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Landscape and Urban Planning 67 (2004) 9­26

Landscape change and the urbanization process in Europe

Marc Antrop

University of Ghent, Geography Department, Krijgslaan 281 S8, B9000 Gent, Belgium

Abstract Urbanization is one of the fundamental characteristics of the European civilization. It gradually spread from Southeast Europe around 700 b.c., across the whole continent. Cities and the urban networks they formed were always an important factor in the development and shaping of their surrounding regions. Polarization of territory between urban and rural and accessibility are still important aspects in landscape dynamics. Urbanization and its associated transportation infrastructure define the relationship between city and countryside. Urbanization, expressed as the proportion of people living in urban places shows a recent but explosive growth reaching values around 80% in most European countries. Simultaneously the countryside becomes abandoned. Thinking, valuing and planning the countryside is done mainly by urbanites and future rural development is mainly focused upon the urban needs. Thinking of urban places with their associated rural hinterland and spheres of influence has become complex. Clusters of urban places, their situation in a globalizing world and changing accessibility for fast transportation modes are some new factors that affect the change of traditional European cultural landscapes. Urbanization processes show cycles of evolution that spread in different ways through space. Urbanization phases developed at different speeds and time between Northern and Southern Europe. Main cities are affected first, but gradually urbanization processes affect smaller settlements and even remote rural villages. Functional urban regions (FURs) are a new concept, which is also significant for landscape ecologists. Local landscape change can only be comprehended when situated in its general geographical context and with all its related dynamics. Patterns of change are different for the countryside near major cities, for metropolitan villages and for remote rural villages. Planning and designing landscapes for the future requires that this is understood. Urbanized landscapes are highly dynamic, complex and multifunctional. Therefore, detailed inventories of landscape conditions and monitoring of change are urgently needed in order to obtain reliable data for good decision-making. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Urbanization; Landscape change; Rural; Countryside; Europe

1. Introduction Landscapes are on the political agenda today. Natural and cultural aspects of landscapes receive increasing attention from researchers, planners and policy makers (Anonymous, 2000; Council of Europe, 2000; Brandt, 2000; Klijn and Vos, 2000). The main reason is the general observation that the changes in

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landscapes become extremely devastating and many heritage values and resources become irreversibly lost. The speed of the changes, their frequency and magnitude increased unprecedented in the second half of the 20th century (Antrop, 2000a). Many new elements and structures are superimposed upon the traditional landscapes that become highly fragmented and lose their identity. New landscapes are created, which are characterized by a functional homogeneity. They form new challenges for landscape research as they are highly dynamic and little is known about the

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ongoing processes (Brandt et al., 2001). Planners and policy makers are in growing need of new significant data and scientific knowledge. Urbanization, effects of transportation networks and globalization are the important driving forces of these changes and the emergence of new landscapes. Urbanization is a complex process of change of rural lifestyles into urban ones. It showed an almost exponential growth since the end of the 19th century (Champion, 2001; Pacione, 2001a; Antrop, 2000a; Bryant et al., 1982). This process is intimately related to the introduction of new modes of transportation, in particular those that allowed mobility of the masses such as the railroad. After the Second World War, the use of the automobile started a new era of mobility and landscape change. Accessibility became the most important factor in landscape change and even in the remote countryside urbanization processes can be noticed when the region is disclosed by transportation. Finally, the growing globalization of all activities and decision-making causes changes at the local level that are difficult to handle by the people living there. What new tools and methods do researchers, planners and policy makers need or have already at their disposal to cope with these processes? The task will be difficult as transdisciplinary approach is recommended and good communication is required. Earlier views considered urbanization as a diffusion process starting from the growing urban centers that affected the countryside in concentric spheres of differentiated influence (Burgess, 1925; Mann, 1965; Bryant et al., 1982). The reality proved to be much more complex and many city models and models for urban land use structure have been made since (Pacione, 2001b). Lewis and Maund (1976) stressed the importance of accessibility of places and the transportation infrastructure. Antrop (2000b) defined urbanization as a complex process that transforms the rural or natural landscapes into urban and industrial ones forming star-shaped spatial patterns controlled by the physical conditions of the site and its accessibility by transportation routes. The relation between urban and rural becomes extremely complex and receives a growing attention in spatial and environmental planning (SPESP, 2000; Stanners and Bourdeau, 1995). Typical is the transition between an urban center or agglomeration and the countryside becoming unclear and diffuse. The urban fringe or suburban landscapes are

