The fuzzy boundary: the spatial definition of urban areas


Cities seem to have some kind of area structure, usually distinguished in terms of land use types, socio-economic variables, physical appearance or historical and culturalcharacteristics. Is there any possibility that urban areas could in general be differentiated from the spatial perspective? What is the nature of boundaries between areas in terms of space? These questions could be approached by the analysis of internal or contextual spatial structure, or the relation between the two. Most studies on area structure however had focused in the main on the internal area with a secondaryrole for the context. Is there any way in which we could give more explicit attention to the context, following the clue that had come out of the earlier studies?This paper is to try to develop spatial techniques for identifying area boundaries, and looking at their performance in both the traditional areas, such as the Central London and the Inner City of Beijing, and the new development of the London Docklands. It focuses on explicitly exploring the properties of contextual structure in the formation ofarea boundaries rather than simply the properties of internal structure. After much experimentation, a new technique was arrived at for exploring properties of the context. Each axial line or segment in the whole map is taken as the root of a graph, and the numbers of axial lines, or segments, found with increasing radius from the root is calculated, and expressed as a rate of change. This rate of change value is thenassigned to the original axial line and expressed through bands of color. The results show strong areal effects, in that groups of neighbouring lines tend to have similar coloring, and in many cases, these suggest natural areas.Through the case studies, this paper suggests that historic areas typically have what we will call fuzzy boundaries. Fuzzy boundaries arise from the way space is structured internally and how this relates to the external structure of space. Such boundaries can be effective in supporting functional differentiation of areas or the growth of areal identities and characters, but do not depend on the area being either spatially self contained or geometrically differentiated, or having clear spatial limits. It is the relation of urban areas and their further surroundings that determine fuzzy boundaries of these urban areas

    Similar works