Cities are nodes of mans greatest impact on nature, the places where he 

has most altered the essential resources of land, air, organisms, and 

water. The city is the quintessence of mans capacity to inaugurate and 

control changes in his habitat. Through urbanization man has created new 

ecosystems within which the interaction of man, his works, and nature are 

complex. This complexity - and the importance of our understanding it - 

grows as cities burgeon in the modern world.

                                                --Marcus and Detwyler


The Urban Age

        In view of societal evolution urbanism is a very recent 

development. Considering that in 1800 only a meager 3% of the worlds 

population lived in cities over 100,000 (Detwyler & Marcus, 1972) - the 

twentieth century may well be called the urban age. In 1969 Davis 

speculated that in 1990 more than half of the globe's population would be 

living in cities of 100,000 or more (Cities, 1969). This prediction was 

remarkably good. According to World Resources Data Base (WRD), as of 

1995, 45.2% of the worlds population is living in urban centers. The 

portion of urban population in South America (78%), Europe (75%), North 

and Central America (74%) and Oceania (71%) and the former USSR (68.1%) 

lies well above this mark; whereas Africa and Asia still show percentages 

under 40%. Within each continent we find a wide range of urbanization for 

individual countries.

        It can be generalized that countries with a currently low 

percentage of urban population experience the highest annual change 

rates. Urbanization is therefore more significant in those countries than 

in countries with an already high percentage of urban dwellers. For 

example, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, the US or Sweden had a 

percentage of urban population of more than 70% in 1965. This figure did 

increase only marginally over the past 30 years. Countries with less than 

30% urban population in 1965 experienced dramatic changes (Table 1).

Urban Population as a Percentage of Total Country 1965    1995    %Increase United Kingdom  87.1    89.5    2.4 Australia       83.0    85.2    3.2 New Zealand     78.9    84.3    5.4 Sweden  77.1    84.7    7.6 Canada  72.9    78.1    5.2                          Turkey  34.1    68.8    34.7 South Korea     32.4    77.6    45.2 Honduras        25.7    47.7    22.0 Kenya   8.6     27.7    19.1 Botswana        3.9     30.9    27.0 Table 1- Country Comparison of Urbanization Rate

        With the earth's growing population the continuation of the  urbanization trend and of urban growth is more than likely to persist.  Urban form and development vary a great deal. In view of the complexity  of the system and the multitude of interacting variables it seems  presumptuous to think that urban dynamics and growth can be controlled  and governed. It is however assumed that certain measures and policies  could help influence changes toward a more favorable and "harmonious"  development and shape of urban centers. With most of our earth's  population living in urban areas, the creation of a livable and  environmentally sensitive urban habitat is not only a moral but a  survival need. Increasing the understanding of the  urban-population-environment dynamics might be a first step towards  addressing this demand. An improved insight in those dynamics then might  help to devise policy to manage urban development in a fashion that  sustains the environment, preserves valuable natural resources and  biodiversity and mitigates negative effects.
Urbanization: Factors and Problems

        The reasons for urbanization are manifold. One reason for the 

increase of the urban population is total population growth. The rise of 

mercantilism drove the urbanization in 16th century Europe (Hartshorn, 

1992). More recently, urban growth stems from the shift of labor force 

from agriculture to industry and service sectors; the latter two are 

generally located in cities or urbanized areas, thus serving as 

attractors for human migration and agglomeration. Other motivations to 

move from rural to urban settings are job opportunities and education. 

The benefit of the city versus the country can be summarized as the 

maximization of stimulation, exchange and opportunity with a minimization 

of travel time (Register in Aberley, 1994). This is certainly one view. 

During the early stages of European urban history the city represented 

freedom. Still, city life today is associated with a sort of independent 

and anonymous living. 

        The human-imposed order within the city boundaries suggests 

security and safety from untamed nature or enemy forces. Modern man's 

fear is derived from dangers within the city. In many cases the aspect of 

safety and order of the urban center has lost its validity. The inner 

city often is perceived as unsafe and dangerous. Other benefits, such as 

minimization of travel time, are often offset by the increasing physical 

size of the urban area. In a spread out multi-million person city that 

covers several hundred square miles it can take considerable time to get 

from one destination to another. Automobile travel is slowed down due to 

speed limit and traffic density. With no efficient public transit system 

in place it might take longer to cover the same distance than if one had 

to commute a similar distance between rural villages.

