Cities are complex entities that exist within geographic and climatic settings that naturally shape them. The hands and minds of human beings also play a part, as people add new things to their city making it unique. Certain characteristics like waterways, seaports, lake ports, or on major rivers that determine whether an area becomes a city at all. Even cities that aren’t on important waterways are where they are because there were enough streams and lakes to support their populations initially. Environmental, economic, and social factors play a role in creating an urban area. Environmentally, the area cannot be infested with disease-producing organisms, be subject to extreme heat or cold, or exist on a floodplain. Economically, industries relocate closer to its source, where the transportation costs of both raw materials and the final product would be the lowest. Finally, social factors come into play with city location. The seven factors that identify where cities are located are natural crossroads, break-of-bulk points, access to valuable raw material, amenity city, administrative or political city, strategic military location, and religious or educational reasons.
European cities are usually Radiocentric which means they radiate outward from a common center. As any city grows, people want to be close to the center as possible to make travel easier. Most foreign countries look like huge wheels, with central spokes radiating outward. Despite the common radical pattern of most of the world’s cities, North American cities are Gridiron cities. These cities are composed of straight streets crossing at right angles to create many regular city blocks. This type of city was built after the industrial revolution. Open-ended streets serve businesses as well because they allow room for growth as well as easy access to and from the shopping area.
Robert Park coined the term human ecology that focused on what he viewed as an orderly evolution of urban growth and development. He investigated how human beings live in their urban world. He believed that the evolutionary struggle for survival was evident in the everyday competition for scarce resources. Ernest Burgess, one of Parks students suggested that a city develops growing outward in a series of concentric rings or zones over time. He described the city in four main zones with a fifth commuters zone outside the city limit. The loop, zone in transition, the zone of workingmen’s homes, and residential area zones.
Homer Hoyt noticed that numerous city districts did not conform to the purely concentric model suggested by Burgess. He studied the residential patterns of 142 cities in three different time periods, 1900, 1915, and 1936 adding an important historical dimension. First, he found that high prestige sectors formed of varying size. Second, many sectors take a pie-shaped form rather than a ring. Third, lower income sectors often bordered fashionable districts. Fourth, he found a tendency for sectors to move out of the city. Fifth, cities revealed two or three fashionable areas in different places, with factors other than competition and population movement influencing this process. Hoyts Sector theory offered a helpful description of urban expansion along major highways and later, along interstate highways that contributed to the development of suburbia.
Central place theory was created by Walter Christaller. He sought to explain size, location and the reason behind settling in urban areas. Christaller suggested that more important city’s economic function to a region, the more its population will increase. In turn, the cities hinterland smaller cities, towns, and rural areas become dependent on the large city for many goods and services that their smaller populations cannot support. This would make the city grown even more. He also suggested that cities, especially smaller ones, typically space themselves so that they do not cut into each other’s markets. In other words, cities emerge at ” distance intervals”, with each serving a local hinterland.
Only those who can pay the most will locate in the city’s center. This is why the downtown is primarily a business district, with whatever residential property there taking the form of smaller apartments typically piled high on a small amount of land. Most residents can’t afford the high rent so they live in high-density housing, sharing an apartment with another family or receiving assistance through a rent subsidy program.
The Los Angeles School emerged in the mid-1980’s as a rejection of the Chicago school. Originally focusing on the five-county region of Southern California, this perspective has its emphasis on multicentered, dispersed patterns as the new reality of urban growth.