

The Second Urban Revolution

  • A large scale movement of people to cities to work in manufacturing.

    Made possible by:

    • Second agricultural revolution that improved food production and created a larger food surplus

    • Industrialization, which encouraged growth of cities near industrial resources

Where are cities located and why site situation

Where are Cities Located and Why?Site & Situation

What is urban geography


  • Actual location of a settlement on the earth

  • Physical characteristics of landscape specific to area

  • Landforms, climate, vegetation types, availability of water, soil quality, minerals and even wildlife



  • Relative location of a city

  • A city’s place in the region and the world around it.

  • Accessibility of location

  • Extent of connections with another place

  • Distance from raw materials

Central place theory

Central Place Theory

  • Developed by German geographer Walter Christaller in 1933

  • Attempts to explain the reasons behind distribution patterns, size and number of cities/towns around world

  • Conclusion: people gather in cities to share goods & ideas - cities exist for purely economic reasons.

Trade area

Trade Area

  • Has dominant influence over adjacent areas

  • Largest city has largest trade area

Rank size rule

Rank-Size Rule

  • The population of a city or town will be inversely proportionate to its rank in the hierarchy.

    For example:

    • 1st largest city = 12 million people;

    • 2nd largest = 6 million (1/2);

    • 3rd largest = 4 million (1/3)

  • Does not apply in all countries, especially countries with a primate city

Primate cities what are they

Primate Cities…What are they?

-A city that is disproportionately larger than the rest of the cities in the country.

-They dominate country in influence & are national focal-point

-Size and activity are a strong pull factor

-Not every country has a primate city

-Examples: Paris, London, Mexico City



  • Occurs when individuals buy up and rehabilitate dilapidated housing,

  • Raises housing values & changes neighborhood.

  • Frequently in cities with a tight housing market

  • Displaces lower income residents.

  • Plays a key role in increased homelessness.

  • Examples: San Francisco, Portland, and Chicago

Urban sprawl what is it

Urban Sprawl…what is it?

  • Unrestricted growth of housing, commercial developments, and roads over large expanses of land, with little concern for urban planning.

  • Low-density developments beyond the urban center

  • Increasing separation between homes, schools, and places of employment = more driving

  • Outward rather than internal growth

  • Conversion of open spaces, productive agricultural land and parks to developments



-Strip malls

-Big box stores

-Chain restaurants

-Huge intersections

-Numerous housing developments

Implications of urban sprawl

Implications of Urban Sprawl

  • Traffic congestion & longer commutes

  • Increase pollution

  • Conversion of natural open spaces to urban areas

  • Degradation of “quality” green space

  • Increased cost of providing utilities, services and infrastructure to a sprawling population

Proponents of urban sprawl

Proponents of Urban Sprawl

  • Cheaper land

  • Lower building costs

  • Suburbs better place to raise family

Opponents of urban sprawl

Opponents of Urban Sprawl

  • Environmentalists - habitats for plants and animals are lost & air pollution from increased traffic

  • Small towns - Increased taxes after development

    • The Lorax

The solution smart growth

The Solution: Smart Growth

  • Smart Growth is defined as growth that is economically sound, environmentally friendly, and supportive of community livability - growth that enhances our quality of life

  • Smart growth is development that serves the economy, the community and the environment

  • Control sprawl by making better use of land that has already been developed

  • Examples: St. Louis Park and Portland, OR

New urbanism

New Urbanism

  • Development, urban revitalization, and suburban reforms that create walkable neighborhoods

    - some are concerned over privatization of public spaces

    • some are concerned that they do nothing to break down the social conditions that create social ills of the cities

    • some believe they work against urban sprawl

      Example: Celebration, FL

Portland oregon

Portland, Oregon


public transit system

Mixed-use buildings

Sanitation crime

Sanitation & Crime

  • Sanitation is a big issue for all urban areas because having lots of people living in close proximity can lead to the spread of disease.

  • Additionally, crime levels can rise along with population density

The end

The End

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