        Continued (rapid) urbanization generally poses a number of 

problems. Housing and infrastructure has to be provided for an increasing 

number of city dwellers. This requires planning and the resolution of 

land use conflicts. If the influx of new urban residents exceeds the city 

planners capabilities to plan lots and streets for new neighborhoods it 

often results in poorly planned and uncoordinated growth development. In 

so-called lesser developed countries (LDCs) with high population growth 

rates, migrants with little and no economic resources often settle 

illegally on vacant areas in, or adjacent to, large cities creating 

pouvre barrios or squatter communities.

        If the city does not meet the expectations for opportunities, 

jobs and wealth, dissatisfaction can lead to criminal or aggressive 

activities. Stimulation, while good and needed for human development also 

has a flip-side. Life in a dense and crowded environment also can pose 

enormous stress upon the city dweller, possibly leading to various health 

and behavioral disorders such as depression, illness or aggression.

        Cities use large amounts of energy, for industries and to heat 

and light thousands of homes. The energy is often created by burning 

fossil fuels, which leads to air pollution. Pollution of the air and 

water, human and industrial wastes causes negative environmental 

degradation and imposes on the quality of life and well being of urban 

residents. Managing growth in order to mitigate environmental degradation 

will be of utmost importance to ensure a livable urban setting for the 

future (Hartshorn, 1992).

        In summary, problems of urbanization are especially pertinent and 

difficult to address in rapidly changing cities of the third World 

(Cadman & Payne, 1990). These periods of rapid urbanization or 

de-urbanization can be regarded as periods of transition. Transitions are 

times of vulnerability; in the case of urbanization they are a threat to 

the integrity and vitality of a city (Drake, 1992). Rapid urbanization is 

potentially unhealthy and equally harmful to urban residents, the 

functioning of the city and the natural environment.
A Morphological Approach to Population Dynamics, Urban Growth and Urban Form

Development of Urban form
Many studies of urban growth development and form in the past have taken 

a historical or a functional perspective. The historical perspective 

reveals a cycle of growth and decline, formation and restructuring of the 

city (Cadman & Payne, 1990). Towns and villages have been categorized 

according to physical growth pattern into cluster and linear band types 

or hierarchies of rank-size (Hartshorn, 1992; Christaller et. al.). The 

functional approach perceives cities as an organizing center, serving 

typically a predominant function such as banking, administration, or 

services. We distinguish trade, military, industrial or company towns and 

many more. Geographers also have categorized cities in terms of their 

spatial location as coastal or river cities and so forth (Hartshorn, 

1992). While each of these different perspectives is interesting and 

valid, they fail to address the system dynamics of urban development in a 

more comprehensive manner.
Systems approach and Transition Theory

        Marcus & Detwyler et. al. (1972, 1992) suggest viewing the urban 

agglomeration as a dynamic system or even as an ecosystem. Systems are 

not static, but generally evolve over time. At times, however, systems 

change rapidly due to a changing systems component (i.e. population). In 

terms of urban form other systems components that trigger change are 

transportation modes and technology amongst others. From a systems 

perspective of view, periods of change can be viewed as temporarily 

bounded or transitional (Drake, 1993). Periods of rapid change will be 

followed by periods of relative stability. Transition theory assumes 

interdependence and relationship between transitions of different sectors 

such as agriculture, education, etc. This means the amplitude and time 

frame of one transition, i.e. urbanization is likely to be influenced by 

others, such as education. Implications for society may be enhanced or 

reduced, if the timing of transitions can be influenced by policy.

Urbanization Transition and Urban Shape

        This study proposes to look at urbanization from a spatial point 

of view investigating the linkage of population growth, urbanization and 

urban shape. It will explore population changes in time and the 

corresponding spatial changes of urban form. The investigation is based 

on the premise that urban form is the physical manifestation of 

urbanization. Urban growth is a result of population growth, rural-urban 

migration and urban expansion. The author believes that the rate and time 

of change in those dynamics and the accompanying fringe conditions 

(landscape, technologies, climate etc.) will determine the urban shape 

(Figure 1). In a generalized way, these factors can be attributed to 

either the natural environment or the human society. Although the 

determinants for urban form of human origin, such as technology, 

transportation systems and culture may dominate, topography and land form 

are especially influential in early spatial patterns (Detwyler & Marcus, 


Figure 1 - Influences on Urban form
Towards a morphology of urban form

        The dynamics of urban-population-environment systems are complex. 

