Part 1. The Variety of Urban Environments

Conceptual Understanding:

Key Question:

How do the characterstics and distribution of urban places, populations and economic activities vary?

Key Content:

  • Characteristics of urban places, including site, function, land use, hierarchy of settlement (including megacities) and growth process (planned or spontaneous)
  • Factors affecting the pattern of urban economic activities (retail, commercial, industrial), including physical factors, land values, proximity to a central business district (CBD) and planning
  • Factors affecting the pattern of residential areas within urban areas, including physical factors, land values, ethnicity and planning
  • The incidence of poverty, deprivation and informal activity (housing and industry) in urban areas at varying stages of development

Tuesday 31 January 2023

Characteristics of Urban Places

An urban area is a human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment. Urban areas are created through urbanisation and are categorised by urban morphology as cities, towns, conurbations or suburbs. In urbanism, the term contrasts to rural areas such as villages and hamlets. The creation of early predecessors of urban areas during the urban revolution led to the creation of human civilisation with modern urban planning, which along with other human activities such as exploitation of natural resources leads to human impact on the environment.

The world’s urban population in 1950 of just 746 million has increased to 3.9 billion in the decades since. In 2009, the number of people living in urban areas (3.42 billion) surpassed the number living in rural areas (3.41 billion) and since then the world has become more urban than rural. This was the first time that the majority of the world’s population lived in a city. In 2014 there were 7.25 billion people living on the planet, of which the global urban population comprised 3.9 billion. The Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs at that time predicted the urban population would grow to 6.4 billion by 2050, with 37% of that growth to come from three countries: China, India and Nigeria.

Starter: What are the top 10 largest cities by population? Write them down…

Top largest cities in the world!

1. Tokyo, Japan (Population: 37,468,000)
2. Delhi, India (Population: 28,514,000)
3. Shanghai, China (Population: 26,317,104)
4. Sao Paulo, Brazil (Population: 21,846,507)
5. Mexico City, Mexico (Population: 21,671,908)
6. Cairo, Egypt (Population: 20,484,965)
7. Mumbai, India (Population: 20,185,064)
8. Beijing, China (Population: 20,035,455)
9. Dhaka, Bangladesh (Population: 19,578,000)
10. Osaka, Japan (Population: 19,281,665)

Task 1. Check out the short video below from UNICEF. The graphic depicts countries and territories with 2050 urban populations exceeding 100,000 people. Circles are scaled in proportion to urban population size.  Key is as follows:

Purple – More than 75% urban population
Yellow – 50-75% urban population
Blue – 25-50%% urban population
Green – less than 25% urban population

Press play and watch the growth of these urban areas (note definition). Take screen shots of 1950, 2000 & 2050 and then complete a piece of written commentary about the historical and future growth of urban areas. 

Task 2. Using the World City Populations interactive guide here, take a screen shot of the graphic and comment of the location of urban areas around the world experiencing rapid population growth as well as issues relating to potential future climate change (Unit 2) and population displacement (Unit 1).

Case Study: Paris!

Urban environments like paris are diverse areas that have a multitude of modern days functions such as being the centre of business and commerce as well as home to millions of people. They have important roles to play in providing jobs and transport hubs as well as being major centres for the sports, leisure and tourism industries. Widespread urban renewal and processes of gentrification are changing the faces of the major cities around the world. Paris is a very good example of an urban area that has undergone major change, and will be our case study for today.

Task 3. Watch the video beneath. Screen shot 5 modern day functions of Paris and annotate with key details. What do you think the dominant function of Paris is? What do you think the dominant function of Paris was 100 years ago?

*The FUNCTION of an area is its reason, job  or purpose for being.  In urban areas this relates to the purpose of a land use for residential areas, recreation, industry etc.  The dominant function in different cities varies.

Task 4. Find a suitable definition of gentrification, a defining image and a recent news story about the issues surrounding gentrification in Paris!

Homework: Due Thursday 02 February 2023

Define the following key terms for this unit:

  1. Urban area
  2. Informal/formal activities
  3. Suburbanisation
  4. Gentrification
  5. Counter-urbanisation
  6. Re-urbanisation
  7. Urban circular system
  8. Urban ecological footprint
  9. Urbanisation
  10. Urban renewal

Thursday 02 February 2023

Site, Function and Land Use

The site of a settlement is the land upon which it was built. There are a number of different factors that can determine the site of a settlement. These are:

  1. Wet point site
  2. Dry point site 
  3. Defensive site 
  4. Aspect 
  5. Shelter 
  6. Trading point 
  7. Resources 

Task 1. Complete the table on the Google Doc worksheet linked below by describing how these site factors can influence the site for a settlement.

