Central place theory..

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A-Level Geography Seminar
Central Place Theory:
The Theory, its limitations
and Applications
Dr Jianfa Shen
Department of Geography and Resource Management
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
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Content
1. Concept of urban systems
2. The central place theory
3. Limitations
4. Applications
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Urban system in Guangdong
(54 cities by total population in 1998)
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Concept of settlement
 Settlement:
forms of human habitation
 Village
 Town
 City
 Criteria
 Size of population and built-up area, population
density
 Employment in secondary and tertiary sectors
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Concept of urban systems
 Systems
of cities: urban systems
 The law of the primate city
 The rank-size rule
 The central place theory
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Central place theory:
Basic concepts




Developed by Walter Christaller in 1933 “Central Places in southern
Germany”.
It is a deductive theory to explain the number, location, size, spacing and
functions of settlements in terms of the services they performed for
surrounding hinterlands.
Central place: a service center, a settlement providing a range of goods and
services to the surrounding areas.
Centrality: the functions or services provided by central place.
 The higher the centrality of a central place is, the more the variety of services
and the higher the order of services it provides.

Hinterlands: the market areas covered by the services of central places that
may include smaller central places.
 The higher the centrality of a central place is, the larger the hinterland.
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Assumption of idealized
landscape




An uniform transportation surface, the relative accessibility between any
two points is a direct function of their distance.
Population is evenly distributed.
The goods and services are only provided in central places
Each point has an equal chance of receiving a central place
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Service ranges
 Upper limit of the range:

 the maximum distance (r) a consumer will travel to a
center to obtain goods, the maximum area to be served
from a center will be a circular region of radius r.
Lower limit of the range:
 the minimum radius (r’) of a circular service area with
sufficient population (threshold population) to generate
sufficient demands to make the central place economically
viable to provide the service.
Example:
Key maker services
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Service ranges

Lower-order service
 Smaller upper limit and lower limit
 Smaller market area
 Low-order center

Higher-order service
 Larger upper limit and lower limit
 Larger market area
 High-order center

The size of market area will be between the lower and upper
limits
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System based on the marketing principle
 Marketing
principle :
 a. There should be a minimum number of central places of
all sizes so that trade profits could be maximized;
 b. The whole population of the area should be supplied
with all goods and services.
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Market areas: Circle or square?
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Market areas: Hexagon?
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Deriving the highest-order
central places
The upper limit of the highest order services is used to obtain
the area for central places ranked ‘B’ to meet marketing
principle a ;
 Each central place serves a circular area with radius ‘r’ and
the distance between any two central places is 2r; but some
areas are not served;
 To meet marketing principle b, a modified structure of
overlapping circles is necessary. Assume consumers go to the
nearest central place, exclusive regular hexagonal areas are
obtained as the service areas for B centers.

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Deriving the lower-order
central places
For goods and services with a smaller upper limit of range (e),
some areas cannot be served by B centers, thus lower-order K
centers are needed;
 To be most competitive with B centers, these K centers will be
located in the center of areas not served with maximum
distance to all B centers;
 These K centers are also the corners of the hexagonal areas of
B centers;
 Each B center service area will cover three K center service
areas, this was called k=3 framework.

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Central Place Theory
K=3
Marketing
principle
K=7
Administration
principle
K=4
Transport
principle
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System based on the
transportation principle
 Transportation
principle:
 Lower-order centers will develop along the transportation
lines linking the higher-order centers.
 K centers will locate in the middle of the transportation
link between any two B centers;
 Each B center service area covers four service areas of K
centers, this was called k=4 framework.
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System based on the
administration principle
 Administration
principle:
 The service areas of K centers should be COMPLETELY
contained by a service area of B center;
 Each B center service area covers 7 service areas of K
centers, this is called k=7 framework.
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Contributions of central place theory
 It
defines the ideal pattern of central places and
explains why an urban hierarchy may exist in the
reality.
 A small number of high-order centers serve large
hinterland;
 Many low-order centers serve small hinterland.
 It
provides a basis for planning the size and spacing
of centers in newly-developing areas.
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Limitations
An uniform transportation surface, the relative accessibility
between any two points is a direct function of their distance.
 In reality, there are transport routes and natural barriers
like rivers and coastal lines. Accessibility is different over
space
 Population is evenly distributed.
 In reality, population density is uneven. Other than
services, population is also related to manufacturing
activities.

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Limitations

Each point has an equal chance of receiving a central place
 Physical conditions, historical legacy and government policy may
favour particular locations.
 Above factors will distort the ideal size, location and spacing of central
places.

Highest-order center offers all the low-order services
 Some low-order service may not be offered in highest-order center

The centers of the same order will offer same range of
services
 The services offered by the centers of the same order may be different
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Limitations
 Discrete
distribution of the size of central places
 Number of central places by order in K=3 system
 1, 2, 6, 18, 54, 162, 486, …
 Real
urban system is the result of SPACIAL
PROCESSES and the Physical, Historical conditions
and Policies.
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Applications
 The
impact of increased population density or
increased income of population
 Consumer expenditure will increase
 Further high-order services will be required
 Increase the potential number of levels of hierarchy
 Increase the degree of functional specialization of the
highest-order center
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Applications
 The
impact of improved transportation on central
place system
 Population mobility increased
 People are willing to travel longer to obtain services
 Market area of a central place will expand
 Restructuring of central places, some have to be closed.
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Case 1: Settlement system in Zhejiang, China
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Case 2: Urban system in Hong Kong
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Shopping center planning in HK
 Metropolitan
Centers
 Catchment population: Whole HK and tourists
 Range of goods: consumer durable goods, many
banks and commercial services, cinemas, theatres,
restaurants, entertainment and social facilities.
 Examples: located at Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and
Causeway Bay
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Shopping center planning in HK
 Regional
Centers
 Catchment population: 250,000 to 1,000,000
 Range of goods: department stores/supermarkets,
many ancillary services, i.e. banks, restaurants,
cinemas, theatres and other social facilities
 Examples: new town centers. Typical centers may
range from 50,000 to 250,000 sq.m.
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Shopping center planning in HK
 District
Centers
 Catchment population: 50,000 to 250,000
 Range of goods: limited entertainment and social
facilities, but significant concentrations of retail
facilities and restaurants
 Examples: medium-scale shopping centers of
town-wide or district significance, Wan Chai in
the urban area and Kam Tin in NT. Typical centers
may range from 10,000 to 50,000 sq.m.
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Shopping center planning in HK
Local
Centers
Catchment population: less than 50,000
Range of goods: small-scale concentrations
of shops for local retail services and
restaurants, such as in Fung Tak Estate and
Tai Yuen Estate. Local centers are less than
10,000 sq.m.

Source: HK Planning Standards and Guidelines,
http://www.info.gov.hk/planning/tech_doc/hkpsg/index_e.htm
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Thank you !
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