Transition theory at the global level and at the local level will be used 

to investigate urbanization trends. In conjunction to the urbanization 

data a number of factors that may influence urbanization, such as 

industrialization, transportation technology etc. will be explored. These 

factors are identified and linked to physical development pattern. It is 

assumed that different values of factor sets will result in different 

physical growth pattern. Furthermore, it is assumed that the timing of 

transitions in other sectors will influence the growth pattern of urban 

agglomerations as well. An attempt is made to develop a morphology of 

urbanization stages based on change and behavioral similarities at a 

national level. The categorization of urbanization stages will become a 

framework from which a morphology of urban development pattern at the 

local level can be devised. This local morphology probably will be 

correlated to behavioral pattern (i.e. traffic) and pattern in the 

environment (i.e. topography) if appropriate [Adams, ref. comment]. The 

author hopes that a general survey of structure and form of urban 

development could be helpful to derive a typology or classification of 

certain trends. In the long run, a morphological study may help to 

indicate development pattern that are preferable in respect to newly 

developed environmental value systems.

        In morphological terms a range of different classes of cities is 

imagined. A morphology could contain simple size distinction (small, 

medium, large) as well as functional-structural categories (old, new, 

dense, dispersed, high-tech, low-tech, etc.). In terms of development, 

transition theory will help to envision likely future development 

depending on the initial conditions of an urban system. Since technology 

and industrialization are thought of being major shape factors of urban 

growth this study starts developing an initial morphology of urban form 

with respect to the changes in transportation modes and urbanization. In 

particular individual motorized transportation is investigated for its 

impact on urban form. When linking urban growth and transportation 

technology the following scenarios for urban shape development can be 

constructed. A possible test for these morphologies, would be a study of 

urban shapes comparing urbanization and development pattern.

        Three initial morphologies for urban shape and change of 

transportation modes were developed:

1) Introduction of individual automobile transit prior to major urban 

growth >


- increase in urban area

- decrease in density

- low overall urban density (except may be historic core) 

- transportation arterial location greatly influence urban form

- depending on the size, satellite-like subcenters might form.

The new urban growth is build for the automobile. 

2) Introduction of individual automobile transits during the urban growth 

period >


- a chaotic state (planners are caught in the dilemma between accommodating

 people or cars)

- dense traffic

- major pollution

- urban area, that is structure in an ad hoc fashion probably with 

decreasing density

- opportunities and dangers depending on economic situation and policy 


3) Introduction of individual automobile transit post urban growth period


- major redesign of the city structure (retrofitting the city for the car)

- relative high density

- traffic congestion

- pollution and noise (if not mitigated by policy)

- can potentially degrade quality of the city structure

        Note: It is very likely that the effect of the transportation 

technology transition varies depending on the size of the city or town. A 

small town will be less affected by it than a large town. This is a 

matter of geometry and existing density. For these examples growth is 


unrestricted by landscape, political borders, or policies. Doxiadis 

organic growth model also predicts distortions along transportation 

routes at advanced stages of urban development (1968).


Figure 2 - Morphologies

Urbanization Analysis

        The study uses various analysis techniques to explore the 

feasibility of linking urban transition and urban form to a shape 

development morphology. It looks at many different aspects of the 

problem, trying to understand it without however being exhaustive or 

comprehensive. Hopefully, some different views regarding urbanization can 

be presented.
Methodological Approach and Data

        The methodological approach in this study is twofold. Global and 

local level data will be investigated. This is to emphasize the scale 

dependence of the issue.

        First, a general investigation of urbanization at the global 

level is conducted. This is to establish a general notion of the linkage 

between population growth and urbanization  While there is a global 

urbanization trend, we probably can observe the urbanization transition 

at different stages, its beginning, in full force or at its conclusion 

for different countries. The global urbanization trends are investigated 

looking at time series data from the World Resource Data for 42 

Countries. Urban, rural and total population development are explored and 

displayed. Urbanization factors that are viewed as influencing 

urbanization and urban form will be investigated in relation to the 

urbanization transition in the hope to discover correlation and linkages. 

One of those factors is the level of technology available in the country.

        Secondly, local level data will be investigated in respect to 

urban development and urban shape. The urban development of 5 major US 

cities over the past four decades serves as starting point for this 

investigation. Then, a more in-depth study of urban shape is conducted 

comparing Boston, MA and El Paso, TX. The study is based on US census 

data. An attempt was made to link the results of the investigation to 

urbanization factors that were thought to be shape-determinants.

