Tema 3. Settlement

1. What is a settlement?

A settlement is a place where people live.

A settlement may be as a single house in a remote area or as a large as a mega city.

A settlement may be permanent or temporary .

1. Settlement site and situation.

The piece of land upon which a settlement is built is the settlement site.

Some common site factors include:

Wet point sites: have a good water supply

Dry point sites: these are away from the risk of flooding 

Defensive site: locate in higher ground so in the past enemie could be seen from a distance.

Aspect : settlements are often found on the sunny side of a deep valley.

Shelter: From cold prevailing winds and rain.

Resources: Important for industry.

Trading centres: Often settlements grow where natural route ways and rivers meet, which helps the development of roads, railways and canals.

2. Settlement functions

Most large settlements in MEDCs are multifuncional and perform a range of functions such as retail, educations and industry.


– Port. 

– Market town.

– Resort.

– Natural resources.

1.1. Settlement hierarchies.

The number of services that a settlement provides increases with settlement size.

The range of a service or product is the maximum distance people are prepared to travel to purchase it. The range of a newspaper is much lower that an item of fourniture for example.

2. Urban settlements.

A City is a built up area that has a high population density, major activity of tertiary and secondary sectors and a variety of functions.

2.1. History of the city.

– The first cities: They surge after the Neolithic revolution, and made it linked to opportunities to generate agricultural surpluses. The first cities in the river valleys and in mild climates ; These cities are characterized by walled areas, a concentrated hamlet and they always include a palace and a temple (in the main area of the city).

– The city in Greece and Rome: its main innovation are the public spaces, reflection of a greater social equality. The urban trace would also be different because now. Is a grid or checkerboard .The Romans also created the first major public infrastructures. Drains, aqueducts…

– The medieval city: the medieval Christian city is organized around the cathedral and its markets. The site is due primarily to the defense and new walled and rings are built. The city enjoyes a legar status, the result of the struggle between the monarchy and the feudal lords.

The industrial city:it derives from the industrialization and among its main features we can notice:

• Altering the urban landscape.

• Densification, risking social segregation with the emergence of working-class

neighborhoods and marginal areas.

• The growth of cities that create networks and sometimes specialize.

• These cities are diffusers for the social changes.

• There is a removal of physical and legal limits.

In this situation, since the late 19th century planning solutions are adopted like garden cities (of Ebezener Howard), the “newtowns” or the linear cities (Spanish project leaded by Arturo Soria). These solutions are designed to decongest the city center, they create green or service-oriented areas and they help the communications.

The post-industrial city: it aims to be a sustainable city, that should use government intervention to the problems of energy, transport and waste. There is also a process to reorganize the space and expand the frontiers:

1. Suburbanization: it is the development of the outer suburbs and the degradation (sometimes) of the city center.

2. counter-urbanisation (in Spanish: rururbanización): it means supporting the

residence in the rural areas but with urban inhabitants and functions.

3. Redevelopment: it focus on the rehabilitation of the old part of the cities/towns

2.2. Morphology.

The Urban landscape is the result of the interaction of three variables.

1. Firstly the street plan, heir of the history and physical geography.

– Irregular: It is the one in which there is no pre-planning.

– Orthogonal (grid or h¡checkerboard)

– Radio centric: It is organized around a ventral feature of the city, usually a square, from where the main roads starts. And distribute as wheel strokes. Other major streets are arranged in circles around the central space.

– Others: Lineal, mixed…

2. Secondly, the building typology. It includes the housing types, squares…

3. Finally the land utilization. It means if the land is industrial, residential, for leisure.

The result of te urban form will help to destinguish different areas:

– The old town: From the Middle Ages, with an aging population and problems of marginalization.

– The widening: is what came after the demolition of the ancient/medieval walls. It emerged after industrialization and has an orthogonal plan. Currently it is fully dedicated to the tertiary sector, with significant traffic problems.

– The periphery (inner city): it is heterogeneous and includes from absorbed municipalities (for example, the neighborhood of Gracia in Barcelona) to industrial areas or developments, usually presenting needs for equipment and public transport.

– Suburban area: it can include malls, belts, food markets, treatment plants and residential areas.

– Suburban area: it can include malls, belts, food markets, treatment plants and residential areas.

2.3. Intercity relations.

Cities are also related to other urban centers forming a hierarchical network of cities ranging from the ones with local importance to cities of global importance.

– Regional metropolis: medium-sized cities with specialized services (administration, hospital, university and industrial area) serving to one region.

– National Metropolis: the big cities of the country, with international projection.

They have highly specialized services and centers of political and economic decision.

– Global Metropolis: they are centers of global economic and political power, as Tokyo, New York or London.

A megacity : Is an urban settlement with a very high population density and big sides that also plays a very important role in the international political and economical scenery.

2.4. Urban models in MEDCs

– Inner city : Manyinner city areas declined in the late 20th century and have undergone a period of regeneration in recent years, investors and improved to appeal to young professionals who need access to the CBD. This is called gentrification.

2.4. Urban models In LEDCs

LEDCs have similar land-use needs to MEDCs, but the pattern of land use in urban areas is different.

In LEDCs the poorest housing is found on the edge of the city.

The CBD in an LEDC looks very similar to a CBD in an MEDC.

Transport networks in LEDCs are not as well developed as MEDCs so the journey to work is a major consideration when deciding where to live.

FABELAS: thousand of poor people live there (Rio de Janeiro)

A sustainable city offers a good quality of life to current residents but doesn’t reduce the opportunities for future residents to enjoy.

The key features of a sustainable city are:

–  Resources and services in the city are accessible to all

– Public transport is seen as a viable alternative to cars, and is safe and reliable

– Walking and cycling is safe

– Areas of open space are safe, accessible and enjoyable

– Wherever possible, renewable resources are used instead of non-renewable


– Waste is seen as a resource and is recycled wherever possible

– New homes are energy efficient

– There is access to affordable housing

– Community links are strong and communities work together to deal with issues Such as crime and security.


Nearly two million people live there. The city has had an urban master plan since the 1968. The master plan includes social, economic and environmental programmes. It includes:

– Creating and retaining parks and green space beside the rivers.

– The green spaces being dedicated to different ethnic and immigrant groups.

– Urban growth is restricted to corridors of growth 

– A bus rapid transit system operates.

– The bus rapid transit system uses triple section bendy buses

– Lighthouses of Knowledge. These are free educational and internet centres

– A green exchange programme

– COHAB, the public housing programme.


There are different types of rural area, depending on how accessible they are to urban areas. Rural areas are subject to changes caused by economic, environmental and social factors

3.1. Pressures in rural areas.

– Decline in primary employment:One key activity in rural areas is agriculture. The number of workers has reduced in this activity because of mechanisation.

– Rural urban migration:As employment declines in the countryside people move to urban areas to find work.

– Commuting areas: In MEDCs some people move out of urban areas to benefit from cheaper housing and more green space. Improvements in transport have allowed this to happen.

– Retirement homes:In MEDCs many people move home when they retire. they may downsize into a smaller home, or move to a quieter environment.

– Second homes: This pushes up the price of homes in the area and also means fewer homes available for the local residents.

– Land use:Forest clearance, mining and cash crops all put pressure on rural areas.

– Infrastructure: Roads are built in rural areas to help the movement of people to and from urban areas. In places like the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, this has put pressure on the ecosystem, and has allowed greater access by farmers into fragile areas.