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Urban environments


Urban environments

Urban IB 2


What you need to know:

This optional theme considers cities as places of intense social interaction and as focal points of production, wealth generation and consumption. They exhibit diversity in patterns of wealth and deprivation, which can result in conflict. Transport improvements have led to rapid growth and shifts in population and economic activities, producing stresses and challenges for planners.

Urban IB 1

The theme also considers issues of sustainability where the city is regarded as a system with inputs and outputs that need to be managed to minimize environmental impacts.

This theme recognizes that cities and towns may share common characteristics and processes irrespective of the national level of economic development.

For all sections of this optional theme (unless stated otherwise), two case studies of cities/large urban areas must be studied in two countries at contrasting levels of development.

urban IB 3

Settlements tend to be divided into rural and urban.  Underlying this division is an assumption that it is easy to distinguish between the settlements. However, it is a lot more complicated than one thinks. Generally there are four main ways of defining an urban area – population size, employment, facilities and functions and lastly government legislation.

The process of urbanisation was important in the HICs of western Europe during the nineteenth century and in North America during the early twentieth century. Urbanisation is a phenomenon today in most LICs and of the post- socialist countries of eastern Europe.



Metacities or hypercities are massive sprawling conurbations of more than 10 million people. Tokyo is the largest urban conglomeration in the world.
• In 1950 the world had only four cities with population greater than 5 million
• by 1985 already 28
• in 2000 39 cities
• In 2015 there will probably be almost 60 mega cities worldwide.
Two thirds of today’s megacities are in developing countries, most of them in East and South Asia. Today megacities are home to less than 10% of the global urban population. In 2015 there will be about 604.4 million people (ca. 17%) living in megacities (Kraas 2003, UN-HABITAT 2001).

Megacities have a large number of specific problems with occasionally striking structural similarities. They often have more in common with each other than with their own hinterlands:
• high population concentration and density
• largely uncontrolled spatial expansion
• high traffic levels, in some cases severe lacks of infrastructure
• high concentrations of industrial production
• signs of ecological strain and overload
• unregulated and disparate land and property markets and insufficient housing provision
• in some cases extreme socio-economic disparities
high level of dynamism in all processes (Kraas 2003)

Explain the global increase in the number of megacities.

Rise of the global megacity

Using the above resource suggest reasons for the changing pattern shown.

Mumbai – case study of a megacity

There are four reasons for the growth of mega cities, namely:
Economic development – drive for economic growth and urbanisation.
Population growth – high rates of natural population growth along with large numbers of rural to urban migrants.
Economies of scale – advantages of cramming as much as possible into one megacity rather than into a number of smaller cities. Communication will be easier due to the shorter distances between people and businesses.
Multiplier effect – success leads to success – these cities gather momentum  as they prosper.

The problem with mega cities can be seen at the national level where these huge cities grow and prosper at the expense of towns, cities and regions elsewhere in the country. Mega-cities become powerful cores that create large peripheries around them.

Shanghai – Copying with megacity status

Residential patterns

Residential segregation is common in all cities, irrespective of culture or economics. Residential segregation is the physical separation of population by culture, income or other criteria. There is a clear pattern of residential location (areas) in HICs (High Income Countries). The highest densities tend to be found in the inner-city areas and are associated with terraced housing – UK 19th century. Within the CBD (city centre) residential density is low due to high land values. However, with increasing distance away from the city centre densities decrease this is due to there being greater availability within the suburbs. The poorer areas have traditionally been in the inner-city because they are close to jobs. This trend is changing through the process of gentrification, re-urbanisation and redevelopment of the inner-city (London Docklands). The suburbs have seen an increase in densities because of decentralisation and the development of edge of town estates.

The causes of segregation are:

Socio-economic status – in western society status is largely determined by employment and income whereas in areas such as India the caste system plays a central role.

Ethnicity – The cultural difference between immigrants and existing residence often lead to difficulties in communication, resulting in varying degrees of segregation.

Brick Lane ব্রিক লেন

The greatest degree of social segregation is often experienced by ethnic minority groups within the cities. Conditions of almost total segregation results in single-group areas known as ghettos.

Black and Asian areas in Birmingham (UK) – Residential segregation patterns in a HIC

Studies in Birmingham have shown a tendency for black and Asian communities to concentrate in particular parts of the city. They can’t really be described as ghettos however definite clusters have formed.


Black and Asian areas in Birmingham

Reasons for this are:

Reduce the feeling of isolation – provides a sense of community.

Defensive reasons – living in an ethnic cluster provides a sense of security.

Avoidance of outside contact – residence can support each other and establish own shops, services and places of worship.

Preservation of identity and promotion of cultural heritage (diaspora).


