8.2 Urban Areas and Edge Cities

Ask: What characteristics define a city?

Louis Wirth identified a city to have defining characteristics that included a large population, size, a heterogeneous nature, and a defined boundary.

Businesses, a large population, and a unique cultural landscape identify a city whereas urban locations include non-rural areas like the city and suburbs. Common characteristics of major cities include having a downtown area, large buildings, and a highway and transportation network.

Acquire: What are some examples of cities?

Step 1: Go to the ArcGIS Online map, Urban Areas and Edge Cities, and explore the map.

Step 2: With the Details button underlined, click the button, Show Contents of Map (Content).

Step 3: Click the checkbox to the left of the layer name, USA Major Cities.

  • What are some major cities in the United States?

Step 4: Zoom in and out to identify and view some of these cities.

  • What are some examples of small cities located in the United States?

Step 5: Turn on the layer, World Urban Areas.

  • Select a continent, and zoom to specific urban areas. What are some major world cities?

Explore: What factors have led to urban growth of cities?

Step 6: Zoom to the United States.

Step 7: Turn on the layer, Population Density – Counties.

  • What connections are evident between population distribution and major cities.

Step 8: Turn off the layer, Population Density – Counties.

Step 9: Turn off all layers to see the basemap, World Street Map.

Step 10: Zoom to a city of interest.

  • Why might cities grow at different rates?
  • Why are cities often surrounded by other nearby cities?

Analyze: How have edge cities changed the physical and cultural landscape?

Step 11: Use the search box, above and right of the map. Search for Washington, D.C.

  • What are some examples of edge cities that have emerged in the area?

Step 12: Zoom in to Washington, D.C., and observe the land use patterns.

  • What characteristics identify these as edge cities?
  • What is the next stage of growth for these edge cities and surrounding suburbs?

Act: What is the future of urban growth?

  • How is urban growth changing cities around the world?
  • How have residential and commercial areas changed the urban landscape?
  • How is urban growth changing the areas adjacent to cities?
  • How can the Urban Observatory, or other applications visualize these concepts?


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Human Geography Lab Manual by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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