Understanding the Urban Sprawl in the Mid-Size Latin American Cities through the Urban Form: Analysis of the Concepción Metropolitan Area (Chile)

Journal of Geographic Information System

Journal of Geographic Information System, Vol.5 No.3, June 2013

Carolina Rojas, Iván Muñiz, and Joan Pino

“Latin American cities, like those from North America and Europe, experience problems of urban sprawl. However, few studies have dedicated exclusively to this phenomenon in specific cities, and this omission is particularly noticeable regarding cities not considered among the megalopolis of the continent. The present work analyzes urban sprawl through an urban form in the Concepción Metropolitan Area, Chile, between 1990 and 2009, considering local aspects that may have played a role in the process. The main empirical results obtained from this study reveal a metropolitan area that has expanded intensely over a 20-year period, growing from 9000 hectares to more than 17,000 ha for a 96% increment in the built-up area. The new urban surfaces consolidate a central conurbation that strengthens the role of the main downtowns, with less-intense occupation towards the sub-centers but in a structure that follows the transportation infrastructure. Over the last 20 years, the distance between the shapes has grown progressively by around 2 km, increasing the size of the ellipse by more than 1000 km2.

Standard deviational ellipses map

Standard deviational ellipses map

“In particular the complexity of the urbanized surfaces has grown, becoming more irregular in shape and less compact as they come to occupy larger areas. So our principal findings include: an increment of nearly 100% in the urban surface, the importance of a polycentric urban structure in the process of consolidation as a support for analyzing different spatial dynamics, and the growing morphological irregularity of the territory of the sprawl.”