Birmingham Central Mosque

(The above information comes from – Flint (2001) Urbanisaiion: Changing Environments)

The Socio-Demographic Structure of UK cities

The family life cycle model


According to this model a person moves through six stages during their lifetime. Stage 1 – childhood often spent in semi-detached or terraced house, located in one of the middle zones of the city. Stage 2 – children grown up and become independent, move into a rented room or flat. Stage 3 – setting up home with a partner may mean a move to a bigger flat or small house often in another part of the urban area. Stage 4 – an increase in family size combined with a larger income leads a move to a larger home in the suburbs. Stage 5 – children begin to leave home and the parents down size (smaller house). Stage 6 – when all the children have left and one partner has died the remaining individual often moves into smaller more manageable accommodation e.g. a bungalow.

Contrasts in Lusaka Zambia


Lusaka, Zambia (capital city)

Lusaka the capital of Zambia is a gracious planned city superimposed on a sprawling town segregated economically, socially and spatially by race.


Lusaka took over as the administrative capital in the 1930s from Livingston. New government buildings were planned in an administrative district. The white administrators occupied beautiful houses with spacious gardens and servant quarters in government suburban housing areas well away from industry and commerce. Beyond the second-class and third-class residential districts of the colonial capital, incoming migrants found open space in which to camp and then build shacks in what became spontaneous settlements.


Urban structure of Lusaka

After independence (1964) the government houses were taken over by the African elite – a high income residential area was established near the city centre and all the amenities and facilities. However, migrants continued to flood into the capital and the number and size of the shanty town increased. Extreme poverty and extreme affluence existed, and still exists, side by side within the city.


Lusaka – high class housing



Lusaka – low class housing – spontaneous settlement (shanty town)

Google maps image of Msisi compound (Lusaka) take from above and one from the ground.
Msisi – aerial view
and on the ground.
 Housing for the poor and the rich in Manila





Manila is the capital and second-largest city of the Philippines and one of 16 cities that comprise Metro Manila, which has an overall population of 12.8 million (the 2015 Census). The city of Manila has a population of 1.78 million (2016). Manila is the world’s most densely populated city with 42,857 people per square kilometer.

The poor live in areas like Smokey Mountain, a spontaneous development in Manila built upon a rubbish dump (see photograph below).


Manila – Smokey Mountain – this settlement is built on top of a rubbish dump!

Over 10000 people in Smokey Mountain earn a living by sorting through and selling rubbish (watch YouTube clip below). Conditions here are atrocious and life is difficult with no running water, electricity or sewage systems.

The wealthy live south of the river (Pasig River) where no people from the spontaneous settlements would ever be able to afford or live. Places like Pasay City have luxury, air conditioned apartments with swimming pools and two or more cars parked in the garage. These areas are close to high end shopping plazas, expensive hotels and restaurants which are monitored by private security companies.


Apartments in Pasay City, Minila – How the other half live!

Examine the factors that determine the socio-economic characteristics and location of residential areas within cities. [10]

Your answer must include diagrams, examples from actual places (case studies), diagrams and maps.

Read the information below and make sure all is include:

Socio-economic characteristics include demographic, political, social and economic factors, but it is not necessary for candidates to consider all of these in equal depth.

The factors affecting the socio-economic characteristics and location of residential areas include: history (age, quality of buildings); physical geography (geology, drainage, and relief may mean that higher class buildings are built in less hazardous locations); accessibility and transport links; the location of industrial and commercial areas; wealth, ethnicity and family status; the relative importance of urban processes such as suburbanization, urban sprawl, counter-urbanization, gentrification and rural-urban migration; as well as natural population increase. This is not a complete list, and other factors may be equally important, depending on the city or cities in question. The location of residential areas within a city may be different in economically poor countries than in richer countries. For example (numerous exceptions aside), the central areas of rich cities may have poor quality housing (inner-city slums), whereas the poorest residential areas in poor cities often tend to be found on the city fringe (shanty towns).

Maps or diagrams may substitute for text.

Poverty and deprivation


Inner city deprivation in the U.K

Inner city areas, in the UK, are areas of older residential and industrial development, lying between the central business district (CBD) and the suburbs of major cities (see the land-use model below). In the UK around 4 million people live in the inner city which are often described as having the following characteristics:


Factors which keep societies and individuals trapped in the cycle of poverty.

  • Population decline – people with qualifications and skills tend to move out.
  • Economic decline – there are limited and decreasing  job opportunities as factories and offices close. Inner city areas generally fail to attract new growth because of dereliction and decline.
  • Physical and environmental change – conditions include much derelict land, vandalism and empty buildings, poor quality housing and a lack of open space.
  • An increase in poverty and deprivation – social conditions include a higher than average percentage of the poor, the elderly, the unskilled, ethnic minorities, single-parent families and the homeless. They are areas of multiple social and economic deprivation.



