Until recently, it was rather common to perceive the hinterland of cities as ‘rural’, directing research to the study of linkages, relations and dependencies between ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ (for example, see Hoggart, 2005). This widespread traditional conception of cities having a predominantly rural hinterland needs to be challenged, as processes of spatial upscaling and expansion have made many cities find other cities in their hinterland, suggesting that a focus on regional urban–urban relations is just as valid as a focus on urban–rural relations. Put simply: many functional urban areas or metropolitan areas – terms traditionally used to denote a city and its surrounding commuting area – are nowadays composed of multiple cities. It makes sense to address these regions as multicentric urban areas or as ‘polycentric urban regions’ when these cities do not differ widely in terms of size or overall importance.
Champion (2001) has distinguished three modes through which such multicentric urban regions arise. First, he distinguished a ‘centrifugal mode’: some smaller cities in the sphere of influence of larger cities may have risen as satellite towns of the latter, as a result of core city expansion and redistribution. Second, an ‘incorporation mode’ is discerned when a larger city extends its sphere of influence to include a formerly rather self-sustaining surrounding town or small city, or a set of several such cities. Third, the ‘fusion mode’ denotes that previously distinct and independent cities of rather similar size become integrated due to the advancement of connective infrastructure and technology, and the spatial extension of activity and travel patterns of people and firms.
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