From Metropolis to Polyopolis
A new phenomenon is emerging in the most highly urbanized parts of the world: the polycentric mega-city region (MCR). It arises through a long process of very extended decentralization from big central cities to adjacent smaller ones, old and new. Though Jean Gottmann originally identified it as long ago as 1961 in his pioneering study of Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States, and Martin Mogridge and John Parr (1997) recognized a similar development around London, its recent rediscovery has been in Eastern Asia, in areas like the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta regions of China, the Tokaido (Tokyo-Osaka) corridor in Japan, and Greater Jakarta (Gottmann, 1961; Xu and Li, 1990; McGee, 1995; Yeung, 1996; Sit and Yang, 1997; Mogridge and Parr, 1997; Hall, 1999; Scott, 2001; Yeh, 2001). It is a new form: a series of anything between 10 and 50 cities and towns, physically separate but functionally networked, clustered around one or more larger central cities, and drawing enormous economic strength from a new functional division of labour. These places exist both as separate entities, in which most residents work locally and most workers are local residents, and as parts of a wider functional urban region (FUR) connected by dense flows of people and information carried along motorways, high-speed rail lines and telecommunications cables: the ‘space of flows’ (Castells, 1996, pp376-428) with major implications for sustainable development (Blowers and Pain, 1999). It is no exaggeration to say that this is the emerging urban form at the start of the 21st century.