Patterns of growth

To better understand the connections between cities and their governance systems, LSE Cities has carried out in-depth analysis of four case studies – Delhi, London, Tokyo and Bogotá – all cities which offer interesting insights regarding  institutional arrangements and innovation, budgets and responsibilities, management of urban expansion and ownership of transport systems.

Based on data provided by the German Space Agency DLR-DFD, these maps show how the built-up area in each city has grown over the last four decades at intervals of about ten years. The distribution of urban development within each time frame is illustrated by colour (darker red indicates more recent development) while the length of the bar chart indicates the percentage of total built-up land realised in each period. White areas are unpopulated zones where topography and natural features like rivers and mountains constrain urban development. The boundary of both the current city-wide administrative authority and the historic boundary are overlaid on each map.

Reflecting its status as a young city with a deep history, over 55% of greater Delhi has been built since 2000, while in London only 15% was built in the same time frame, though much of the new growth reveals a process of densification within the boundaries of the Greater London Authority.  In Tokyo, the world’s largest agglomeration built at very high density, 90% of the urban footprint was already completed by 1972, while Bogotá experienced 82% of its growth until 1980, in line with many other Latin American cities.

Each of the four cities has faced the challenges of urban expansion in different ways. Tokyo and Delhi in effect implemented oversized governance systems over 60 years ago and have waited for the city form to catch up. Tokyo’s Metropolitan Organisation Act of 1943, which merged the Prefecture and City to form the Metropolis of Tokyo, made the new institutional boundaries three times larger than its boundary at the time. Similarly, Delhi’s 1947 independence boundaries covered 19 times the area of Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad) and Lutyen’s New Delhi. Today, the built-up areas of both have spilled over these ‘historic’ boundaries, with Delhi showing high levels of new development in the neighbouring states to the south and east of the traditional city boundary.

London had already reached its peak as a world megacity by the mid-20th century. The 1943 Greater London Plan defined the political boundary of the then London County Council at what was roughly the limit of the built-up area, but reinforced it with the implementation of the Green Belt. By 1965 the London County Council gave way to the Greater London Council which covered five times the area (which coincides with today’s Greater London Authority boundaries). In 1954, Bogotá’s Special District enlarged the city boundary to 37 times its former size, and while much of the administrative area remains unpopulated (due to topography and land constraints) the majority of recent growth is concentrated on the poorer peripheral edges to the north and west.

Urban Growth maps based on data provided by DLR-DFD, as cited:

Taubenböck H, Esch T, Felbier A, Wiesner M, Roth A & Dech S (2012): Monitoring of mega cities from space. In: Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 117, pp. 162-176.

Esch T, Taubenböck H, Roth A, Heldens W, Felbier A, Thiel M, Schmidt M, Müller A & Dech S (2012): TanDEM-X mission: New perspectives for the inventory and monitoring of global settlement patterns. Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observation & Remote Sensing. vol 6. p.22.

City boundaries based on data provided by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Vision of Britain (University of Portsmouth).