characterized by a wide variety of land uses, which is expressed in a complex, diverse and highly fragmented morphology. Suburbs and urbanized rural landscapes consist of a mosaic of varied land cover, constructions and transportation infrastructures. The delimitation between urban and rural becomes a difficult task involving a lot of uncertainty and it is very unlikely that land zoning borders remain a stable delineation. Nowadays, urbanization is no longer typical for the growth of cities or towns only but it influences the processes in the rural countryside as well. The actual changes of landscapes are induced by urbanization processes such as residential or industrial land development and new communication infrastructures. These processes are mainly controlled by social and economic factors that exceed the local conditions. These changes are characterized by a generalized homogenization of the existing traditional landscape diversity and the creation of largely chaotic patterns. Such a chaotic development is typical for complex systems and is also referred to as autonomous development (Antrop, 1998). New forms of land use are not ecologically related any more with the land and the place. Spatial and environmental planning aims to steer and control these changes, but the lack of concerted actions at the appropriate scale level might enhance this chaotic character. This article discusses the main phases and trends of the urbanization processes in Europe and how it acts upon the actual rural landscapes, illustrated by some case studies near large cities and in remote rural areas.

2. Urbanization Europe: a diffusion process of shifting core areas 2.1. The advantages of agglomerated economies and the power of geographical localization Permanent human settlement is a direct result of the success of agriculture, which created a food surplus and allowed labor, so new activities could develop. The success of the sedentary life resides mainly in a concentration of different complementary activities in one place. These agglomeration economies allowed specialization and stimulated trade, offering win­win situations for all (Pacione, 2001a). Cities were efficient structures to harbor such activities and

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to form the necessary route network for trading. Urban places relied their subsistence on a much larger hinterland than rural villages. The difference between villages and urban places do not differ in population size and morphology only, but also in a different concentration of multiple activities, people and cultures in one place (Pacione, 2001a). Cities had advantages that were legally protected by privileges. During most of the history cities were manifestly walled and physically separated from the surrounding rural land. Cities rapidly became almost autonomous centers of innovation from which new ideas, technology and goods spread out over the trading world. The combination between the natural conditions of the settlement site and its possibility to grow lead to a unique development that gave almost each place its proper identity. Accessibility and adequate specialization were important factors of urban growth and decline (Antrop, 2000b).

Cities became centers of control over vast territories which sometimes became consolidated into states. They also formed the nodes in an international trade network. History shows that these were not stable constructions and core areas of power, economy and culture shifted from region to region (Jordan-Bychkov and Bychkova Jordan, 2002; Pregrill and Volkman, 1993). The shift of the urbanization, economical and cultural core area in Europe can easily be followed from the Eastern Mediterranean towards the North Sea (Fig. 1). 2.2. The pre-industrial phase: one city, many towns and a countryside Initially, only a limited number of urban places became real cities. The majority of settlements were small towns, villages and hamlets and the countryside

Fig. 1. Diffusion of urbanization through Europe. The early urbanization in Greek and Roman times expands form the Southeast from 700 b.c. to the border of Scotland in 400 a.d. Universities are created in the cities and indicate an expanding urbanization from the south before 1300 a.d. to the Northeast after 1500 a.d. The urban clusters from Northern Italy and Flanders in the 16th century shifts and expands around the North Sea in the 19th century (after Jordan-Bychkov and Bychkova Jordan, 2002; Pregrill and Volkman, 1993; Clark, 1992; Antrop, 1992; Jordan, 1973; base map and cities according to ArcView GIS Esridata).


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was everywhere. The city was the exception; the countryside the common. Mobility remained restricted and so were the daily travel distances. Long distance traveling happened in stages of several days or weeks and helped to shape the urban networks. It also stimulated specialization of disclosed places according to time distance to the major cities along the major trade or pilgrim routes. Two types of urban patterns developed: one primary city dominating a vast hinterland,

Table 1 Phases of innovation in transportation modes in Europe Innovation phased and periods 16th to early-17th century

and clusters of cities at relatively close distance. Good examples of the first type can be found in the 16th century with Paris, London, Lisbon, Naples, Constantinople and the Hanseatic towns such as Danzig and Novgorod. Examples of city clusters were found in medieval Flanders and Northern Italy (Clark, 1992). Although mutually competitive, these cities stimulated prosperity in the whole region and had important influence on the development of the countryside.

