Friday, April 30, 2010





Assistant Professor
Department of Architecture and Planning
NED University of Engineering and Technology


Urban means "related to cities". AN URBAN AREA is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets. Rural areas referred to as "the country sides" are large and isolated areas of a country, often with low population density. Urban areas are created and further developed by the process of urbanization. Measuring the extent of an urban area helps in analyzing population density and urban sprawl, and in determining urban and rural populations. Unlike an urban area, a metropolitan area includes not only the urban area, but also satellite cities plus intervening rural land that is socio-economically connected to the urban core city, typically by employment ties through commuting, with the urban core city being the primary labor market. In fact, urbanized areas agglomerate and grow as the core population/economic activity center within a larger metropolitan area or envelope. Metropolitan areas tend to be defined using counties or county sized political units as building blocks. Counties tend to be stable political boundaries; economists prefer to work with economic and social statistics based on metropolitan areas. Urbanized areas are a more relevant statistic for determining per capita land usage and densities.

The definitions of urban areas vary somewhat amongst different nations. European countries define urbanized areas on the basis of urban-type land use, not allowing any gaps of typically more than 200 meters, and use satellite photos instead of census blocks to determine the boundaries of the urban area. In less developed countries, in addition to land use and density requirements, a requirement that a large majority of the population, typically 75%, is not engaged in agriculture and/or fishing is sometimes used. Similarly; population number and characteristics are also used to define an urban area.

In Australia, urban areas are referred to as "urban centres" and are defined as population clusters of 1000 or more people, with a density of 200 or more persons per square kilometre.

In Canada, an urban area is an area that has more than 400 people per square kilometre and has more than 1,000 people. If two or more urban areas are within two kilometres of each other, they are merged into a single urban area. The boundaries of an urban area are not influenced by municipal or even provincial boundaries.

In China, an urban area is an urban district, city and town with a population density higher than 1,500 persons per square kilometre. As for urban districts with a population density lower than 1,500 persons per square kilometre, only the population that lives in streets, town sites, and adjacent villages is counted as urban population.

In France, an urban area is a zone encompassing an area of built-up growth (called an "urban unit" and its commuter belt. 

In Japan urbanized areas are defined as contiguous areas of densely inhabited districts (DIDs) using census enumeration districts as units with a density requirement of 4,000 inhabitants per square kilometre (10,000 /sq mi).

New Zealand:
Statistics New Zealand defines New Zealand urban areas for statistical purposes as a settlement with a population of a thousand people or more.

Statistics Norway defines urban areas similarly to the other Nordic countries. Unlike in Denmark and Sweden, the distance between each building has to be of less than 50 meters, although exceptions are made due to parks, industrial areas, rivers, and similar. Groups of houses less than 400 metres from the main body of an urban area are included in the urban area.

In Poland, official "urban" population figures simply refer to those localities which have the status of towns. The "rural" population is that of all areas outside the boundaries of these towns. This distinction may give a misleading impression in some cases, since some localities with only village status may have acquired larger and denser populations than many smaller towns.

Urban areas in Sweden are statistically defined localities, totally independent of the administrative subdivision of the country. There are 1,940 such localities in Sweden, with a population ranging from 200 to 1,252,000 inhabitants.

England and Wales:
The United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics produced census results from urban areas since 1951, since 1981 based upon the extent of irreversible urban development indicated on Ordnance Survey maps. The definition is an extent of at least 20 hectares and at least 1,500 census residents. Separate areas are linked if less than 200 metres apart. Included are transportation features.

United States:
In the United States there are two categories of urban area. The term urbanized area denotes an urban area of 50,000 or more people. Urban areas under 50,000 people are called urban clusters. Urbanized areas were first delineated in the United States in the 1950 census, while urban clusters were added in the 2000 census. There are 1,371 urban areas and urban clusters with more than 10,000 people. The U.S. Census Bureau defines an urban area as: "Core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile (386 per square kilometer) and surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile (193 per square kilometer)." The largest urban area in the United States is that of New York City, with its city proper population exceeding 8 million and its metropolitan area population almost 19 million. The next four largest urban areas in the U.S. are those of Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia. About 70 percent of the population of the United States lives within the boundaries of urbanized area (210 out of 300 million). Combined, these areas occupy about 2 percent of the United States. The majority of urbanized area residents are suburbanites; core central city residents make up about 30 percent of the urbanized area population (about 60 out of 210 million).

Rural areas are large and isolated areas of an open country (in reference to open fields and not forests, etc.), often with low population density. The terms "countryside" and "rural areas" are not synonyms: a "countryside" refers to rural areas that are open. A forest, wetlands, etc. with a low population density is not a countryside. About 91 percent of the rural population now earn salaried incomes, often in urban areas. The 10 percent who still produce resources generate 20 percent of the world’s coal, copper, and oil; 10 percent of its wheat, 20 percent of its meat, and 50 percent of its corn. The efficiency of these farms is due in large part to the commercialization of the farming industry, and not single family operations. Today, 75 percent of the United States' inhabitants live in suburban and urban areas, but cities occupy only 2 percent of the country. Rural areas occupy the remaining 98 percent. United States Census Bureau definitions, which are based on population density, defines rural areas as all territory outside of urbanized areas and urban clusters. Thus, rural areas comprise open country and settlements with fewer than 2,500 residents; areas designated as rural can have population densities as high as 999 per square mile or as low as 1 person per square mile.

In generic terms there are six major differences betwen an urban area and a rural area i.e. Physical Size, Population Density, Social Characterisitcs, Economic Characteristics and Environmental Characteristics.

i.   Physical Size:
The long distances in urban areas are more common as compare to rural areas. In rural areas virtually all activities takes place in close proximity and at walking distance. Whereas; in urban areas vehicular movement is quite evident by people. 

ii.  Population Density:
The density of population in rual areas is mostly very less than urban areas where large concentrations of population are very much visible.

iv. Social Characteristics:
In rural areas mostly homogenous community is eveident as compare to hetrogeneous communities of urban context. Mostly people know each other very well in villages whereas; in urban areas even one's neighbours are strangers to each other. In rural areas there are usually community feling is very strong and a collective moral behaviour is quite evident. However; in urban areas every one is free in his thoughts, actions and moral behaviour.

v.  Economic Characteristics:
Rural people have mostly agricultural based occupations; while people in urban areas are mostly dependent on trade, commerce and industry.

vi. Environmental Characteristics:
In rural areas the natural environment is dominating as copmare to urban areas where man made environment or built environment is quite evident.

The afforementioned description clearly indicates that; what is mant by an urban area and a rural area.

1. (retrieved 11/01/2010)

2. (retrieved 11/01/2010)
3. (retrieved 11/01/2010)

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