Inner cities position within the land-use model (Burgess)

However, it would be wrong to assume that all people in the inner city (UK) are poor, or that all deprived people live only in inner city areas. Nevertheless, the inner city does contain serious problems of poverty and deprivation.

Deprivation and poverty in London: get the data

The Central Business District (CBD)

The CBD or Central Business District is the focal point of a city. It is the commercial, office, retail, and cultural center of the city and usually is the center point for transportation networks.


Reading: Urban Planning And Development

The CBD or Central Business District is the commercial centre. It contains the main shops, offices and financial institutions of the urban area. It is usually the most accessible (easy to get to) part of the city. This is because most of the main transport routes lead here.
Due to high land values, buildings tend to be tall and building density is high.
Land Values
Land values tend to be very high, this is the result of great competition to locate here. It is cheaper to build up than out. Also, there is a limited amount of open space available. New developments tend to focus on redeveloping existing areas rather than using the limited open space available.
Population Density
During the day the CBD is densely populated. This is due to the high number of pedestrians and shop and office workers. However, the CBD has a limited number of houses and flats due to the high land values in this area.



revitalising the CBD – Liverpool

Urban social stress

Urban Heat Island

The city as a system

Sustainable urban development aims to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations.

Cities can be viewed as a system – systems include: factors (inputs), processes (throughputs) and results (outputs). [Refer to Rogers model page 313]



 Large cities are often considered to be unsustainable because they consume huge amounts of resources and produce vast amounts of waste.

The following steps need to be taken to achieve sustainability (pg 312-13)

(a) improve economic security (b) meet social, cultural and health needs (c) minimise the use of non-renewable resources (d) use finite renewable resources sustainably, and (e) preserve green space.




Consider the immense pressure put on the environment.  The ecological footprint concept  – the area of land needed to provide the necessary resources and absorb the waste generated by a community – was generated to highlight the impact of cities on the environment. London, UK serves as a good example: the ecological footprint of that city is 120 times the area of the city itself.

Ecological footprint is ‘All of the resources which people use for their daily needs and activities come from somewhere, even if not from their immediate surroundings. Food, electricity, and other basic amenities for survival must be produced within the confines of nature, using raw natural resources. Based on this relationship between humanity and the biosphere, an ecological footprint is a measurement of the land area required to sustain a population of any size. Under prevailing technology, it measures the amount of arable land and aquatic resources that must be used to continuously sustain a population, based on its consumption levels at a given point in time.

Footprints can be measured at an individual level, or for cities, regions, countries, or the entire planet. Through specialized adjustments, EF analysis can also be used for specific activities, or to measure the ecological requirements of producing specific goods or services.

The sustainable city


An artist’s impression of Melbourne covered in rooftop gardens and roadway parks.

According to the United Nations, a sustainable city is one where achievements in social, economic, and physical development are made to last. According to Agenda 21, a sustainable city is one which protects and enhances the environment, meets social needs and promotes economic success.

READ – Sustainable cities

London Olympics


Sustainable Olympics: London 2012 was billed as the ‘greenest Games ever’.

Sustainability and the environment were at the heart of London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Park will respect the promises of the bid and continue to deliver on the green initiatives of the Games – creating a sustainable development in tune with the world’s changing climate and resource needs.

Some of those measures include:

  • Building zero carbon, water efficient homes
  • Minimising the waste we send to landfill by only using what we need, and reusing and recycling as much as we can
  • Responsibly sourcing and using materials with low environmental impact
  • Creating neighbourhoods which are easy to walk around, encouraging cycling and promoting the use of public transport, reducing polluting emissions to air
  • Managing energy and water efficient venues
  • Building on the Olympic legacy by supporting sustainable events that respect their parkland setting
  • Nurturing natural habitats and local biodiversity



Beddington Zero Energy Development, or BedZED, is the U.K.’s largest mixed-use sustainable community, located south of London.

READ – Ecotowns

Eco-towns will be small new towns of up to 20,000 homes. They are intended to exploit the potential to create complete new settlements which can achieve zero carbon emission and more sustainable living, using the best new design and architecture. Eco-towns are seen  as a way to balance increased house building with the needs of the environment. The key features the government (UK) wants to achieve are:

• places with separate and distinct identities, but good links to surrounding towns and cities in terms of jobs, transport and services;

• the developments as a whole to achieve zero carbon emission and to be exemplars in at least one area of environment technology;

• a good range of facilities within the towns, including a secondary school, shopping, business space and leisure;

• between 30 and 50 per cent affordable housing with a good mix of tenures and size of homes in mixed communities; and

• a delivery organisation to manage the town and its development and provide support for people, businesses and community services.




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