I. van Zelm
- Polycentricity, households and the identity of places.
- Urban Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 38 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Recently, the use of the term polycentric or polynuclear urban region has clearly increased greatly in the European urban (planning) literature and also in policy documents. Literally, polycentricity in urban form refers to nothing more than the existence of more than one centre in a city, region or other geographical unit. It is not surprising to find that many more specific elements have been added to this rather broad and empty definition. These additions are strongly contingent on the viewpoint of researchers, especially with respect to the geographical unit that is being referred to. In this contribution, the different concepts and definitions are discussed from the perspective of changing households and related changes in activity patterns and residential preferences. We argue that, from a household perspective, polycentric urban regions the size of the Randstad or Rhine Ruhr area are too large to constitute relevant geographical units. However, at more local spatial level, the notion of polycentricity is relevant. Rather than focusing on the size of the urban region too much, we believe it makes sense to look at residential milieus. Over recent decades, households have diversified and have, on average, become more affluent and mobile, resulting in increased opportunities for choosing both a house and a residential environment. Simultaneously, polycentric milieus with different sub-milieus have emerged. In this contribution, it is argued that, together, these developments have made the functional uniqueness and complementarity of places more important. Therefore, the unique, spatially bounded qualities of places should play a more prominent part in the development of residential environments in polycentric urban areas than they do at present. Data from the Netherlands are applied to illustrate our viewpoint
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