Evolving Urban Form: Development Profiles of World Urban Areas

The Evolving Urban Form: Charlotte

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There may be no better example of the post World War II urban form than Charlotte, North Carolina (a metropolitan area and urban area that stretches into South Carolina). Indeed, among the approximately 470 urban areas with more than 1 million population, Charlotte ranks last in urban population density in the United States (Figure 1) and last in the world. According to the United States Census Bureau, Charlotte's built-up urban area population density was 1685 per square mile (650 per square kilometer) in 2010.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Greater New York Expands

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The term “Greater New York” was applied, unofficially, to the 1898 consolidation that produced the present city of New York, which brought together the present five boroughs (counties). The term “Greater” did not stick, at least for the city. When consolidated, much of the city of New York was agricultural. As time went on, the term "Greater" came to apply to virtually any large city and its environs, not just New York and implied a metropolitan area or an urban area extending beyond city limits.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Portland

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Among urban planners, there is probably not a more revered urban area in the world than Portland (Oregon). The Portland metropolitan area and its core urban area , principally located in Oregon, stretches across the Columbia River into the state of Washington (Figure 1). Nearly four decades ago, the state of Oregon adopted strong urban planning requirements, including the requirement of an urban growth boundary.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: The Rhine-Ruhr (Essen-Düsseldorf)

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Rhine-Ruhr, or Essen-Düsseldorf, is among the world's least recognized larger urban areas (Figure 1).  Germany does not designate urban areas according to the international standard, and for that reason the Rhine-Ruhr does not appear on the United Nations list of largest urban areas. Yet, in reality this contiguous urban area is Germany's largest urban area, a position as it has held since at least the end of World War II. The Rhine-Ruhr is the third largest urban area in Western Europe, trailing only Paris and London.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Toronto

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Toronto is the largest city (metropolitan area) in Canada and its principal commercial center. However, this is a relatively recent development. Toronto displaced Montréal is Canada's largest city during the 1960s. Since the 1971 census, when the two Metropolitan areas were nearly identical size, Toronto has added approximately 3 million people, while Montréal has added approximately 1,000,000 (Figure 1).  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Nanjing

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Nanjing is one of China's most historic cities. It is one of the four great ancient capitals of the nation, along with Beijing, Chang'an (Xi'an) and Luoyang. Its name means southern capital (Nan=south, Jing=capital), while the name of the current capital, Beijing means Northern capital.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Athens

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Around the fifth century BCE, Athens may have been the most important city in the West. Like China's Chang'an (modern Xi'an), the "on and off" capital of China, Athens has experienced many severe "ups and downs" throughout its remarkable history. At its ancient peak, Athens is estimated to have had more than 300,000 residents (historic population estimates vary greatly).  read more »

Dispersion in the World's Largest Urban Areas

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No decade in history has experienced such an increase in urban population as the last. From Tokyo-Yokohama, the world's largest urban area (population: 37 million) to Godegård, Sweden, which may be the smallest (population: 200), urban areas added 700 million people between 2000 and 2010.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil from before independence from Portugal was declared in 1822. That all changed in 1960, when the capital moved to the modern planned city of Brasilia, more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) inland. The move, however, did nothing to slow Rio de Janeiro's growth, as the metropolitan area (as designated by Brazil's census agency, the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística),  added 7 million people – a 150 percent increase in population – over the ensuing 60 years  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Kuala Lumpur

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The Kuala Lumpur region of Malaysia is generally defined by the state of Selangor and two geographical enclaves (the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya), carved from the state. These enclaves are the two seats of the federal government. Kuala Lumpur houses the national parliament and Putrajaya the executive and judicial branches.

Population Growth in the Kuala Lumpur Region

The Kuala Lumpur region had a population of approximately 7.1 million, according to the 2010 census. This includes 1.6 million in the federal territory (core city) of Kuala Lumpur and 5.5 million in the suburbs (which include Putrajaya).  read more »