The increase in population over the last century globally has triggered a transformation in urban areas, where about fifty percent of the global population reside. With numerous reasons leading to forming cities with diverse contexts, a single factor alone can’t explain urbanism. 

What peri-urban looks like around the world? - Sheet1
A visualization of peri-urban and urban areas_©

Cities then had a prerequisite of practicing agriculture to aid city development, leading to dense and settled populations. Therefore, a good environment and strong social organization are two necessities for forming a lively city. Centres can thrive in various situations and contexts. They could be political centres or part of important trade-routes initiating the migration of people from all over. Researchers have categorized growing cities into structure models, resembling the pattern of their development.

Cities, which are known to be urban, naturally grow by expansion, immigration, and succession.

What peri-urban looks like around the world? - Sheet2
A concentric zone model comprising: 1. Central Business District; 2. lIght manufacturing and wholesale; 3. Low-class residential; 4. Middle-class residential; 5. High-class residential; 6. Heavy manufacturing and industrial suburbs_©

According to Rumi Aijaz, in his paper on India’s peri-urban areas, describes them as “fringe areas of cities or adjoining rural areas which are intrinsically linked to the city/urban economy, experience constant transformation and characterized by a mix of urban and rural activities.”

Some common characteristics include intensive crop production in small farms, rapid residential occupation, inadequate public utilities and services and speculative building. These trends can be observed in third world countries at the very least.

What peri-urban looks like around the world? - Sheet3
The city of Tamale_©

Tamale, the regional commercial capital of Ghana attracts migrants from the northern region. The peri-urban area is composed of agriculture-based and manufacturing industries with migrant settlements. Suffering from urban sprawl causes loss of agricultural land and shift of employment. Tamale has many markets growing in peri-urban areas, generating ample revenue. The condition of the markets does not reflect the same. Untarred roads, negligible sanitation facilities and lack of garbage disposal schemes make these make-shift markets unhygienic.

What peri-urban looks like around the world? - Sheet4
Outskirts of Seoul_©

Seoul, one of the fastest-growing capital cities in East Asia, has tackled its boundless expansion problem well. Excellent connectivity throughout the city with affordable public transport with the availability of residential, commercial and public facilities aids the organized growth of the city. The peripheral area also comprises greenbelts and forest reserves, therefore balancing the negative environmental effects of the expansion.

Residential suburbs of Melbourne_©

In cities like Melbourne and Canberra, the designated peri-urban area is larger than the commercial centre. The residential suburbs surrounding the centre expand radially abutting the arterial roads and highways consistently. The skyline of Melbourne exhibits this phenomenon. Tall skyscrapers in a small area of the city surrounded by suburban villa Canberra are integrated with the natural landscape and use topographical elements to form its structure. 

People in rich countries move towards the outskirts searching for a better quality of life, low prices, safety and wholesome living. Services adapted to the shift, provision stores and restaurants and pubs open. Transport upgrades to cover the distance. People own private modes of transportation as well to travel to and fro from work in the core. 

Chicago is yet another city that is exponentially in the last century. There is no clear definition of what is urban, peri-urban and rural in developed countries, but the same cannot be said for developing countries, where it is clearly defined. 

Banská Štiavnica, Slovenia_©

Banská Štiavnica, a town in Slovenia is an example of symbiosis; of an industrial landscape with an urban environment. We often mistake indigenous or traditional architecture for rural. The urban centre of this town dates back to the 16th century. With sparsely populated settlements around the urban centre, they are characterized as the peripheral area.

People migrate from rural areas to urban areas in search of better opportunities and quality of life, but there are many inconveniences and situations which arise due to this influx. There is a lack of proper planning, management and assignment of resources and funds. This mismanagement of resources leads to pockets of urban slums. 

People also settle in the outskirts to avoid heavy real estate prices. Population relocations driven by economic reasons or caused by land speculation have led to people settling in peri-urban areas (or areas within the periphery of the urban). 

The in-migration of population and emergence of latest activities is transforming such areas, as seen in changes in land use and occupational patterns, reduced farm activities, and growth of built structures. Inadequate planning and governance of peri-urban areas by local governments are leading to various problems. When a settlement becomes urban, there are many laws and regulations applied to curb construction. Land use bills are also passed to keep the misuse of agricultural land at bay.

 Most Peri-urban areas do not have proper governing bodies, due to varying definitions. Panchayats which are suited for rural villages and small settlements cannot keep up with the rapid urbanization. Rural-urban linkages are important for poverty alleviation and sustainable rural development and urbanization. Strong linkages can improve the living conditions and employment opportunities of both rural and concrete populations. Domestic trade and therefore the adequacy and efficiency of infrastructure are the backbones of interdependent rural-urban relationships and the success of the connection between urban and rural areas.

In peri-urban areas, urbanization and recent economic reforms are impacting the livelihoods of farmers. Agricultural production is intensifying while the proportion of land dedicated to agriculture is declining. Peri urban spaces are rural-urban interfaces – formerly rural spaces transformed, due to the expansion of cities, counting on the resources of their surroundings. The close connection to urban centres brings capital and concepts to peri-urban spaces and creates new markets for peri-urban entrepreneurs.


Asmita Kothari is currently pursuing B.Arch at the School of Architecture, VIT University. She is an avid reader and a movie buff, who loves watching architectural and travel documentaries and shows. She believes that ambitious and curious souls make the world a better place.