In this blog, I want to introduce three famous functional structure modes of urban land use within the city. Before I start, I would say that not all the city follows these structure modes to develop and they just describe the general rules ideally according to some cities. We should be aware that city changes a lot these days and it is ok that some cities don’t follow the modes.

A. Concentric zone model ( Burgess model )

The model was proposed by Burgess in 1920 based on his study of Chicago. He assumed that there is a consistent topography in the whole city. According to Bid-rent mechanism, the accessibility of downtown is the highest and the rent increases as the distance from downtown decreases. The plot of the rent shows a distance-decay effect visually.

And Burgess depicts urban land usage in 5 concentric rings which have different functions.

  • The zone in the middle is named as central business district which is similar with the concept of downtown area. With highest land value, this zone is full of tertiary activities which can afford the rent. And those high-rise buildings in this zone stand out of the city which represents this zone as both core of transport networks and the busiest commercial center.
  • Zone II is called Transition Zone which has a mixed residential and commercial use. It is adjacent the CBD and may contain lots of old architectures which were used for factories at the peak of industrial activities. Since the condition of this zone is bad, the residents inside may be the poorest.
  • Zone III is usually called Working Class zone basically served as residential area. People living inside have better housing conditions than Zone II.
  • Zone IV is White Collar Homes which is known as bigger houses and full of the middle class. There are also better facilities such as parks, open spaces, shops which serve the residents. The commuting cost is definitely higher than Zone III but people can afford it.
  • Zone V is Commuter Zone. Although this zone is called commuter zone it is actually residential area for those wealthy people who can afford larger houses and higher commuting charges. The population density is obviously low compared to other zone.

B. Multiple nuclei model

The model was created by Chauncy Harris and Edward Ullman in 1945. The interesting thing is though selecting Chicago as their study object as well, they came up with a quite different model than Burgess. The model argues that a city can begin with a CBD and develop into several smaller CBDs to cut down the commutes from the outskirts of the city. This model seems more close to the reality with a more complex urban land usage and as city grows and expands bigger the multiple nuclei model can better demonstrate the city pattern. However it is still a model based on ideal conditions such as even distributing of resources and transportation costs.

C. Central place theory

Central place theory is more complicated than the previous two theories with main focus on the number, size and location of human settlements in a residential system. Raised by Walter Christaller, the theory was developed based on many simplifying assumptions. Before we start to explain this theory, we should first focus on its basic concepts which the theory mainly relies on: threshold and range. Threshold is the minimum market needed for a service or good while range is the maximum distance consumers will travel for that goods or services. According to the theory, the more durable the goods and services are the larger the range of the goods and services provided by the centers and people will travel longer distance for them. All the centers in the theory together will make up of a hierarchy pyramid. Under different requirements, the pattern of hierarchy pyramid differs as well.


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