Transportation modes and infrastructure Barge boats; canals, canalized rivers, harbors

Comments and effects upon the landscape Fast expansion in early industrialization period; waterways initiate important landscape changes: fragmentation and new corridors; industrial development along. Dense network of waterways in England and the low countries. In the beginning of the 19th most of Western Europe is connected by inland waterways At the end of the 18th century, the travel time from the capital to the border is reduced by half in England and France. The new road network reflects the central or decentralized organized countries The railroad network spread from Northern England, covered Northwest Europe around 1850 and almost the whole of Europe by 1875. When doubling waterways, the railways take over the functionality Most capitals of Europe (except Balkan and Ireland) are connected by airways The first controlled access motorways are built in Germany Improvement of existing roads, new roads superimposing the existing network; extension of the motorway network follows international European cooperation. Fragmentation effects by roads increases rapidly Increasing sea traffic demands vast areas for storing transit goods and larger harbor infrastructures; mainly wetlands along river estuaries and coastal areas are reclaimed The diffusion follows international European cooperation. The transport volume of pipelines doubled between 1970 and 1990 Increasing mass transportation with an annual growth rate of approximately 10% between 1970 and 1990; indirect effect upon the fast development of new tourists resorts areas, mostly undeveloped coastal areas are affected First high speed railway (TGV) in France. The new railroads are characterized by a strong barrier effect in the landscape

18th century

New `royal' or `imperial' roads

1825 to ca. 1875

Railway railroad network

1919­1924 1930s 1960 onwards

Airplane Car Car

1960 onwards

Sea ports

1960 onwards

Energy lines: pipelines and power lines

1960 onwards


1980 onwards

High speed train new railroad network

Sources: Jordan-Bychkov and Bychkova Jordan (2002), Antrop (1999a), Stanners and Bourdeau (1995), Blockmans (1992).

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2.3. The first disclosure of the countryside: canals and the railway Gradually and certainly from the 18th century on, city walls were broken down and the urban agglomerations started to grow and to spread out. The fast population growth was linked to the development of industry and commerce in and around cities which caused an advantageous geographical situation favorable for the development of the new industries and international commercial networks. The historical identity and structure of the major growing cities changed abruptly, while others stagnated within their medieval walls. The fast growth lead to congestion within the old urban limits and a `spill-over' occurred into the surroundings, mainly following the access routes (Stern and Marsh, 1997; Lewis and Maund, 1976). First, the railroad and new waterways were crucial arteries for new development (Lucassen, 1992). Later, in particular after the Second World War, the generalized car use increased mobility dramatically, allowing rapid urban sprawl and the formation of suburbs and metropolitan villages (Antrop, 2000b) and edge cities (Holden and Turner, 1997). Consequently, the relations between the urban and the rural changed deeply. The mode of transportation determines largely the possibilities of movement and accessibility. Technology allowed an exponential increase of travel speed as well as the number of travelers. Important steps in the technological innovation of transportation modes are given in Table 1, as well as some specific impacts upon the landscape. Mobility of the masses starts with the railway and the steamship. They induce the rural to urban migrations as well as the massive emigration from Europe to the New World. The railway induced a selective disclosure of the countryside. Villages that received a station developed rapidly into urban-like centers and their surroundings changed accordingly. The early introduction of the automobile in Europe in the beginning of the 20th century was not only status symbol that was localized in the cities, but (as in the USA) an important means of the disclosure of the countryside (Dupuy, 1995). The massive individual movement started mainly after the Second World War when the automobile became the main transportation mode. Fast long distance transportation came along with airplanes

and later with the high-speed railway. It also stimulated new urban development in tourist resort areas that once were remote rural regions with limited access. All modes of transportation affected the landscapes in a particular way. Although the visual impact of the infrastructure upon the landscape is important, many other indirect effects are important as well (Antrop, 1999a). Improved accessibility stimulated development and increased the contrast with the isolated, not disclosed regions. Planning roads is not merely an economic task, but increasingly involves considering environmental aspects, such as ecological effects (Forman, 1998a,b) and scenic aspects (Viles and Rosier, 2001; Kent and Elliot, 1995; Preece, 1991). The mobility of people did not only change with increasingly faster modes of transportation; it was also conditioned by the spatial reorganization of the landscape, in particular as a consequence of previous urban sprawl and new accessibility opportunities.

3. Stages in urbanization 3.1. Cycles of urbanization and counterurbanization Several phases in the urbanization have been recognized (Champion, 2001; Geyer and Kontuly, 1993; Van der Berg et al., 1982; Klaassen et al., 1981). The urbanization phases are defined according to the combined growth and decline of the urban center and the urban fringe area (Fig. 2). The first phase (called `urbanization') consists of a concentration of the population in the city center by migration of the people

Fig. 2. Cyclic model of the stages of urbanization based upon the population change in core and fringe zone of urban agglomerations: U, urbanization; S, suburbanization; D, disurbanization or counterurbanization; R, reurbanization phase (after Klaassen et al., 1981; Van der Berg et al., 1982; Champion, 2001).


