Central Place Theory is a fundamental concept in the field of urban and regional planning. This theory explains the spatial distribution of human settlements and their economic relationships. It has been used as a basis for numerous studies, as it helps to understand the patterns of human behavior in a given geographical area. In this article, we will discuss the origins and principles of Central Place Theory, and how it has been applied in urban planning and development.
Central Place Theory
Central Place Theory is an economic theory developed by German geographer Walter Christaller in the early 1930s, and later refined by American geographer Brian Berry in the 1960s. The theory seeks to explain the spatial distribution of human settlements and economic activities within a region.
According to the theory, a central place is a settlement that provides goods and services to its surrounding areas, known as hinterlands. These goods and services range from basic necessities, such as food and clothing, to more specialized goods and services, such as medical care and cultural entertainment.
The central place hierarchy refers to the arrangement of settlements in a region based on the range and threshold of goods and services they offer. Larger and more specialized central places, such as cities, have a higher range and threshold than smaller and less specialized central places, such as villages.
Central Place Theory: an urban model that uses economic processes to explain hierarchical patterns of urban size and location across space.
In 1933, Walter Christaller introduced Central Place Theory (CPT) as a way to explain the location, number, and size of settlements, where these locations acted as central places that provided services to surrounding areas.
Central Place Theory sought to explain the economic relationships of cities with smaller settlements. It also seeks to explain why cities are located where they are geographically and how they serve the surrounding smaller settlements with speciality goods and services.
The theory was used to explain a generally isotropic landscape, that is a flat and homogeneous surface, and how varied urban locations dispersed on such surfaces. The population was seen as generally evenly distributed with settlements being generally equidistant.
In the standard view, consumers and sellers also have generally equal economic and purchasing power, which affects markets and placement of services. Given these assumptions, then a number of results are observed.
The Origins of Central Place Theory
Central Place Theory originated in the early 20th century, when scholars were attempting to understand the economic relationships between settlements in a given region. Two prominent scholars, Walter Christaller and August Losch, made significant contributions to the development of this theory.
Walter Christaller, a German geographer, developed the Central Place Theory in 1933. His work was based on the assumption that human settlements were arranged in a hierarchical order, with larger settlements providing services to smaller ones. According to Christaller, each settlement provided a range of goods and services, and its size was determined by the number of people it served.
Christaller’s model is based on the concept of hexagonal market areas. In this model, each settlement is located at the center of a hexagon, and the settlements are arranged in a hierarchical order. The larger settlements provide a broader range of goods and services than the smaller ones, and the range of goods and services provided by each settlement increases with its size.
August Losch, an Austrian economist, also made significant contributions to Central Place Theory. He developed a model that was similar to Christaller’s but included a more flexible hierarchy of settlements. Losch’s model recognized that the distribution of settlements was not always regular and that there could be variations in the range of goods and services provided by each settlement.
Losch’s model also recognized the importance of transportation in the distribution of goods and services. He noted that transportation costs could influence the location of settlements and the range of goods and services they provided.
Principles of Central Place Theory
Central Place Theory is based on several key principles. These principles are essential to understanding the spatial distribution of settlements and the economic relationships between them.
K = 3 Marketing Principle
The K = 3 marketing principle is a key aspect of Central Place Theory that states that there should be at least three different types of central places within a region to ensure that all goods and services are provided for. These three types of central places are typically small villages, medium-sized towns, and larger cities. The territory is covered by a minimum number of urban centers. Each center has three options to purchase goods and services of a higher order.
The principle is based on the idea that each type of central place serves a specific market area and provides different types of goods and services. Small villages may provide basic goods, such as groceries and household items, while medium-sized towns may offer more specialized goods and services, such as medical care and educational facilities. Larger cities, on the other hand, typically offer a wider variety of goods and services, including cultural and entertainment activities.
The K = 3 marketing principle ensures that people living in different parts of a region have access to the goods and services they need, while also promoting economic efficiency and sustainability. By ensuring that there are enough central places of different sizes and functions, the principle helps to prevent overcrowding in larger cities and promotes the development of smaller communities and rural areas.
