Spatial Structure Contrasts between Urban and Regional Systems

The analysis of spatial structure is typically undertaken at the level of the Individual city or region. An obvious drawback of this single-entity perspective is that it diverts attention away from important regularities that exist across cities within a national urban system or across a system of (space-filling) regions that collectively cover the entire nation. The primary aim of this study was to impose a common framework on these two national systems, thus enabling their spatial structures to be compared. In both the interurban and interregional cases, it was shown that a relation existed between the overall area of a city (region) and its average density and its population.

The two systems were seen to display fundamentally different forms of spatial structure. Drawing on location theory, consideration was given as to why such a variation between the two systems should exist.

During the course of the investigation additional important differences between the city and the region became evident. These led to a more elaborate treatment of the differences between the city and the region in terms of spatial organisation. Such additional differences were considered in terms of three board perspectives: the city and the region as independent entities; the city within its region; and urban systems and regional systems.

A further and more recent aspect of the study was concerned with the work of Johann Heinrich von Thünen, a pioneer of modern agricultural economics. The primary aim was to investigate and then extend his urban system. Using some of von Thünen’s original data and employing certain location-theory models, it was possible to establish the main dimensions of an urban system for this agricultural landscape.  


Professor John B Parr (Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)


April 2008 to date


Parr, J. B. (2012) Spatial-structure differences between urban and regional systems, Annals of Regional Science, 49.2, 293-303.

Parr, J. B. (2013) Cities and regions as contrasts in spatial organisation (submitted)

Parr, J. B. (2013) Exploring the urban system of von Thünen (submitted)