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from the fringe. The second phase (`suburbanization') still shows a growing population of the whole urban agglomeration, but the inner city loses population while the urban fringe zone is growing rapidly. The third phase (referred to as `counterurbanization' or `disurbanization') consists of the beginning decline of the urban population by loss of people in both center and fringe. The fourth phase (called `reurbanization') shows recovering of the population starting in the city center and later in the fringe zone. The 1970s are a turning point. It is the period where in many more developed regions with high levels of urbanization, a population turnaround is noticed resulting in a decline of population in the urban agglomeration and a stage of counterurbanization starts. Some models suggest a cyclic development of urbanization-- counterurbanization--reurbanization, which however has not been proven yet (Champion, 2001). An important problem here is the comparison between the evolution of different urban places, because of very different definitions of `urban place' and because mostly population data is used to compare the differential evolution. These data are aggregated by spatial units such as districts, which not always reflect the fast changing spatial structure city limits. In addition, cities evolve at different paces according to their own history and the geographical situation they are located in. 3.2. Urbanization as a diffusion process Urbanization is closely related to industrialization and economic growth and spread with the innovations caused by the Industrial revolution. Also, the consecutive phases of urbanization can be seen as a diffusions wave (Pacione, 2001a). Geyer and Kontuly (1993) introduced the concept of differential urbanization, which is very significant for understanding the change of the landscape in the countryside due to urbanization processes (Fig. 3). The phases of concentration and de-concentration of population in urban places should be considered as a diffusion wave that first affects the major cities and consecutively spreads towards smaller towns and settlements. The concept of differential urbanization suggests that urbanization gradually affects the whole countryside, which forms an interesting hypothesis for defining indicators and testing the results in landscape monitoring.

Fig. 3. Model of differential urbanization: U, urbanization phase of population concentration; C, counterurbanization with de-concentration of population; PR, population reversal. (1) Cycle of a primate city, (2 and 3) cycle of intermediate and small cities (after Geyer and Kontuly, 1993).

The change from one urbanization phase to another depends mainly upon changing land qualities, some of which are expressed in `hard' currency such as land price and availability of sufficient land for development. Others are more `soft' and relate to general perception and evaluation of the environment and landscape. Many factors determine the final assessment, such as accessibility, mobility, safety, crime, proximity of open green space, availability of services and nuisance. Many suburban allotments are recent and were developed in a short time. Traditional history of the place is lost in many cases and no new history or tradition could develop yet. Age structure of the population and architectural style are reflecting mainly one generation as well as their specific values. These values are seldom persistent and durable. When suburban land becomes fully built-up and traffic congestion increases, many of the initial values that attracted new people to settle here are lost (Antrop, 2000b). New residential settlement sites are searched in more remote, yet fast and easily accessible countryside. Smaller towns and villages are preferred and new exurbs emerge (Lucy and Philips, 1997). Urbanization is affecting increasingly the whole countryside and is no longer restricted to the urban fringe zones. 3.3. Thinking with functional urban regions Urban and rural settlements are fundamentally different, not only because of their difference in population size and thus density, but even more because of their differences in the way of living, in their cultural diversity and heterogeneous mix of activities

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(Paddison, 2001). The urban life style is gradually spreading even in small and remote rural settlements. When urbanites are spreading more loosely into the countryside, they change the traditional life style there

and make the distinction between urban and rural to become very diffuse. Nowadays, urban settlements consist of complex agglomerations of greatly varying buildings,

Fig. 4. Percentage of 241 functional urbanization regions of more than 330,000 inhabitants in Europe according to their urbanization phase by decades: (a) Northern Europe (UK Ireland, Denmark, West Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands), (b) France and Northern Italy, (c) Southern Europe. Circle indicates crossover period of between the urbanization and suburbanization phase (after Cheshire, 1995; Paddison, 2001).


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Fig. 4. (Continued ).

constructions and infrastructures forming mosaics of multifunctional use and with increasingly diffuse borders. Also, the surrounding countryside is affected by urbanization processes changing lifestyle, functions and morphology. This has lead to the introduction of some new concepts. Instead of using morphological agglomerations to define an urban place, the concept of functional urban regions (FURs) or the similar functional community areas were introduced to describe `units' of urban place (Frey and Zimmer, 2001). All are related to the interaction between cities and their interrelated rural space. FURs include built-up areas as well as the open space in between that is functionally related. The concept is an extension of the concept of metropolitan areas made applicable upon smaller urban places. Cheshire (1995) applied the concepts upon Europe and defined 241 FURs of more than 330,000 inhabitants for which the urbanization phase was evaluated in five time periods (Fig. 4). Northern Europe, France and Northern Italy and Southern Europe showed different trajectories and a clear shift in time according to the cycle of urbanization phases. Very indicative is the crossover point between the declining urbanization phase and increasing proportion of FURs coming in the phase of disurbanization. For Northern Europe,

