Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

Urban Growth and the Spatial Structure of a Changing Region: An Integrated Assessment

Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

Urban Growth and the Spatial Structure of a Changing Region: An Integrated Assessment

Article excerpt


Recent landscape transformations observed in Europe are mainly associated to the dispersed expansion of large- and medium-size cities caused by population de-concentration (Kasanko et al. 2006) and the spatial (re)balancing of activities observed since the late 1980s (Longhi and Musolesi 2007) and mainly associated to suburbanization processes (Bruegmann 2005). By linking form and functions, suburbanization may reflect novel socioeconomic phenomena in the Mediterranean region (Couch et al. 2007), generally characterized by cities with compact and dense morphologies (Schneider and Woodcock 2008), fragmented and polarized economic structures (Turok and Mykhnenko 2007), socially-cohesive areas with moderate class segregation (Leontidou 1990).

Suburbanization causes subtle transformations in the morphology of sprawling cities. Land fragmentation, polarization in urban and non-urban uses of land, landscape simplification and homologation, are processes observed in Mediterranean peri-urban areas (see, for instance, Paul and Tonts 2005 for Barcelona, Chorianopoulos et al. 2010 for Athens, Salvati and Sabbi 2011 for Rome). The resulting morphology is scattered and fragmented, with an increase in fractal dimension as the most evident change (Alphan 2003, European Environmental Agency 2006, Terzi and Bolen 2009, Salvati et al. 2012).

While the impact of various types of urban expansion (e.g. dense, dispersed, fragmented) on landscape composition is relatively well known in southern Europe (Attorre et al. 2000, Alphan 2003, Weber et al. 2005, Catalan et al. 2008, Ioannidis et al. 2009), the long -term effect (from both structural and functional point of view) on traditionally compact but rapidly changing urban areas is less explored (see, for instance, Munafò et al. 2010) and it deserves further investigation.

Based on these premises, the present study integrates a traditional landscape metrics analysis with a Morphological Spatial Pattern Analysis (MSPA) to investigate the long -term changes (1949-2008) in the form of a semi-compact and dense Mediterranean city (Rome, Italy) in three phases of its recent expansion (Gemmiti et al. 2012). These phases reflect quite different socioeconomic contexts: (i) economic informality and spontaneous expansion in the phase of compact and dense expansion (1949-1974), (ii) the consolidation of the traditional tertiary sector (construction, commerce, public services) and the growing importance of city's sub-centres in a partly deregulated planning system observed during a phase of 'medium density, discontinuous expansion' (1974-1999) and (iii) the declining importance of the public sector together with the growth of high-qualifications and creative sectors primarily found in the last phase featuring 'low density, dispersed' expansion (1999-2008). The study identifies the indicators characterizing these three phases as a contribution to the understanding of long-term urban expansion processes in southern Europe.

Materials and Methods

Landscape indicators

Landscape metrics have been extensively used to detect spatial patterns caused by urbanization (Alphan 2003, Weber et al. 2005, Catalan et al. 2008, Terzi and Bolen 2009). The selection of variables, the procedure for the construction of indicators and the identification of the thematic dimensions adequate to describe changes over time in Rome's morphology have been set up in the present study according to general criteria of comprehensiveness, reliability and easiness in calculation (Li and Wu 2004). As far as landscape metrics, nine well -known metrics computed at the class level have been selected with the aim of being used also by stakeholders and planners not confident with spatial analysis and geographic information systems (Uuemaa et al. 2009). The selected indicators provide a comprehensive description of urban form and can be easily derived from land-use maps using simple computational tools for ArcGIS package (ESRI Inc. …

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