Urbanization at the Global Level

National Comparison of Urbanization Levels

        On the basis of availability of desired data, a total of 42 

countries were selected from the WRD (see Table 2). Initially 

urbanization information was mapped on a world projection using ATLAS GIS 

for Windows. Two other factors were mapped in succeeding maps; the 

I_index and a correlation of the urbanization and I_index. The I_index 

was calculated to provide some sort of measure for industrial 

productivity by dividing Gross domestic Product (GDP) industrial share 

(%) by the workforce in the industrial sector (%). The index is adjusted 

through multiplication by total number of workforce and division by total 

GDP. Supposedly this index will give a indication of the extent of 

industrialization. With at high output of the industrial sector shown by 

a relative large share of the total GDP achieved by a small share of the 

workforce should result in a large index. It is assumed that when few 

people achieve a large proportion of GDP it is a result of automation and 

high technology. This would indicate a high level of technology.

        Map 1 presents a general overview. It displays the 42 selected 

countries according to the proportion of people living in cities. The 

distribution for the four ranges was customized for the purpose of this 

display. The 8 countries at the top of the list in terms of percentage of 

their total population living in cities are in descending order: 

Singapore, Belgium, Venezuela, Uruguay, United Kingdom, Netherlands, 

Denmark and Australia. In terms of land area, except for Australia, these 

countries are fairly small, suggesting that there might be a correlation 

of land area and degree of urbanization. Australia then would be an 

outlier, since despite large areas of land most people live in cities. On 

the other hand, Australia might be right in the ball-park, when using 

hospitable area instead of total land area. Due to the limited data used 

for this study, however, the author opted not to pursue any further 

investigations in this direction.

        The display of the urbanization transition for the 42 countries 

reveals three distinct pattern. Urban, rural and total population 

development is plotted over time (see Figures 3a, 3b, 3c).
Pattern A

This pattern shows a declining rural population and an increasing urban 

population. Around 1990 to 2000 the total population growth seems to 

level or decline. Pattern A countries are reaching or have reached the 

end of a fairly typical urbanization transition. The urban population 

percentage stabilizes at a fairly high level of 70% of the total 

population or higher. Over the transition period the rural population 

dropped to a fairly low overall level. These countries typically have a 

high I_Index (Figure 3a).

Pattern B

Pattern B countries are at the beginning or in the midst of their 

urbanization transition. A high growth rate for the urban population is 

accompanied by a (soon) declining rural population. The total population 

growth rate is quite high (3%++). The end of the transition in this 

pattern is projected beyond the year 2010 or later (all data and 

projections WRD). These countries typically have a low I_Index (Figures 3b).
Pattern C

Pattern C countries have a very low stable rural population. The urban 

population is however growing in linear fashion. There seems to be no 

leveling or change in that trend for the next two to three decades (WRD 

prediction). All population increase seems to occur in the cities. The 

countries with this urbanization pattern are Australia, Canada and the 

USA, three major immigration countries (Figures 3c). This suggests that a 

large proportion of the urban growth is due to inmigrating foreigners.

Figure 3a - Pattern A


Figure 3b - Pattern B


Figure 3c - Pattern C


Urbanization and Technology

        Technology and industrialization seemed to be major factors that 

drove urbanization in the past (Hartshorn, 1992). These factors had a 

great influence in changing land use pattern (Sinclair, 1967). A further 

investigation of the link of urbanization to industrial 

production/technology appears promising

        Map 2 displays the calculated I_Index (Industrial GDP/workforce 

industrial share). The high ranking countries are what is often 

designated as the Industrial Nations. The order is somewhat surprising 

with Norway at the top and the US ranked sixth. The listing might appear 

skewed since strong industrial nations such as Switzerland and Germany 

could not be included due to the lack of comparable data.

        Map 3 shows the correlation between the I_index and the percent 

urbanization for each country. The findings are interesting. There is a 

group of three countries Norway, Finland and Japan with a correlation 

factor of 1.5 or less, meaning that the percentage of urban population 

and the numerical value of the I_index are almost the same. A high 

correlation factor indicates a discrepancy of nominator and denominator. 

This means that despite a low level of technology and industrialization 

there is a high percentage of people living in urban areas. This means 

that urbanization preceded industrial development and must have been 

triggered by different factors. It also means that urbanization will 

occur under different premises than in the countries with a low 

correlation factor. Countries with a high factor are in descending order 

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Honduras, Philippines, Romania, Egypt, Panama, El 

Salvador, Costa Rica, Turkey, et. al. Most of those countries are at the 

beginning of their urbanization transition (Figures 3a-c, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b).