this crossover is situated early in the 1950s­1960s (Fig. 4a), in France and Northern Italy this happens around the 1970s (Fig. 4b) and in Southern Europe between 1975 and 1980 (Fig. 4c). This demonstrates that the urbanization affects the countryside very differently according to geographical region and time. Indicators of urbanization such as the proportion of the population living in urban places, and the application of general evolution models should be used with extreme caution.

4. Patterns of landscape change 4.1. The countryside in the urban shadow of large cities Large cities show most characteristic patterns of star-shaped urban sprawl (Antrop, 2000b). Most urban development starts along the main access roads. When congestion occurs new peripheral motorways are built, which stimulates the development of edge cities characterized by new commercial and industrial activities. Between these lobes of urban development, wedges of remarkably untouched countryside can remain. This phenomenon has been explained by the `urban

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implosion' in time­space as larger urban places tend to develop better connections amongst each other while the accessibility of smaller places nearby diminishes (Haggett, 1975). Rural areas close to cities falling in such an `urban shadow' (Bryant et al., 1982) do not change fast and the countryside gains in open-space value because of its lack of urban environment nearby. The case of Brussels is very illustrative (Fig. 5) and shows that even at close distance to the larger city center, a visually intact traditional countryside can exist.

Although the landscape still has a rural appearance, however, it has been urbanized functionally. Urbanites come to settle in former farms and restaurants, and cafe's in the village centers emerge, attracting weekend recreants massively. The visual qualities of the rural landscape are important in the assessment and urbanites search sceneries reflecting their mental conception of an unspoilt Arcadian countryside as opposed to urban image (Kolen and Lemaire, 1999; Van Zeylen, 1994; Mosser and Teyssot, 1991).

Fig. 5. Urban sprawl from a major city illustrating the urban shadow and urban implosion. Example of Brussels (Belgium): (a) land use map from satellite image classification--black and dark gray, built-up areas; light gray, forest, white rural land; (b) phases of urban development--(0) valley of the Zenne river as main physical structure for Brussels site and development, (1) 15th to 16th century walled city, (2) 19th to early-20th century expansion, (3) post-1950 expansion, (4) main access motorways and peripheral motorway, (5) techno pole development towards the airport, (6) emerging edge cities; (c) distance zones from historical city center; (d) traditional landscape near Gaasbeek in the urban shadow of Brussels ((a) Land Use Map of Flanders, Support Center of GIS-Flanders, 1990).


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4.2. Urbanized villages The urbanization pattern of rural village becoming a metropolitan village is completely different (Pacione, 2001b). The disclosure of the place for transportation is of utmost importance here. The example of the village of Drongen (Flanders, Belgium) is illustrative (Fig. 6). It is localized approximately 5 km west of the city of Ghent, a comparable distance as the village of Gaasbeek in the previous case study of Brussels. However, it was disclosed early by the railway and is

situated on a main access road to the city, which became very important when connected to the main motorway E40. It expanded first as a dormitory town in the suburban fringe of Ghent. Traffic congestion of the principal transit road decreased the environmental and living qualities and a new larger peripheral road was built to solve that problem. However, this improved the accessibility and attracted even more new residential, commercial and industrial development around the access nodes of the motorway and along the older secondary roads. A typical complex and multifunctional

Fig. 6. Urbanization processes in an metropolitan village (Drongen, near Ghent, Belgium). The old village center is composed of an abbey (a) situated at the edge of the alluvial plain of the Lys river, associated with a rural village along an ancient road (R1) from Ghent to the West; early-20th century development of the village (b) and disclosure by the railway station (s). The road through the village center became a major access road from the city of Ghent to the E40 motorway, at the connection (f) developed an industrial zone, traffic congestion in the village center lead to the building of a peripheral road (R2), which increased accessibility causing new urban sprawl into the countryside following older secondary roads going north filling the arable land (1, 2 and 3) while the wet valley land remained untouched; improved access initiated new commerce and activity zones (4), even enhanced by new access possibilities of the peripheral motorway R4 along the new ring-canal around the city of Ghent (g) (Orthophotomap of Flanders, 1990, Eurosense N.V./Support Center GIS-Flanders).