Lesson 2. Site and Situation Worksheet (Google Doc)

Task 2. Study this Google map of Paris and try to identify which siting factors were responsible for the growth of the city. Complete your analysis on the Google Doc worksheet.

Task 3. Use the PDF copy of the map provided to complete an annotation exercise to describe the main land use patterns and functions in Paris. Decide which colour represents each of the following areas and then describe the patterns for these areas:

  1. Agricultural zone
  2. Natural greenery
  3. Urban greenery
  4. Dense residential area (apartments/condos)
  5. Semi-dense residential area (single storey housing)
  6. Suburban residential area
  7. Commercial zone (economic activities)
  8. Manufacturing zones
  9. CBD – Central Business District (city centre)
  10. Derelict housing
  11. Airport

Settlement Hierarchies

The word hierarchy means an order or an importance and can be applied to a variety of settings. Think about Aspengrove and how it works in that setting. Now think of government or a football team and you’ll also see this hierarchy at work too.

Task 1. Using the information below, create ONE MEGA DIAGRAM that incorporates the hierarchy triangle (first visual) with the information about settlement size (second visual) and the key definitions (definitions activity).


Definitions Activity: Match the following definitions to the key term and then add them to your MEGA DIAGRAM.

?? an area served by a settlement which can also be called its hinterland.

??  the absolute minimum number of people required to support a service and keep it in business?

?? the maximum distance that customers are prepared to travel to access a good or service. 

?? convenience goods bought on a necessity basis and include items such as bread, milk or rice. 

?? more luxurious or goods that are purchased on an infrequent basis and generally more costly such as tablet devices or cars. 

  • Range
  • Sphere of influence
  • High order goods
  • Low order goods
  • Threshold

Task 2. Now watch the video embedded beneath taking notes as you go (add them as annotations to your diagram).

Tuesday 07 February 2023

The Growth of Megacities…

Starter: Key Terms Crossword!

Task 1. Spend a little time exploring this Esri Story Map. Pay particular attention to the increase in size of spread of the megacities in the study. Now watch the video and study the infographic (both linked below) and take notes on the following:

  1. Global patterns (spread across the world – LIC’s, HIC’s etc) associated with historical and future growth of megacities.
  2. Global trends (what is happening to the amount of megacities) associated with historical and future growth of megacities.
  3. Reasons for the growth of megacities.

Case Study: Mumbai

Your focus for this piece of work in going to be Mumbai in India.

You should watch the video below to get an idea of why the city has grown so quickly (note link to colonisation by the Portuguese) as well as modern day functions of industry, commerce and Bollywood. 

Task 2. Open up GeoFile 696* (September 2013) – Mumbai: Case Study of a Megacity – and read over all the information within before completing the four questions on the back page. 

Wednesday 08 February 2023

Spontaneous Settlement Growth… vs. Planned Settlement Growth

Large and successful settlements have developed because of a number of favourable factors that have allowed the settlement to grow, prosper and in turn attract more people to the area. At the start of this unit, we looked at the original siting factors for settlements and how some places will never support more than a handful of houses (hamlet) whereas others have grown into megacities (Tokyo/Yokohama). 

Environments that have traditionally encourage settlement growth are located close to the sea (trade, exploration) and in temperate deciduous areas (annual leaf fall leading to good quality soil and therefore productive agriculture). They may have good links with inland areas too enabling those areas to also develop. If you study the megacities map from the previous lesson, you will see the vast majority of these urban areas are located on the coast or at the very least, on a large river a short distance from the sea. 

London, New York, Marseille, Adelaide, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Mumbai – all located on coastal areas and allowed access to inland areas (perhaps with the exception of Australian cities due to the significant climatic challenges faced inland!).

Spontaneous Settlement GrowthVance’s Model

James Vance showed how the development of settlements occurred as a result of colonial mercantile (trade) interaction betweens between the colony and the empire. This laid the foundations for the emergence of most urban settlements that we see today and adds a historical-geographical dimension to the study and emergence of settlements.

Task 1.

Arrange the cards, which show Vance’s Model of the development of settlements, in order. Then write a short description beside each card to explain how the settlement grew over time.

Planned Settlement Growth New Towns

The concept of a planned city is more common than you might think! This is usually as a result of trying to reduce the importance of very large cities. Eg: London, Seoul and Rio de Janeiro. Governments and developers have attempted to build New Towns to deflect growth away from these main cities. You will now investigate the planned development of one of the following ‘New Towns’.