A complete list of countries with their ranking of urban population,  I_index etc. is shown below. Rank #  Country Urban Popin %   I_Index % Urban/I_Index 1       Norway                  77.002525       64.9283         1.1861141  2       Japan                   77.943899       55.4794         1.4051541  3       Canada                  78.137155       51.4949         1.517521  4       Belgium                 96.650384       47.3575         2.0411908  5       Finland                 60.285375       46.0019         1.3105516  6       United States           76.237184       45.9387         1.6598559  7       Sweden                  84.737262       45.6385         1.8570515  8       France                  72.788174       45.0832         1.6146445  9       Netherlands             88.915414       44.6254         1.9927255  10      Denmark                 85.477658       41.7588         2.0473691  11      Italy                   70.540494       40.9309         1.7247065  12      Austria                 60.628419       38.8964         1.5589719  13      Australia               85.167412       37.2962         2.2839209  14      United Kingdom          89.461725       34.704          2.5781477  15      Spain                   80.652307       27.9247         2.8886929  16      New Zealand             84.290541       27.6005         3.0190022  17      Singapore               100             19.9111         5.0226017  18      Mexico                  75.298388       18.8261         3.9996807  19      Venezuela               92.87809        16.3011         5.6980423  20      Uruguay                 90.301318       13.6092         6.6398028  21      Trinidad&Tobago         66.50038        13.3537         4.9880179  22      Greece                  65.034624       12.9655         5.0181037  23      Korea, Rep              77.628259       12.3138         6.3061137  24      Guatemala               41.465022       11.3321         3.6597548  25      Ecuador                 60.615801       11.316          5.3594873  26      Colombia                72.721575       10.9699         6.6351802  27      Ireland                 58.402998       10.6801         5.4684455  28      Portugal                36.361797       9.92898         3.6655037  29      Paraguay                50.684652       7.95855         6.3754279  30      Poland                  63.868236       7.62871         8.3816583  31      Jamaica                 55.359246       6.92128         7.9998911  32      Turkey                  68.767733       6.86745         10.024451  33      Panama                  54.870252       5.02267         10.930329  34      Costa Rica              49.707944       4.94479         10.144478  35      Romania                 56.183791       4.44702         12.625571  36      El Salvador             46.67129        4.41119         10.583059  37      Egypt                   44.763239       3.81796         11.748882  38      Indonesia               32.529271       3.63699         8.936613  39      Philippines             45.677693       3.61282         12.653101  40      Honduras                47.654155       3.47418         13.733186  41      Pakistan                34.692607       1.80723         19.273671  42      Sri Lanka               22.3809         1.58441         14.165127  Table 2: Industrial GDP/Industrial workforce Index
Different Urbanization Catalysts         As a consequence of the map evaluations, the countries with the  extreme values of the urban - I_index correlation appear to be  interesting in terms of transitions. The charts below show the  urbanization transition for Norway, Finland (%Urban/I_Index factor of  1.18 and 1.31) and Pakistan, Turkey (%Urban/I_index 19.27 and 10.02). The  most remarkable difference between the two pairs seems to be that the  energy consumption seemed to raise parallel to the urbanization in Norway  and Finland. Both countries show a similarly high per person consumption  of energy of about .2 Terajoules in 1991. For Pakistan and Turkey the per  person energy consumption in 1990 is about 1/10 of the energy consumption  observed in the two industrialized nations. Turkeys urbanization level  (68%) is higher than Finland's (60%). The climatic differences may  account only for some of the difference.         It is assumed that this difference in energy consumption will  lead to a dramatically different urban shape. Since data for city  density, population and shape is difficult to obtain in the short period  of time available for this project the impact of technology, i.e. the  availability of the automobile (expressed also through an increased  energy consumption per person) will be investigated in a modified way; at  the local level (for US cities).   Figure 4 a -  Urbanization and Energy Consumption Trend in Norway   Figure 4 b -  Urbanization and Energy Consumption Trend in Finland     Figure 5 a - Low Energy Urbanization in Turkey   Figure 5 b - Low Energy Urbanization in Pakistan
Local Urbanization

        The urbanization at the local level is examined for five US 

cities using census data. The urbanization development of three cities 

with a population of about 1/2 million in 1990 was traced, as well as 

that of two multi-million person cities. As assumed earlier, despite an 

increase of urban population at the national level, some cities decline 

(Figure 6). Some of the cities that had major growth before the advent of 

individual traffic and others grew in the automobile area. Density seems 

to be one factor that impacts urban form. In comparing the growth rate - 

density correlation of 5 major cities we find a strong correlation of 

rapid growth and high spread. However there are many more factors and 

additional research is needed.


