Evolving Urban Form: Development Profiles of World Urban Areas

The Evolving Urban Form: Zürich


Zürich is the largest urban area in Switzerland. The core city (stadt) of Zürich is located at the northern end of Lake Zürich, which is glacial and similar to the "finger lakes" of upstate New York. Lake Zürich is approximately 25 miles/40 kilometers long and 1-2 miles/1.5-3 kilometers wide. The urban area extends south along most of the lake and over hills to the East and West and further North.  read more »

Evolving Urban Form: São Paulo


São Paulo is Brazil's largest urban area and ranks among the top 10 most populous in the world. Between 1950 and 1975, São Paulo was also among the globe’s fastest growing urban areas. For two decades starting in 1980 São Paulo ranked fourth in population among the world's urban areas, but has been displaced by much faster growing urban areas like Manila and Delhi.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Istanbul


Istanbul is unique in straddling two continents. The historical city was concentrated on the European side of the Bosporus, the wide, more than 20 mile long strait linking the Sea of Marmara (Mediterranean Sea) in the south to the Black Sea in the north. Nearly all of the historic city was located on a peninsula to the south of the Golden Horn, an inlet off the Bosporus. By 1990, the urban area had expanded to occupy large areas on both sides of the Bosporus.  read more »

Evolving Urban Form: Dhaka


A few weeks ago, we suggested that Hong Kong was the "smart growth" ideal, for having the highest urban population density in the high income world. But, if you expand the universe to the poorer, developing countries, Hong Kong barely holds a candle to Dhaka. Dhaka's 14.6 million people live in just 125 square miles (325 square kilometers). At more than 115,000 people per square mile (Figure 1), or 45,000 per square kilometer (Figure 2), the capital of Bangladesh is nearly 75 percent more dense than Hong Kong.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: London


The 2011 census results show that London (the Greater London Authority, which is Inner and Outer London) experienced its greatest percentage population growth in more than 100 years (1891 to 1901). London added nearly 1,000,000 new residents since 2001. That growth, however, is not an indication that "people are moving back to the city." On the contrary, National Statistics data indicates that London lost 740,000 domestic migrants between 2001 and 2011.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Tokyo


Tokyo is the ultimate in urbanization, being nearly one-half larger than any other urban area in the world. Further, Tokyo has retained its position as the largest urban area in the world for longer than any period since London's approximately 100 year run from the early 1800s to the early 1900s. During the 1920s, New York became the largest, but was displaced by Tokyo in 1955.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Cairo


Cairo, Egypt's capital, has long had some of the highest neighborhood population densities in the world. In the 1960s it was reported that one neighborhood had a density of 353,000 people per square mile (136,000 per square kilometer).  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Shenzhen


No urban area in history has become so large so quickly than Shenzhen (Note 1). A little more than a fishing village in 1979, by the 2010 census Shenzhen registered 10.4 million inhabitants. It is easily the youngest urban area to have become one of the world's 26 megacities (Figure 1). Most other megacities were the largest urban areas in their nations for centuries (such as London and Paris) and a few for more than a millennium (such as Istanbul and Beijing).  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto


Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto is Japan's second largest urban area and ranks as the 12th largest urban area in the world. With a population of approximately 17,000,000 and a land area of 1240 square miles (3200 square kilometers), Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto has a population density of 13,700 per square mile (5,200 per square kilometer), making it the most dense major urban area in Japan and among the denser urban areas in the high income world. The larger metropolitan region includes four prefectures, Osaka, Kyoto, Kyoto and Nara (Figure 1).  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)


Vietnam may be the next China. With a nominally communist government, Vietnam has liberalized its markets and is prospering from an increased reliance on exports. Vietnam's gross domestic product per capita is still only about $3000, but has been among the faster growing economies over the past 10 years. Vietnam is well positioned to capture any growth that might be diverted from China’s east coast urban areas as labor costs there rise and concerns increase about the influence of that country’s powerful state-owned corporations.  read more »