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Fig. 7. Cross-roads in the remote countryside attract commercial activities and initiate urbanization.

suburban landscape emerged. It is interesting to note the asymmetry of the development: the site of the village of Drongen was on an ancient road following the high grounds longing the alluvial valley of the

Lys river. The initial rural village had its open-field cropland stretching upon the well-drained soils to the north, while the wetland along the river was used as hay land and a hedgerow landscape developed. This

Fig. 8. Remote rural villages that become `opened' by improved accessibility will explode. Video and computer shops rise next to traditional farms (Kastelli, central Crete).


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rich landscape diversity still is one of the important qualities of the actual urbanized village. Rural open space and natural green areas are always close for its inhabitants and easily accessible for the inhabitants of the nearby city of Ghent. 4.3. Remote rural villages Improved accessibility also initiated urbanization processes in the remote countryside. Most striking is the new urban development in `the middle of nowhere' at the crossing of new or improved roads (Fig. 7). The easy and fast access and the availability of cheap open space rapidly attract new small industries, commerce and exhibition halls, hotels and restaurants. Remote rural villages `where time stood still', suddenly `explode' when disclosed by a new or improved road as the case of Kastelli in the mountainous inland of Crete illustrates (Fig. 8). Morphological and functional urbanization suddenly and simultaneously invade the traditional rural village, causing profound social, economic and cultural changes. A wide spread form of this type of development occurs when rural places are `discovered' by tourism. According to the initial structure of the village, its geographical context and properties of the improved accessibility, different patterns of urbanization of rural villages can be recognized (Fig. 9) (Van Eetvelde and Antrop, 2001). Besides expanding the built-up area, new, more scattered patterns can emerge, such as the `beady ring' pattern (Saunders, 2001; Hillier and Hanson, 1984), or extended development in the vicinity of the rural village that remains rather untouched. Axial extension occurs when the new development follows the corridor with improved accessibility. Also, the functional differentiation within the new development can differ a lot. Expanding the village can be mainly residential (Fig. 9a) or really `explode' by multiple new functions coming in and disturbing the original structure (Fig. 9c) as in the Kastelli case. Villages in the remote countryside that are not disclosed by new and fast roads suffer of severe isolation in modern society and might become gradually abandoned. In agricultural fertile regions, scale enlargement in agriculture and concentration of population in larger settlements is one trend (Vos and Klijn, 2000). In regions where land suitability for agriculture is less

Fig. 9. Some models of changing patterns of rural villages in Europe due to urbanization processes in the countryside: (a) expanded, (b) axial extended, (c) exploded, (d) beady ring development, (e) satellite extension. Circle indicates old village center; different hatches indicate different building styles and land uses.

favorable, forest and wasteland take over (Vos and Stortelder, 1992).

5. The importance of urbanization 5.1. Urban population and urban land Although most of the population is living in cities, only one percent of the land area of Europe is estimated to be urban (Table 2). However, comparable data about the built-up land are rare and hard to find. It is significant that the HABITAT reports (United Nations Center for Human Settlement, 1996, 2001) do not give any data about the areas occupied by urban settlements. The high level of urbanization in the world is a recent phenomenon that was initiated by the industrial

M. Antrop / Landscape and Urban Planning 67 (2004) 9­26 Table 2 Main land use/land cover categories in Europe (after Van de Velde et al., 1994 in Stanners and Bourdeau, 1995) Land use/land cover Forest Extensive agriculture, natural areas and mixed land use Arable land Permanent crops Grassland Urban Area (%) 33 24 24 16 2 1


Table 3 Types of functional urban areas in Europe (after the Study Programme on European Spatial Planning (SPESP), 2000) Regions dominated by a large metropolis Polycentric regions with high urban and rural densities Polycentric regions with high urban densities Rural areas under metropolitan influence Rural areas with networks of medium-sized and small towns Remote rural areas

revolution and many accompanying social, cultural, economical, political and military changes, which caused profound changes in our society. Estimates indicate a level of urbanization in the world of only 1.6% around a.d. 1600 and 2.2% at the beginning of the 19th century and this is estimated to fluctuate between 4 and 7% in the mid-19th century (United Nations Center for Human Settlement, 1996, 2001). The first accelerated increase of urbanization was noted in the early industrializing regions of Northern America and Western Europe. Today, in most of these regions the degree of urbanization, expressed as the percentage of the population living in urban places, exceeds 80% where it seems to stabilize between 80 and 90% (Fig. 10). Although, the population growth in these developed countries is generally decreasing, cities and towns are still slightly growing, while the rural population is dropping down rapidly. An annual loss of 1.5% in rural population is expected in these more developed regions (Frey and Zimmer, 2001).