Figure 6a - Urban population development



Figure 6b - Urban population development

Figure 7 - Population Density Development

        The generalized data however may be misleading. Therefore a 

comparison of spatial density distribution was conducted for two of the 

five cities investigated.
City Shape: Boston, MA versus El Paso, TX

        The theory, just to recap, is that the time when the urbanization 

transition occurs will have a significant impact on the urban shape that 

is formed. It is in fact the context or conditions under which 

urbanization occurs that will impact the form. Technology is viewed as 

one of the important shape factors.

        With Boston, MA and El Paso, TX we have two cities that have 

approximately the same size by population; with Boston having a 

population of 551675 in 1992 and El Paso having 543813. Both cities are 

constrained on how freely they can grow in some sense, with Boston having 

the Atlantic Ocean restricting growth to the south and east and El Paso 

having the Mexican border. In these terms the two cities are comparable. 

However, Bostons growth rate over the past 40 years was moderate or even 

declining, while El Paso went through a major post World War II growth 

spur. In 1940 El Paso had a population of about 100,000 (D'Antonio & 

Form, 1965). Boston's population exceeded 100,000 between 1840 and 1850 

(Kennedy, 1992)1. The existing urban shape of the two cities is very 


        The diagrams below map the shape components of population density 

and spatial distribution for Boston and El Paso. They were created using 

1990 US census data for the city proper boundaries. At the block group 

level, population data, area, longitude and latitude for the centroids of 

each block were collected by extracting the appropriate files in 

electronic form and saved as text files. At this level 100% population 

count data is available. Block groups have an absolute population count 

between 700 and 2000 persons. The granularity of this data level ensures 

enough data points to get fairly accurate results for a density mapping. 

700 + data points (blocks) were identified for Boston and 600 + for El 

Paso. However the variation of population within each block was felt to 

be too large to merely map the population. Thus, the delimited text files 

were read into a spreadsheet program (EXCEL) and reformatted for import 

in a statistics package (SYSTAT). Within the statistics package a number 

of computations were performed to calculate the population density per 

square mile within each block.

        A simple no-frills 2 dimensional plot was chosen to display the 

data spatially. The latitude variable was chosen for the y-Axis and the 

longitude variable was plotted on the x-Axis. The level of density is 

distinguished by color (Figures 8a,b) and size (Figures 9a,b) of the 

symbol plotted on the centroid of the each block within the citys 

jurisdiction. For representation purposes it was necessary to multiply 

the population density per square mile with a factor of 1/1000 to ensure 

the variable was in a suitable range. The data for both cities was forced 

onto the same scale in order to make the graphs more easily comparable.

        Although the plot where density symbols are sized by value evokes 

a more shape like image this might be deceptive. This is not the real 

city shape. The density is so high that the symbols overlap or touch each 

other creating a black seemingly solid city. The colored plot may be more 

honest however it is somewhat hard to translate it into a meaningful 


        The Boston shape plot below shows a very dense, and compact city 

shape with a high population density. Most dense areas are located in the 

older parts of town. Some less dense areas are found in southern parts of 

the town where the city extends into more rolling land.

        In contrast, El Pasos population density on average is 1/5 or 

less. The urbanized area is spread out along the major arterials. There 

are some areas of higher density, curiously enough one at the eastern 

fringe of the city.


Figure 8a - City of Boston Shape in 1990 (Density by Color)


Figure 8b - City of Boston Shape in 1990 (Density by size of symbol)
Figure 9a - City of El Paso Shape in 1990 (Density by color)


Figure 9b - City of El Paso Shape in 1990 (Density by size of symbol)

        This paper is but one little puzzle piece in gaining insight into 

the urban-population-environment dynamics and especially the linkage of 

urban development and shape. Despite the rudimentary results, some 

thoughts on policy implications are presented. Many more issues became 

obvious for future research.
Discussion of Results

        While globally there is a definitive trend towards urbanization, 

the urbanization transition is already concluded in some of the countries 

investigated, such as Japan, Denmark, the UK. Other countries are at the 

beginning or in the middle of the urbanization transition, such as 

Pakistan, Indonesia, and many more. The further course of the 

urbanization transition in these countries in terms of amplitude and 

speed will depend on the course of their demographic transition. The 

sooner overall population growth can be slowed the sooner the 

urbanization transition will level. It is likely that the urbanization 

transition will lag behind the demographic transition for a few decades 

while rural to urban migration persists. A general time frame for this 

lag could be derived from looking at industrialized nations which have 

gone through both transitions successfully (Japan, Denmark, Norway).

