Jesús Leal Maldonado
Like many other metropolitan areas, that of Madrid is widespread and delimited by towns of various densities. The old delimitations have remained and, if we wish to determine the area's size and expansion, we can distinguish three concentric rings around the old city centre. The centre is formed by the seven central city districts, with a population of 910,000. 1 It is composed mainly of the old city centre and the extension planned in the middle of the nineteenth century: the 'ensanche', sourrounded by a highway ring (M-30).
The peripheral fifteen districts of the city constitute the first ring area, with approximately 1,947,000 people living inside it. Most of the ring area had been initially composed of separate municipalities, but in the mid-twentieth century they were all integrated into the Madrid municipality. This was a way to coordinate the city, and as a result Madrid is now a big central city within which are concentrated more than half of the population of its Functional Urban Region.
The second ring is formed by 26 towns which, together with the municipality of Madrid, compose the Metropolitan Area, which was legally constituted at the end of the 1960s. This ring area, which radiates 20 km from the centre of Madrid, adds a residential population of 1,711,000 inhabitants to the urban region, and accommodates most of the population growth of the last 20 years. The institution of the Metropolitan Area, together with the COPLACO (Comité de PLAneamiento y COordinación del Area Metropolitana de Madrid, Committee for Planning and Coordination of the Madrid Metropolitan Area), which coordinated the municipalities planning, was scrapped at the end of 1970s when the Madrid Autonomous Community was established.
The third ring area of the urban region is constituted by a series of towns located outside the legal metropolitan area. This ring is currently undergoing rapid suburbanisation, and has a population of over 300,000.