Consequently, most of the thinking and planning of the land use and organizing the landscape is nowadays done by urbanites. The concept, vision, values and utility of the rural land and the countryside is nowadays largely defined by people living and working in the city. The significance and function of the countryside has changed profoundly since urbanization started in the 19th century. The future rural countryside will be planned in function of the needs of the urbanites. This new approach becomes already clear when looking at the types of FUAs in Europe and the relationship between the urban and the rural proposed in the final report of Study Program on European Spatial Planning (SPESP, 2000) (Tables 3 and 4). 5.2. Lack of reliable data The level of urbanization of a country is expressed as the percentage of the population living in urban places and is the complement of the `rural' population living in smaller settlements. Usually, two criteria are used for the definition of an urban place: population size and spatial clustering of their housing. However, the definition and delineation of an urban place varies a lot between countries. For example, in the USA a

Table 4 Types of relations or partnership between urban and rural formulated in the SPESP (2000) Home­work relationships Central place relationships Relationships between metropolitan areas and urban centers in rural and intermediate areas (in fact, urban hierarchy) Relationship between rural and urban enterprises Rural areas as consumption areas for urban dwellers Rural areas as open spaces for urban areas Rural areas as carriers of urban infrastructure Rural areas as suppliers of natural resources for urban areas (example: water)

Fig. 10. Evolution of the level of urbanization in the main European regions between 1950 and 2030 (after United Nations Center for Human Settlement (HABITAT), 1996, 2001).


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Fig. 11. Belgium has an urbanization level of 97.3% and an average population density of 330 inhabitants/km2 . However, the spatial distribution is very uneven as shown on the map where areas of over 500 inhabitants/km2 reveal a dense pattern of many small and medium urban places. The average population density in the northern part (Flanders) is over 400 inhabitants/km2 , while in the southern part (Wallonia) densities of less than 50 inhabitants/km2 indicate an almost empty countryside (after Van Hecke, 1991 in Antrop, 1999b).

settlement of more than 2500 inhabitants is considered as urban, in France an agglomeration of contiguous housing with more than 2000 inhabitants is an urban place, while more than 10,000 inhabitants are needed in Portugal to consider a settlement agglomeration as urban. There is no point in the continuum from large agglomerations to small clusters or scattered dwellings where urbanity disappears and rurality begins (United Nations Center for Human Settlement, 1996). Thus, the division between urban and rural is necessarily arbitrary. Moreover, urban agglomerations seldom coincide with administrative boundaries and their areas change rapidly. This makes it even more difficult to use criteria as population size and density to define urban places, as most census data rely on administrative spa-

tial units. These problems are well illustrated with the Belgian situation (Antrop, 1999b). Belgium had the highest urbanization level in 2000 with 97.3%. However, the population density map based upon census districts (Fig. 11) shows densely scattered urban places and a clear difference between the northern part (Flanders) and the southern part (Wallonia). The average population density of more than 400 inhabitants/km2 and the spatial pattern of numerous towns and urbanized villages make Flanders a highly urbanized region. Wallonia on the contrary shows a concentration of dense urban settlement in the old industrial belt, but most of the region is almost empty, indicated by an average population density of less than 50 inhabitants/km2 . Clearly, general and aggregated data

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Fig. 12. Dense road networks fragment the open rural land and enforce the urbanization of the countryside; the example of Flanders (Belgium): the major roads and railways occupy 102,640 ha which is 7.6% of the land area (after Streetnet Light, Support Center GIS-Flanders and Master Plan Mobility Flanders, Ministry of the Flemish Community, 2001).

about the level of urbanization are not related to landscape patterns and should be used with extreme care. Urban and industrial areas are highly dynamic and changes occur rapidly. Also the pace seems still to accelerate. Reliable and actual land use data is needed for policy making and planning for the fast growing mega cities in the world and for the depopulating rural areas. Census data is mostly based upon administrative units, which change rapidly and do no

longer reflect the characteristics of the fast changing land units they represent. Monitoring of environmental quality often uses networks for measuring mainly data about air and water quality and waste deposits, but no generally accepted and systematic monitoring of the land use and landscape exists (Stanners and Bourdeau, 1995). The European Landscape Convention (Council of Europe, 2000) and many other initiatives (Jongman et al., 2000) stress the urgent need

Fig. 13. Severe fragmentation due to urbanization breaks the traditional cultural landscapes into numerous unconnected relics of countryside; the example of Flanders (Belgium): relic zones of traditional landscapes (light gray) occupy 36% of the area and highly valuable core areas (dark gray) occupy 16%. Average size of relic zones is 1029 and 580 ha for the core areas (after the Landscape Atlas of Flanders, 2001).