        At least three countries could be identified that go through a 

somewhat distorted transition, which are Australia, Canada and the US. 

These are major immigration countries. Urban population increases in a 

linear fashion, while the rural population remained constant for the past 

45 years. Besides rural to urban migration of younger members of the 

population, most immigrants seem thus to move to cities. Ports of entry 

and coastal cities are likely to grow more than cities in the interior of 

a country, since these are the places where immigrants naturally arrive 

and mostly settle.

        Depending on the specific characteristics of a country it can be 

assumed that between 80% and 90% of a country's total population will 

live in cities and urbanized areas. Some places with stringent land 

constraints will reach virtually 100% urbanization such as Singapore and 

Hongkong. Country specific characteristics influencing how high exactly 

the percentage of future urban population will be could possibly be 

derived from a conglomerate of factors such as landscape, level of 

technology, historical patterns of settlement, culture, available land 

area, total population density, policy and others. The author can only 

speculate at this point about the importance of each of those factors, 

but future research might be able to show patterns of development and 

correlation, particularly between land area, density and the total 

urbanization quota.

        In comparing the urbanization of industrialized nations with 

those of lesser developed countries it becomes quickly obvious that the 

urbanization happens under different conditions. The study looked at just 

one factor, which was energy consumption. In Turkey for example, the 

overall urbanization is at a higher level than in Finland - however with 

only a 1/10 of the energy consumption/per person. Urbanization in Turkey 

is based not necessarily on industrialization and improved technology 

(Turkey's relative low I_index also points to that direction). Urban 

shapes and urban living thus will look different in those countries. As 

Sinclair (1967) pointed out J. von Thunens land use model does not apply 

any more for the US or other industrialized nations but may be still 

valid for lesser developed countries. With urban expansion due to rapid 

urbanization it will be interesting to see, if new and what values will 

govern the development. Comparative investigations of city shapes and 

form in countries with high respectively low energy consumption could be 

an interesting future research topic.

        In terms of all transitions the issue of scale is important. 

While in general, the urban population in the US is increasing, locally 

decline is also observable as can be seen for the development of Chicago 

and Boston. Since both cities are nuclei of larger metropolitan areas the 

decline of center areas also could be viewed as a decentralization and 

dissemination trend. While studies in the past were successful in 

providing empirical data on the "flattening density function" and post 

World War II suburbanisation (Mills, 1969; Newling 1966), the causes for 

the trend are not agreed upon.

        The local level research conducted for US cities and the shape 

investigation for Boston and El Paso in particular suggest that it 

matters when and under what conditions urbanization and urban growth 

occurs. The much older city of Boston experienced major growth and land 

expansion in the past century. Due to the relative limited and slow modes 

of transportation at the time, Boston's density is high, even today. In 

comparison, El Paso's major growth spur occurred post World War II where 

a change in technology brings about cost efficient personal 

transportation. At a comparable population size in 1990 (ca. 500,000) 

urban densities of El Paso are about 1/5 of Boston's densities. Figures 8 

and 9 show the differences clearly. Doxiadis organic urban growth model 

(1968) anticipates a distortion of urban growth away from a compact form 

along radially outbranching transportation arterials, however not to the 

extent observed for El Paso.

        The shape development analysis conducted for this study has 

several backdrops. While for El Paso the city limits and the urbanized 

area are fairly congruent, it is not for Boston. The area of Boston 

proper did not expand since 1912 (Kennedy, 1990). So, in order to examine 

the shape of urban growth development it probably would be better to look 

at the shape of the metropolitan urbanized area rather than city limits. 

Data availability is a problem, since census tracts and jurisdictional 

boundaries do not necessarily reflect urbanized land and its boundaries. 

Remote sensing and satellite imagery might overcome this problem, however 

since this data has been only recently released to the public time series 

over decades are a problem.

