chapter  6
26 Pages

Settlement patterns

Individual human habitations can be divided into several categories which reflect their degree of permanence, from the wholly ephemeral, of merely a few days’ duration, to permanent structures which have had a long existence within human memory (Chapter 2, above). Of course, no buildings last for ever, but standing Roman and Greek structures and the great castles and churches of medieval Europe suggest that if they are well built, maintained and, of course, not knocked down, they can survive for millennia. Nevertheless, the terms ‘short-lived’ and ‘long-lasting’ establish two ends of a scale which can be used to describe either the life of a building or a settlement’s duration in time, and this idea is fundamental to understanding the character of patterns, i.e. the spatial distribution of the elements of settlement, be these farmsteads, hamlets, villages or market towns, throughout a landscape or region and ultimately the whole earth’s surface. The first part of the chapter will develop this idea and define a twofold classification of settlement patterns on the basis of the dominant processes operating within them, give some detailed examples, and conclude with a general model which demonstrates some of the key processes which underlie the evolution of patterns. The second half will examine a series of figures which draw together at the same scale cases taken from three continents and finally interlock the study of forms and patterns using examples drawn from Denmark, Wales and Malaya.