M. Antrop / Landscape and Urban Planning 67 (2004) 9­26

for landscape inventorying and monitoring. Remote sensing and the use of satellite imagery offer interesting possibilities for monitoring changes in land cover in a synoptic view. However, in the heterogeneous and fine grained suburban and industrial landscapes, which are characterized by a strong fragmentation by transportation infrastructure, only sub-5 m-resolution offers satisfactory results to map the land cover in such a way the real land use can be deduced from. Also, many differences exist in the definition of urban land use and built-up land, giving strongly differing results (Antrop and Van Eetvelde, 2000). How much land is urbanized? How much traditional landscapes are affected? These questions remain difficult to answer as they depend largely upon the scale of the inventories are carried out. The example of Flanders (Belgium) illustrates how the well-connected countryside becomes fragmented by urbanization related developments in densely populated regions. Nevertheless, even when inventories of built-up land and infrastructures result in maps where almost all the rural seems to have disappeared (Figs. 11 and 12), specific landscape inventories indicate that still many valuable fragments of traditional landscapes remain and demand special attention (Fig. 13) (Antrop, 2001, Tack and Van den Bremt, 2001).

accepted and integrated as part of the local landscape character. Important research, planning issues and questions arise. What to do with the traditional cultural landscapes? The general principle that landscape structures and functioning continuously interact (Forman and Godron, 1986) applies here as well. It seems that elements and structures that are no longer functional for the new needs of the majority of the population living in cities, will disappear. So, what will be the future of the past? How to plan and manage the emerging `interurban' multifunctional landscapes? How to assess the character or identity of a changing landscape and decide what is valuable for the future and might become traditional or heritage? There is a need to shift from a created landscape to a designed environment. This can be achieved in a responsible and sustainable manner only when reliable data and meaningful indicators become available. Therefore, monitoring landscape changes, including the new complex and urbanized ones, is urgently needed.

Acknowledgements I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Margareta Ihse and Prof. Dr. Ülo Mander, the organizers of the IALE 2001 European Conference on the Development of European Landscapes, for inviting me to present this topic at the plenary session. I would also like to thank the Ministry of the Flemish Community and the Support Center of GIS Flanders for the maps and orthophotos in Figs. 5 and 6.

6. Conclusions Urbanization is primarily a complex of functional changes, followed by morphological and structural ones. It occurs near cities as well as in the rural countryside. It should be regarded as a diffusion wave of changing life-style mainly controlled by the changing accessibility of places offering new opportunities. Urbanization causes a polarization of space by changing population densities, economical activities and mobility. Remote rural areas with poor accessibility become abandoned and in many cases forests expand. The countryside that is affected by urbanization becomes a complex intensively and multifunctional used space within a larger urban network frame. Traditional landscapes with their ecological and cultural values become highly fragmented and gradually lose their identity. Regional landscape diversity decreases and a new diversity emerges with land use designed for urbanites. Many of these changes are gradually


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M. Antrop / Landscape and Urban Planning 67 (2004) 9­26 Vos, W., Klijn, J., 2000. Trends in European landscape development: prospects for a sustainable future. In: Klijn, J., Vos, W. (Eds.), From Landscape Ecology to Landscape Science. Kluwer Academic Publishers, WLO, Wageningen, pp. 13­30. Vos, W., Stortelder, A.H.F., 1992. Vanishing Tuscan landscapes, landscape ecology of a sub-mediterrann-montane area (Solano basin, Tuscany, Italy). Pudoc, Wageningen. Marc Antrop (1946) is geographer specialized in landscapes sciences, remote sensing, GIS and planning. He is professor lecturing at the University of Ghent (Belgium, Flanders) and at the moment head of the Department of Geography. His interest in the landscape is broad and holistic, covering and integrating aspects of landscape genesis (in particular, focusing upon the natural and cultural aspects of the European landscapes), landscape perception, landscape evaluation and land assessment, landscape ecology and landscape architecture. Practical application of this knowledge is achieved in planning and environmental impact assessment and monitoring land degradation. His main work areas are Belgium, France, the Mediterranean, Egypt and Central Europe. His main research field are actually the elaboration of the survey of the relicts of traditional landscapes of Flanders, the elaboration of methods for strategic environmental impact assessment (SEA) and the development of new structural spatial planning. He is member of the Royal Committee for Protection of Monuments and Landscapes in Flanders and vice-president for the division of landscape protection. He is a consultant for the Flemish and Belgian government on the field of environmental impact assessment and the implementation of GIS in administration, environmental policy and planning and is member of the Scientific GIS Committee.

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