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urban morphology

the study of the physical form and structure of urban places


conglomeration of people and buildings clustered together to serve as a center of politics, culture, and economics


the entire built-up, nonrural area and its population, including the most recently constructed suburban appendages. Provides a better picture of the dimensions and population of such an area than the delimited municipality (central city) that forms its heart.

agricultural village

A relatively small, egalitarian village, where most of the population was involved in agriculture. Starting over 10,000 years ago, people began to cluster in agricultural villages as they stayed in one place to tend their crops.

agricultural surplus

One of two components, together with social stratification, that enables the formation of cities; agricultural production in excess of that which the producer needs for his or her own sustenance and that of his or her family and which is then sold for consumption by others.

social stratification

one of two components, together with agricultural surplus, which enables the formation of cities; the differentiation of society into classes based on wealth, power, production, and prestige

leadership class

group of decision-makers and organizers in early cities who controlled the resources, and often the lives, of others

first urban revolution

The innovation of the city, which occurred independently in five separate hearths.


Region of great cities (e.g Ur and Babylong) located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; chronologically the first urban hearth, dating to 3500 BCE, and which as founded in the Fertile Crescent.

Nile River Valley

Chronologially the second urban hearth dating back to 3200 BCE.

Indus River Valley

Chronoligcally the third urban hearth dating back to 2200 BCE.

Huang He and Wei River Valleys

rivers in present day China and chronologically the fourth urban hearth was established around 1500 BCE


chronologically the fifth urban hearth, dating to 200 bce


literally "high point of the city." The upper fortified part of an ancient Greek city, usually devoted to religious purposes.


In ancient Greece, public spaces where citizens debated, lectured, judged each other, planned military campaigns, socialized, and traded.


the internal physical attributes of a place, including its absolute location, its spatial character and physical setting.


the focal point of ancient roman life combining the functions of the ancient greek acropolis and agora


The external location attributes of a place; its relative location or regional position with reference to other nonlocal places.

trade area

region adjacent to every town and city within which its influence is dominant

rank-size rule

In a model urban hierarchy, the idea that the population of a city or town will be inversely proportional to its rank in the hierarchy.

central place theory

Theory proposed by Walter Christaller that explains how and where central places in the urban hierarchy should be functionally and spatially distributed with respect to one another.

Sunbelt phenomenon

The movement of millions of Americans from northern and northeastern States to the South and Southwest regions(______) of the United States.

functional zonation

the division of a city into different regions or zones (e.g. residential or industrial) for certain purposes or functions (e.g. housing or manufacturing).


Area of a city with a relatively uniform land use (e.g. an industrial zone or residential zone)

central business district

The downtown heart of a central city, the ____ is marked by high land values, a concentration of business and commerce, and the clustering of the tallest buildings.

central city

the urban area that is not suburban; generally, the older or original city that is surrounded by newer suburbs


A subsidiary urban area surrounding and connected to the central city. Many are exclusively residential; others have their own commercial centers or shopping malls.


Movement of upper and middle-class people from urban core areas to the surrounding outskirts to escape pollution as well as deteriorating social conditions (perceived and actual).

concentric zone model

A structural model of the American central city that suggests the existence of five concentric land-use rings arranged around a common center.

disamenity sector

The very poorest parts of cities that in extreme cases are not even connected to regular city services and are controlled by gangs or drug lords.

McGee model

Developed by geographer T.G. McGee, a model showing similar land-use patterns among the medium-sized cities of Southeast Asia.


Unplanned slum development on the margins of cities, dominated by crude dwellings and shelters made mostly of scrap wood, iron, and even pieces of cardboard.

zoning laws

Legal restrictions on land use that determine what types of building and economic activities are allowed to take place in certain areas. In the United States, areas are most commonly divided into separate zones of residential, retail, or industrial use.


A discriminatory real estate practice in North America in which members of minority groups are prevented from obtaining money to purchase homes or property in predominantly white neighborhoods. Today, officially illegal.


Rapid change in the racial composition of residential blocks in American cities that occurs when real estate agents and others stir up fears of neighborhood decline after encouraging people of color to move to previously white neighborhoods.


The transformation of an area of a city into an area attractive to residents and tourists alike in terms of economic activity.


The rehabilitation of deteriorated, often abandoned, housing of low-income inner-city residents.


Homes bought in many American suburbs with the intent of tearing them down and replacing them with much larger homes often referred to as McMansions.


Homes referred to as such because of their "super size" and similarity in appearance to other such homes; homes often built in place of tear-downs in American suburbs.

urban sprawl

Unrestricted growth in many American urban areas of housing, commercial development, and roads over large expanses of land, with little concern for urban planning.

new urbanism

Outlined by a group of architects, urban planners, and developers from over 20 countries, an urban design that calls for development, urban revitalization, and suburban reforms that create walkable neighborhoods with a diversity of housing and jobs.

gated communities

restricted neighborhoods or subdivisions, often literally fenced in, where entry is limited to residents and their guests

informal economy

Economic activity that is neither taxed nor monitored by a government; and is not included in that government's Gross National Product; as opposed to a formal economy

world city

Dominant city in terms of its role in the global political economy. Not the world's biggest city in terms of population or industrial output, but rather centers of strategic control of the world economy.

primate city

A country's largest city-ranking atop the urban hierarchy-most expressive of the national culture and usually (but not always) the capital as well.

spaces of consumptions

areas of a city, the main purpose of which is to encourage people to consume goods and services' driven primarily by the global media industry

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