Policy Recommendations

        There are two types of policy recommendations: Country and Local 

Level. The suggested policies are very general at this point. They aim at 

improving the quality of urban agglomerations. This is defined very 

roughly as lowering the negative impact on the environment and decreasing 

the energy/resource exchange flows between the urban ecosystem and the 

surrounding ecosystems, mainly by looking at shape and density of the 

city. The recommendations are based on the broad (and maybe at times 

invalid) assumption that a denser and more compact city is likely to be 

more sustainable (Dantzig & Saaty, 1973)
Country Level Recommendations

        It seems sensible to categorize the policy recommendations 

according to the stage of urbanization a country or nation is at (Pattern 

A, B, C)
Pattern A (Concluding Urbanization Transition)

=> Stabilize status quo (you do not want to have cities disintegrate 

after booms, marching right into the next  transition)

 Improve efficiency of urban city (lower emission, water use, public transit)

 Mitigate environmental effects in surrounding areas

 prepare for downsizing of the city or industry

 consolidate metropolitan areas and provide for coordinated strategies

        (jurisdictional problems)
Pattern B (Starting Urbanization Transition)

=> slow urbanization down, or at least try to influence development

 Improve opportunities in the country side 

 make vision plans (although there seems to be no time) 

 provide public transit

 promote density and neighborhood clustering, decentralized

 avoid depletion of environment
Pattern C (Immigrant Countries)

=> try to influence urban development

 provide public transit

 promote density and neighborhood clustering, decentralized

 avoid depletion of environment

Local Level Recommendations

Local recommendations must be much more specific to the individual 

situation of the city.
Future Research

Much more work in terms of developing urban shape morphologies has to be 

done. The author envisions that harmonious correlation can exist between 

urban form and environmental features. These harmonious correlation will 

be perceived as beautiful and particularly pleasant. It also could be 

characterized as being stable and sustainable. Or yet in other words, a 

preferable city shape is achieved by optimizing the urban metabolism2 for 

the surrounding landscape. During rapid changes of either the environment 

or population (characteristics) the harmony of this correlation will be 

disturbed. The author further expects to find different patterns and 

correlation at different scales. So the harmonious urban-environment 

pattern will be different for a population of 10,000 or 100,000.

        A harmonious relationship between urban agglomeration and 

environment can be described as follows:

 the urban form complements or assimilates the landscape, i.e. in color, 

form, character and scale3.

 the size of the city and its energy and resource demands do not cause 

drastic changes in the landscape.

        Beauty, harmony and pleasantness are difficult values to measure. 

It is may be possible to find indicators such as crime rate, rating of 

quality of live, migration rate, traffic congestion to evaluate the level 

of compatibility of the urban system at its current stage with its 

surrounding environment. For the environment measures of biodiversity, 

decline or increase of renewable resources, fertility of the land, need 

to fertilization in agriculture etc. Since both factors are interrelated 

a depletion of the natural resources in the vicinity of an urban 

agglomeration may as well further decrease the quality of life in a city.

        As described earlier, urban form can be conceived as a result of 

the different factors such as culture, technology etc. (Figure 2). Cities 

in the mountainous countries like Austria or Nepal and Tibet will have a 

different shape than a city in a desert landscape. Growth pattern and 

urbanization pattern will be different as well. It is much easier to 

build a city in a valley on flat ground than on the slope of the hills. 

But flooding of rivers in this valley might be a threat and the valley 

ground must be kept free from development for agricultural usage. Diverse 

and rugged topography might favor many smaller town over one or two very 

large ones.

        In contrast, the desert landscape might favor larger 

agglomerations along a river or at some other water source. It will be 

easier to distribute the water within a large city than build a pipeline 

to supply many smaller towns dispersed in the landscape.

        Technology is an important modulator of urban form. However, it 

tends to exert an increase in energy consumption that might be 

counterproductive in developing sustainable cities.

1. Boston and El Paso are different in age. The settlement of Boston 

began around 1630. Boston reached its peak in terms of spatial extend of 

city limits in 1912. The first permanent settlement on the present site 

of El Paso was in 1827. It was known by its present name by 1859 and 

formally chartered as town in 1873 (Kennedy, 1992; et. al).

2. Urban metabolism views the city as an organism, an open system, with 

inputs and outputs from and to the environment (H. Girardet in Cadman & 

Payne, 1990).

3. The conceptual idea of complementation of man-made world and nature is 

discussed in Norber-Schulz (1984). The structure of the natural place is 

complemented by either adaptation of the same structure in the man-made 

artifacts or contrasted; i.e. diverse landscape with multiple features is 

"harmoniously" complemented by a small scale architecture with lots of 

detailing like we find it in Norwegian wood carvings. The large scale 

desert landscape is complemented with geometrical simple artifacts, 

straight lines, square features, monumental. etc.


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