Urban Environments

An urban area is a location characterized by high human population density and vast human-built features in comparison to the areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.

The world’s urban population in 1950 of just 746 million has soared 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.

The Nature of an Urban Environment

Urban areas are created and further developed by the process of urbanisation. Measuring the extent of an urban area helps in analysing population density and urban sprawl, and in determining urban and rural populations.

Unlike an urban area, a metropolitan area includes not only the urban area, but also satellite cities plus intervening rural land that is socio-economically connected to the urban core city, typically by employment ties through commuting, with the urban core city being the primary labour market.

Morphology of a City

A city becomes more developed toward the central business district (CBD)

Development of a City

A city goes through 4 main stages of urbanisation increasing across the graph.

The Bid Rent curve on this diagram shows that further toward the CBD properties are more expensive of a higher quality with higher buildings.

Urban Process Timeline

  • Agglomeration – an urban agglomeration is an extended city or town area comprising the built-up area of a central place.
  • Suburbanization – the growth of areas on the fringes of cities.
  • Commuting – where people regularly travel between their home and work.
  • Urban Regeneration – were investments are made toward an older or more rubbish area of a city by either improving what is there or clearing the area and rebuilding it.
  • Counter Urbanisation – were demographic and social process whereby people move from urban areas to rural areas.
  • Urban Re-imaging – the process of trying to renew an urban area and make it seem and look better.
  • Urbanisation of suburbs – the inclusion of a suburb in urbanisation.

The Topics and Sub-topics for Urban Environments are as follows:

Mega Cities

Economic development

Population growth

Economies of scale

Multiplier effect

Changes Across a City

Burgess Model (concentric circle model)

Hoyt Model (sector model)

Bid rent

Transept Across a Typical British City

Land Uses in a CBD


Old Inner City Areas

Informal Settlements

Rocinha (little farm) Case Study

Kolkata (Calcutta) Case Study



Location and Growth

Physical problems


Water Sanitation and Health


Provision of Services



The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority

How Any Informal Settlement Can Be Improved

Self-help Schemes – Rocinha, Bairro Project

Site and Service Schemes

Rural Investment


Segregation of People in Cities


High-class residential areas

Middle-class residential areas

Low-class residential areas

Zomba – Malawi (LIC) Case Study

Changes at the Edge of a HICs

The Rural Urban Fringe

Greenfield Sites

Brownfield Sites

Push Factors

Pull Factors


The Problems of Rapid Urbanisation


Access to water and electricity

Traffic congestion and transport




Social problems

Deprivation and Poverty in HICs

The Multiple Deprivation Index (MDI)

Birmingham (LIC) Case Study

Urban Rebranding

Aims of Urban Rebranding

London Docklands Case Study



Bradford Case Study


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