HL/SL – Urban Environments

Urban China

Dubai Centre

City Solutions Infinity Pool

  • This optional theme considers urban environments (cities) as places of intense human interactions.


  • They are focal points of production, wealth generation and consumption.
  • Cities share common characteristics and processes irrespective of the national level of development.
  • They show diversity in patterns of wealth and deprivation, which can result in conflict.
  • Transport improvements have led to rapid growth and shifts in population and economic activities, which produces stresses and challenges for planners.
  • This theme will also explore ideas of sustainability, where a city is regarded as a system, with inputs and outputs that need to be managed.
  • At least two case studies should be used to discuss the idea of sustainable city management and the urban ecological footprint.
  • At least one case study of socially sustainable housing, environmentally sustainable pollution management and the control of rapid city growth from in-migration needs to be evaluated.
  • These case studies will take up at least one third of the teaching time on this unit.

The definitions of the terms used in studying this theme, urban environments, vary from one source to another. To avoid confusion, the following definitions are used and expected of students.

Brownfield site —this refers to abandoned, derelict, or under-used industrial buildings and land, which may be contaminated but has potential for redevelopment.

Counter-urbanization —a process involving the movement of population away from inner urban areas to a new town, a new estate, a commuter town or a village on the edge or just beyond the city limits / rural — urban fringe.

Re-urbanization — the development of activities to increase residential population densities within the existing built-up area of a city. This may include the re-development of vacant land and the refurbishment of housing and the development new business enterprises.

Suburb — a residential area within or just outside the boundaries of a city.

Suburbanization — the outward growth of towns and cities to engulf surrounding villages and rural areas. This may result from the out-migration of population from the inner urban area to the suburbs or from inward rural—urban movement.

Sustainable urban management strategy — an approach to urban management that seeks to maintain and improve the quality of life for current and future urban dwellers. Aspects of management may be social (housing quality, crime ) economic ( jobs, income ) and environmental ( air, water, land and resources).

Urbanization — the process by which an increasing percentage of a country’s population c omes to live in towns and cities. It may involve both rural—urban migration and natural increase.

Urban sprawl— the unplanned and uncontrolled physical expansion of an urban area into the surrounding countryside. It is closely linked to the process of suburbanization.

For all sections of this optional theme (unless stated otherwise), two case studies of cities/large urban areas must be studied in two countries at contrasting levels of development.


For both introduction and review, go to the BBC Bitesize site on Urban Environments


You might also consider a visit to the URBAN EARTH project.

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