  • Option 1. Milton Keynes – London – United Kingdom
  • Option 2. Don Mills – Toronto – Canada

Task 1. Using the information linked below create a fact sheet that shows the reasons for development of either Milton Keynes or Don Mills, and to what extent it has been a successful development. 

Option 1. Milton Keynes

In the 1960s, the UK Government decided that a further generation of new towns in the South East of England was needed to relieve housing congestion in London. Map to show location is here

Population trend of Borough and Urban Area 1801–2011
Since the 1950s, overspill housing for several London boroughs had been constructed in Bletchley. Further studies in the 1960s identified north Buckinghamshire as a possible site for a large new town, a new city, encompassing the existing towns of Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Wolverton.

The New Town was to be the biggest yet, with a target population of 250,000, in a “designated area” of 88.4 km2. The name “Milton Keynes” was taken from the existing village of Milton Keynes on the site.

​On 23 January 1967, when the formal new town designation order was made, the area to be developed was largely farmland and undeveloped villages.

The site was deliberately located equidistant from London, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge with the intention that it would be self-sustaining and eventually become a major regional centre in its own right. Planning control was taken from elected local authorities and delegated to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC). 

Option 2. Don Mills

Don Mills is a mixed-use neighbourhood in the North York district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was developed to be a self-supporting “new town” and was at the time located outside Toronto proper. In 1998, North York, including the Don Mills community, was amalgamated into Toronto proper. Consisting of residential, commercial and industrial sub-districts, it was planned and developed by private enterprise. Map to show location is here.

In several ways it became the blueprint for postwar suburban development in Toronto and contemporary residential neighbourhoods. It is bounded by York Mills Road to the north, Canadian Pacific Railway to the south, Leslie Street to the west, and Don Valley Parkway to the east. It is part of federal and provincial electoral district Don Valley East, and Toronto electoral ward 16: Don Valley East.

Thursday 09 February 2023

Factors affecting the pattern of urban economic activity…

Land in an urban area can be broadly split up into commerce (retail), industry and residential. The value of the land is associated with these uses as well as the proximity to the Central Business District (CBD).

​Land prices generally decrease as you move away from the most central area of a city although there may be secondary peaks in suburban areas of new development, close to transport links etc. 

Task 1. Using the video below , complete the note taking sheet below focusing on the Bid Rent Theory model. 

Bid Rent Theory (Google Doc)

Focus Case Study: Retail in Nanaimo

Use the following document to complete the tasks below.

Retail in Nanaimo (Google Doc)

Part 1. CBD (Central Business District) 

The retail area in the centre of a city (Nanaimo Centre) is characterised by:

  • well known department stores (London Drugs)
  • chain stores (Starbucks)
  • specialist stores (Flying Fish)
  • indoor shopping centres (Port Place Shopping Centre)

Many of the items offered for sale could be classed as high order with a large range & threshold. 

Task 2.  What does ‘good range’ and ‘threshold’ refer to when talking about goods offered to consumers?  Help sheet here

Task 3. Annotate your worksheet using the Nanaimo CBD image as an example with the information above added.

Part 2. Strip Malls

Strip Malls consist of a cluster of shops, often around our area around a central car park (Brooks Landing along Highway 1). 

This particular example has a small supermarket, liquor store, butchers, bank, bakery and clothing store. The goods for sale in these parades could often be classed as lower order with a smaller range and threshold. 

Task 4. Annotate your worksheet using using the Brooks Landing image as an example with the information above added. 

Part 3. Retailing Revolution – Out of town shopping

Due to increasingly high rental prices in the CBD, issues surrounding congestion and parking charges, many superstores and hypermarkets and gathered together to form out of town retail developments. For example, The Woodgrove Centre.

Why the Shift?
Retailing trends Post 1980
• Since the 1980s this type of retailing has changed fundamentally with the advent of Out of Town or edge of town retailing. This has been made possible because;
• Government policies in many rich nations favoured edge of city sites and made retailing in the city centre very expensive
• Increased use and ownership of cars in many families
• Improvements to road networks, development of motorways and ring roads, making out of town sites more accessible
• Land prices are much cheaper at the edge of cities as shown by the Bid-rent Model.
• Retailers have also changed their business models and store plans, and prefer an American style of retailing with very large stores with lots of square meters of retail space, plus space for parking.

