Central Place Theory

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Central Place Theory

Explanation at http://unplanning.blogspot.com/2005/07/paging-dr-christaller.html


"Walter Christaller was a German Geographer that postulated in his 1933 doctoral essay that market-based forces inevitably created a hierarchical arrangement of towns and cities. In any given area, a large number of small communities would surround a smaller number of towns and even fewer large cities."


How the Theory is Challenged by Globalization Patterns

"Most of today’s settlement patterns do not correspond well with Christaller’s concepts. Indeed, as industrialization and urbanization have spread, the number of people residing in rural areas, which include small towns and cities, decreased in many areas. The US Great Plains have been losing population for more than a century in many locations as small farming operations fell by the way side and big city opportunities beckoned. Other industrialized countries have also experienced this phenomenon. Even in much of the third world, globalization, industrialized agriculture and a booming population have lowered the percentage of people residing outside of major urban areas. Some areas even in the developing world (portions of N. Central Mexico) have actually lost population. . The result of these trends is a global settlement pattern that now concentrates most people in major metropolitan regions and MegaCities."

Why the Theory Needs to be Resurrected?

"Globalism is of course, highly dependent on the continuation of cheap energy. Once that supply has been consumed however, the whole economic arrangement of today will be turned on its head. No longer will it make sense to mass produce in select locations for global distribution. A new framework will have to be established.

As we move into an energy-poor future, we need a geographical pattern that minimizes travel and maximizes efficiency."

Linkage as Central Concept for a New Theory

"Linkage—or the relationship between places—is key to a revised Central Place Theory. Each place from the smallest community to the largest city within an area is to be linked to one another. These links would be physical (roads or rails), resource driven (availability of food, raw materials), economic (trade) and administrative. What each community would produce and ultimately transport would be determined by the community’s size and its neighbors. Similarly, the question how these communities would be physically linked is also important. The issue of transportation is a direct part of the equation. Ideally, distances would remain shortest for the most frequently transported or bulky items. This way, simple road ways could permit anything from pedestrian and pedal-powered vehicles to busses and trucks. These vehicles could take care of most transportation needs in and around an average community. With small distances between settlements, even bicycle and pedestrian trips between towns would be plausible. The remaining goods could be shipped on trucks. As the distances increase, direct (and frequent) travel between communities would decrease. In effect, the strength of the linkage between any two given places would only be as good the relationship between each place, which is directly related to the distance and ease of travel."

More Information

More extensive explanation and discussion at http://unplanning.blogspot.com/2005/07/paging-dr-christaller.html