Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (3): 355-380.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1273-4

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New spatial dimensions of global cityscapes: From reviewing existing concepts to a conceptual spatial approach

Isabel GEORG1(), Thomas BLASCHKE1, Hannes TAUBENBÖCK2   

  1. 1. Department of Geoinformatics, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
    2. Earth Observation Center (EOC), Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD), German Aerospace Center (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany;
  • Received:2015-05-12 Accepted:2015-09-08 Online:2016-07-25 Published:2016-07-25
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    Author: GEORG Isabel,


Current global urbanisation processes are leading to new forms of massive urban constellations. The conceptualisations and classifications of these, however, are often ambiguous, overlap or lag behind in scientific literature. This article examines whether there is a common denominator to define and delimitate-and ultimately map-these new dimensions of cityscapes. In an extensive literature review we analysed and juxtaposed some of the most common concepts such as megacity, megaregion or megalopolis. We observed that many concepts are abstract or unspecific, and for those concepts for which physical parameters exist, the parameters are neither properly defined nor used in standardised ways. While understandably concepts originate from various disciplines, the authors identify a need for more precise definition and use of parameters. We conclude that often, spatial patterns of large urban areas resemble each other considerably but the definitions vary so widely that these differences may surpass any inconsistencies in the spatial delimitation process. In other words, today we have tools such as earth observation data and Geographic Information Systems to parameterise if clear definitions are provided. This appears not to be the case. The limiting factor when delineating large urban areas seems to be a commonly agreed ontology.

Key words: urban concepts, large urban areas, conceptualization, urbanization, megacity, metropolis, ribbon development, urban sprawl, conurbation, city region, agglomeration, megaregion, urban corridor