Advantages of Out of Town Shopping Centres
• More accessible than city centres, which are often congested.
• Large, free car parks.
• Larger stores – meaning there is a good range of products.
• Indoor shopping centres – people are not affected by the weather.
• Purpose built shopping and leisure experiences with cafes, bowling and cinemas.

Disadvantages of Out of Town Shopping Centres
• Creates more traffic, especially at weekends and bank holidays.
• City centres lose trade because people go to the out of town shopping centres – resulting in a DOUGHNUT EFFECT (see below).
• Harder for small shops and independent stores to be successful.
• May not be accessible to some members of the community e.g. the elderly.

The Doughtnut Effect
• The doughnut effect is the name given to the increasing movement of retail from the CBD. (Central Business District) to the outskirts (rural-urban fringe) of the cities. Obviously, cars have been the factor that have fueled this process, as well as, the attraction of an out-of-town site for retail.

Task 5. Using the information above annotate your worksheet with the reasons behind the changes in shopping habits around the Woodgrove Centre out of town shopping centre image in your google document. 

Of course, local councils are now realising that business is being lost from the CBD and are therefore setting up renovation schemes and public transport initiatives to bring the public back to the city centre. 

Task 6. Read this excellent article about the history of the process of decentralization in the UK and the so called ‘back to the city movements’ that have sprung up in response. 

On page 4 of the worksheet, comment on the changes that have been made in CBD’s in the UK in an attempt to stop the outflow of retail to the suburbs and rural urban fringe (decentralization). 

Extension Activity:


Task 7. Using a copy of the model above, and the information below, create a 1 sided fact sheet that explains how the proximity to the CBD affects land values and how the CBD can be divided in two distinct zones. 

Spatial Variations in the CBD

In this diagram, the Inner Core is located where the PLVI is found – the Peak Land Value Intersection. This PLVI is there because of the best transport links, although it is usually located to the edge of the actual location of rail stations etc. which take up large amounts of space and restrict development.

The majar parts are:
Inner Core – the location rarely changes, because this area contains the best transport links. In this area, the highest order shops and highest profit office activities are found.
Outer Core – these are similar activities to the Inner Core, but require more space e.g. cinemas, or are have lower profit levels e.g. non commercial office activities such as local government.
Frame – this is the edge of the CBD. It includes the major transport terminals, and activities that directly support the CBD.
Zone of Assimilation – an area that is relatively fluid and can move. This corresponds closely to the gentrification argument – an area of low quality becomes fashionable, resulting in an increase of income which can then extend the CBD in that direction.
Zone of Discard – an area becomes run down, often due to a major employer closing down and/or a lack of investment in the urban infrastructure.

Complete all tasks for Tuesday 14 February 2023

Tuesday 14 February 2023

The incidence of poverty, deprivation and informal activity (housing and industry) in urban areas at varying stages of development…

We will briefly look at the incidence of poverty, deprivation in two different cities in two different countries (Barcelona and Nairobi).

Starter – Read this excellent article from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and this article from that aims to quantify why inequality exists within cities and why they can’t be a place purely for the most wealthy. 

Example 1 – Barcelona, Spain (HIC)

Task 1. Find out a bit more about Barcelona and take some notes on the key demographics by clicking here

Task 2. Using the excellent information from the Barcelona Field Studies Centre below. Either use the printed copy provided and highlight the key elements of incidence of poverty & deprivation (red) and informal activity (blue) on the text. Or make notes in a google doc.

Example 2 – Nairobi, Kenya (LIC)

Task 3. Find out a bit more about Nairobi and take some notes on the key demographics by clicking here

Task 4. Read this excellent article by Matt Burdett and complete the following activities:

  1. Describe the location of Nairobi. [2 marks]
  2. Define ‘poverty’ in the urban context. [2 marks]
  3. Describe the pattern of poverty in Nairobi. [3 marks]
  4. Identify at least two features of urban deprivation in Nairobi and for each, describe its distribution. [2+4 marks]
  5. Outline the health issues that are likely to stem from urban deprivation in Nairobi. [4 marks]
  6. Explain why it is hard to present information about the informal sector in Nairobi. [4 marks]
  7. Conduct an image search for Kibera, one of the slums in Nairobi. Annotate the images to show the features of urban deprivation. Consider whether the image is balanced: are there also reasons to suggest that the areas of greatest urban deprivation are positive in any way? How far do any positive features balance out the negative aspects of urban deprivation? [6 marks]

Complete all tasks for homework for Wednesday 22 February 2023

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