Urban Geography

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Urban Geography

California State University


Acropolis (fig)

Where is this?

What is it’s name?

What’s the significance?


Why do cities form?

What are the necessary preconditions behind the rise of cities?

the Agricultural Revolutions

industrial Revolutions

Rise of Cities

Why cities?

Single-Factor and Multiple-Factor Models for the Rise of Cities

Technical (e.g., irrigation)




Beer, Others

Defining Cities

How do know when you are in city?





Big City

Think about what amenities a city has that a town does not.

Trouble with counting populations

First world and Third World patterns

World Cities

Edge Cities

Term coined by Joel Garreau to describe peripheral areas of the city where people now increasingly work, play and live. Functionally similar to older center cities, but less dense and planned around the automobile.

Can you think of local edge cities?

Problems? Most of them are linked to transportation.

Edge City Landscape (fig)

Edge City Landscape: New York City (fig)

The Ecology of Urban Location

Where cities are located are key indicators of their original purpose.

Each city’s original purpose is a product of its location and the possibilities afforded by that location.

Site and Situation

Site refers to a set of factors that deal with a location’s advantages or disadvantages at that place.

Situation refers to a set of factors that deal with a location’s advantages or disadvantages relative to other places.


New York

San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego

Defensive Sites (fig)

Mt. St. Michel and Paris (fig)

Trade-Route Sites (fig)

What city is this?

What has been it’s great advantage? Changed?

Christhaller’s Central Place Theory

describes the pattern of cities in space. It relies upon the following notions:

Threshold-size of population

Range-distance for good

Hinterland-trade area

Order of a good and order of a place

Central Place Theory

Higher order goods have a greater range, need smaller threshold

These facts build urban hierarchies

Regional metropolises are at the top of the hierarchy

Market villages are at the bottom.

Requires an “all things held equal” clause

Central Place Theory 1 (fig)

Central Place Theory 2 (fig)

Central Place Theory (fig)

with transportation routes

Satellite Image of Central Places (fig)

Satellite Image of Central Places (fig)

Urban Culture Regions

A. Social Regions

Socioeconomic traits

Ethnographic traits

Census Tracts, Block Groups

Census Tracts, Berkeley


Small social region where people share values and interact daily

May lead to a reduction in social conflict.


Social cohesion in face of diversity

Implication of permanence of residence

Derelict D.C. (fig)

The Burbs (fig)


Unknown number of homeless

Three million?

Census debate in congress

Multiple problems of homelessness

Reagan’s legacy

Shelters, Los Angles (fig)

Cultural Diffusion in the City

There are constantly at work forces that work to collapse the city around the CBD and there are others at work that tend to spread the city out.

What you see in each city is a result of this contest.

A.  Centralization

1. Economic and Social Advantages


Transportation routes

Agglomeration (residence)

Historical momentum


B.  Decentralization

Clearly the most powerful of the forces since 1945

Many cities have been hollowed out by the forces of decentralization, which are the same forces driving forth suburbanization.

Investment capital moving from one to other.

Uneven development

The Decentralized City (fig)

Socioeconomic Factors

Accessibility is now greater in suburbs.

Agglomeration economies in suburbs.

Taking advantage of the diseconomies of scale and location of the inner city.

Some terms

Bedroom Communities

Lateral Commuters

How’d it happen?

Federal Highway Acts 1916/1954

FHA established in 1937

GI Bill 1944

FHA practices

Housing Act of 1937

Red Lining and Restrictive Covenants

Other government actions

The Costs of Decentralization

Massive loss of investment and inner city capital.


Checkerboard vs. Gap Toothed

In filling legislation

Sprawl (fig)


Counter action to suburbanization

Often began by alternative lifestyle crowd

Has had major impact on some downtown areas and their residents

How does it work?


Rent Gap Theory

The downtown areas become so devalued that investors now think these areas have a good risk to return potential.

Overall shift in the economic structure of the United States: Post-Modernity.


The baby boomers frequently delayed entry into parenthood, but felt unsure about moving into the suburbs without children.

Status of historical areas difficult to erase.

Proximity to new economy jobs in downtown area

Nightlife for those in courtship life cycle.

Politics and Taxes

Some cities have actively encouraged gentrification through systems of tax breaks and other development incentives in order to prop up flagging downtown economies.

Rainbow Neighborhoods

Gays, Bisexuals and a variety of Bohemian types frequently led the charge into gentrification.

Access to amenities catering to alternative lifestyles.

Defensive strategy.

Where else to go?

Cost of Gentrification

Tax boost often small or non-existent

Displacement of lower income residents

Ethnic tensions

See Focus Box

Society Hill (fig)

The Cultural Ecology of the City  

A. The Urban Ecosystem

B. The Urban Geologic Environment

C. Urban Weather and Climate

D. Urban Hydrology

E. Urban Vegetation

Urban Heat Island (fig)

Dust Dome-Cincinnati (fig)

Green Space-NYC (fig)

Models of the City  

A.  Concentric Zone Model

B.  Sector Model

C.  Multiple Nuclei Model

D.  Feminist Critiques

E.  Apartheid and Post apartheid cities

F.  Soviet and Post-Soviet cities

G.  Latin American Model

Chicago (fig)

Concentric Zone Model (fig)

What Zone? (fig)

Sector Model (fig)

Multiple Nuclei Model (fig)

Latin America Model (fig)

Boston (fig)

Urban Landscapes

Urban Landscapes reveal much about the processes of the city.

A. Themes in Cityscape Study

1. Landscape dynamics

Where is the city changing most?

Where is change not occurring?

2. The City as Palimpsest

The city landscape can be read as if it were an old parchment, containing bits and pieces of former text un-erased by the passage of time.

Good clues to the former life of a city.

What is saved and what is lost underscores the value system of the culture.

3. Symbolic Cityscapes

There are lots of symbolic, metaphorical meanings lodged in the landscape of the city.

Think of skyscrapers, historic landscapes.

Landscapes act upon us. They help maintain social order.

How do these meanings get created?

Meinig’s Three Symbolic Landscapes:

New England Village

Main St. USA

California Suburb

New England Village (fig)

The New Urban Landscape

Shopping Malls-an interior experience, that is made to appear exterior.

Location: on the interstate near suburbs

Forms changing over the years

Malls serve multiple functions, including social ones.

The Mall (fig)

Office Parks: Atlanta (fig)

Office Parks

Out on the edge of town, they have replaced some of the functions of the CBD

Cheaper, more accessible, convenient.

Horizontal, not vertical.



High Tech Corridors

Edge City Office Park (fig)

Gated Community (fig)

Master Planned Communities

The totally-planned neighborhood

Social engineering?

Multiple regulations

Scary as hell?

Quincy Market-Festival (fig)

Festival Setting

Frequently part of a gentrification or urban renewal effort

Surround natural or historical amenities

Staging the “spectacular”

Fake and consumptive

May stand next to grinding poverty, but seemingly unaware of it.

Militarized Space

Consciously planned areas that are designed to separate the unsavory elements of society from the “nice” people.

Gated downtown areas, removal of park benches, spikes for fire hydrants, elevated walkways, etc.

Hyper segregation of class and race.

Reduction of truly public spaces


Dade, Co Library (fig)

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