Urban models in MEDCs

It is possible in many cities to identify zones with a particular type of land use - eg a residential zone. Often these zones have developed due to a combination of economic and social factors. In some cases planners may have tried to separate out some land uses, eg an airport is separated from a large housing estate.

The Burgess and Hoyt model

Geographers have put together models of land use to show how a 'typical' city is laid out. One of the most famous of these is the Burgess or concentric zone model.

This model is based on the idea that land values are highest in the centre of a town or city. This is because competition is high in the central parts of the settlement. This leads to high-rise, high-density buildings being found near the Central Business District (CBD), with low-density, sparse developments on the edge of the town or city.

The Burgess model

The Burgess model

However, there are limits to the Burgess model:

  • The model is now quite old and was developed before the advent of mass car ownership.
  • New working and housing trends have emerged since the model was developed. Many people now choose to live and work outside the city on the urban fringe - a phenomenon that is not reflected in the Burgess model.
  • Every city is different. There is no such thing as a typical city.

Another urban model is the Hoyt model. This is based on the circles on the Burgess model, but adds sectors of similar land uses concentrated in parts of the city. Notice how some zones, eg the factories/industry zone, radiate out from the CBD. This is probably following the line of a main road or a railway.

The Hoyt model

The Hoyt model

Central business district (CBD)

The land in urban areas is used for many different purposes:

  • leisure and recreation - may include open land, eg parks or built facilities such as sports centres
  • residential - the building of houses and flats
  • transport - road and rail networks, stations and airports
  • business and commerce - the building of offices, shops and banks
  • industry - factories, warehouses and small production centres

The CBD in the city centre is where most business and commerce is located.

Features that identify the CBD

Bullring Shopping Centre, Birmingham

Bullring Shopping Centre, Birmingham

  • High/multi-storey buildings.
  • Expensive land values.
  • Department stores or specialist shops, like jewellers.
  • Shopping malls and pedestrian precincts.
  • Cultural/historical buildings, museums and castles.
  • Offices, finance, banks, administration, town hall (business sector).
  • Bus and railway stations (transport centres).
  • Multi-storey car parks.

The CBD is located in the centre because it is:

  • a central location for road/railways to converge
  • the most accessible location for workers
  • accessible to most people for shops and businesses

To help you remember how to identify a CBD, think of a city you know. In your exam give named examples for the features listed above.

The inner city

Terraced houses in Brighton, East Sussex

Terraced houses in Brighton, East Sussex

The inner city is also known as the twilight zone. It is typically found next to the CBD and has mainly terraced houses in a grid like pattern. These were originally built to house factory workers who worked in the inner city factories. Many of these factories have now closed down.

Unemployment and other socioeconomic problems have led to periods of unrest in many inner city areas, eg Toxteth in Liverpool. Many inner city areas declined in the late 20th century and have undergone a period of regeneration in recent years, for example Watford Arches Retail Park, which is located on a former industrial site. Run down terraced housing is often bought by investors and improved to appeal to young professionals who need access to the CBD. This is called gentrification.

The suburbs

Semi-detached house in Standish, Lancashire

Semi-detached house in Standish, Lancashire

Suburban houses are usually larger than inner city terraces and most have a garden. Typically, they are detached or semi detached and the roads around them are arranged in cul de sacs and wide avenues. Land prices are generally cheaper than in the CBD and inner city, although the desirability of housing can make some areas expensive.

Many suburbs were built in the UK in the 1930s and have a distinctive style of housing, as shown in the picture to the right. More modern housing estates were built in the late 20th century as towns and cities have continued to grow.

Facilities such as schools, places of worship and parks are often present, and many are served by a local supermarket.

Suburban areas are often home to commuters who need access to the CBD along main roads and railways, and they are also within easy reach of the countryside.

The urban rural fringe

Allotments in Ripon, North Yorkshire

Allotments in Ripon, North Yorkshire

This is found at the edge of a town or city and is where town meets country. It is common for this area to have a mixture of land uses such as some housing, golf courses, allotments, business parks and airports.

The mixture of land use often causes conflict as different groups have different needs and interests. For example, building Terminal 5 at Heathrow on the outskirts of London was a source of controversy. The need for another runway continues to cause conflicts of interest.

Back to Revision Bite