K = 4 Transport Principle
The K = 4 transport principle is a concept within Central Place Theory that relates to the transportation infrastructure needed to support the spatial organization of settlements and economic activities within a region. It states that there should be four levels of transportation infrastructure, including local roads, main roads, highways, and expressways, to ensure efficient movement of goods and people between different types of central places.
The principle is based on the idea that different types of central places have different spatial relationships with each other, with some being closer together and others being further apart. Local roads connect nearby villages and towns, while main roads connect larger towns and cities. Highways provide connections between major urban centers, and expressways are used for long-distance travel.
The K = 4 transport principle ensures that the transportation infrastructure is sufficient to support the movement of goods and people between different types of central places, promoting economic efficiency and sustainability. It also helps to prevent congestion and ensures that people living in different parts of a region have access to the goods and services they need.
In this distribution, as many centers as possible are along main transport lines. The system tends to be linear in orientation, which minimizes the distance between each settlement. With the transportation principle, towns not on major transportation routes are smaller than expected. Transportation routes attract business and allow more large towns to develop, such as those along a railroad.
K = 7 Administrative Principle
The K = 7 administrative principle is a concept within Central Place Theory that relates to the hierarchical organization of administrative centers within a region. It states that there should be seven levels of administrative centers, each serving a larger population and geographic area than the previous level.
The principle is based on the idea that different levels of administrative centers have different functions and serve different populations. For example, smaller administrative centers may serve rural areas and provide basic services, while larger centers may serve urban areas and provide more specialized services. By having a hierarchical system of administrative centers, it is possible to ensure that all areas within a region are adequately served and that resources are used efficiently.
The K = 7 administrative principle is important for promoting effective governance and ensuring that all areas within a region have access to the services they need. By having a clear hierarchy of administrative centers, it is possible to coordinate development efforts and ensure that resources are allocated in a way that promotes economic growth and social welfare.
The central place system is organized in such a way that there is a clear separation of all market areas. In the k=3 and k=4 principles, the border between market areas of a center of higher order is composed of lines between centers of lower order. Administratively, it does not make sense since all towns are part of a specific administrative division.
Application of Central Place Theory
Central Place Theory has been used in various areas of urban planning and development. Here are some examples:
Planning and Zoning
Central Place Theory has been used to determine the appropriate distribution of land uses within a region. By understanding the hierarchy of settlements and the range of goods and services provided by each settlement, planners can ensure that essential goods and services are accessible to all residents.
Transportation planning is another area where Central Place Theory has been applied. By understanding the range of goods and services provided by each settlement, transportation planners can design transportation networks that ensure that all residents have access to essential goods and services.
Central Place Theory has been used extensively in the retail industry. By understanding the range of goods and services provided by each settlement, retailers can determine the best location for their stores to maximize their customer base.
Land Use Planning
Central Place Theory has also been used in land use planning. By understanding the hierarchy of settlements and the range of goods and services provided by each settlement, planners can determine the appropriate mix of land uses within a region to ensure that all residents have access to essential goods and services.
Limitations of Central Place Theory
While Central Place Theory has been widely used, it has several limitations. Here are some of them:
Assumptions of Homogeneity
Central Place Theory assumes that all settlements are similar in terms of their population, purchasing power, and consumer preferences. In reality, settlements can be quite diverse, and these differences can affect the range of goods and services provided by each settlement.
Central Place Theory is a static model that does not account for changes over time. The economic relationships between settlements can change due to factors such as population growth, changes in transportation infrastructure, and changes in consumer preferences.
Central Place Theory is a fundamental concept in the field of urban and regional planning. It explains the spatial distribution of human settlements and their economic relationships. By understanding the principles of Central Place Theory, planners can ensure that essential goods and services are accessible to all residents. While Central Place Theory has its limitations, it has been widely used in various areas of urban planning and development.