Three Classical Theories of Urban Spatial Structure

Historically, urban areas were formed as a result of urbanization so that it affected population growth, the development of science and technology, as well as the increasing needs of the community. this led to the emergence of new settlements. People also prefer to live in the city center. Because there are facilities and easier access. If the area is no longer able to sustain it, the settlement will develop to the outskirts.

According to Yunus (2012: 4), there are 3 classical concepts used to explain the spatial structure of cities, namely Concentric Theory, Sector Theory and Double Core Theory. Each of these theories has developed to the present day. The following is an explanation of each theory

Concentric Theory

Ernest W. Burgess in 1923 conducted research for the City of Chicago. The results show that the development of the City of Chicago forms a concentric land use pattern with different functions. The development of the city starts from the center which then extends to areas far from the center due to the increase in population. Examples of cities with concentric theory are Chicago, London, Calcutta, Adelaide, and most.

The weakness of the concentric theory is that it does not apply in countries other than the United States and is only found in western countries with advanced societies.

The concentric theory was put forward by Ernest W. Burgess. The city area consists of five (5) zones, which are as follows.

  • Central Business District is the center of the city's social, economic, cultural and political life, it can be said that this zone is a zone with high accessibility. 
  • Transition Zone. Often this zone contains slums and high crime rates, and most of the population is poor. 
  • Zone of Working Men's Homes, this zone has better housing conditions, even though from an economic point of view the lower to middle class. 
  •  Zone of Better Residences, this zone is inhabited by residents with middle to upper economic status. Economic conditions in this zone are more stable than other zones. 
  • Zone of Commuters, the emergence of commuters as a result of decentralization of settlements as a secondary impact of technology applications in the field of transportation and communication.

Sector Theory

Concentric theory and sector theory have differences. The difference is the development indicator, the concentric theory of the main area starts from the center or the city's core, namely the Central Business District, then develops outwards around the city center. While the sectoral theory, the development of the region is based on sectors, although the city core or CBD starts from the center, but the development of the region follows the existing sectors.

These two theories have something in common, what they have in common is that they develop from the center of activity. However, the Sector Theory emphasizes that an area has a spatial pattern according to potential differences. The development of an area with a sectoral type will not occur evenly in all directions. This theory has begun to develop so that transportation affects the development of cities. Then residential areas will follow the location of the industrial area, starting from a low-class residential zone adjacent to the industrial zone, then developing into a middle-class zone and developing again into an upper-class zone.

The sector theory has its drawbacks, as topographical factors such as elevation and water bodies are not considered. This theory assumes that people only live in an area based on economic reasons. Another drawback of this theory is that it refers to urban life in the United States before the second world war.

The sector theory was first put forward by Hommer Hoyt in 1939, which is as follows.

  • Central Business District or CBD, the description of the CBD is the same as zone one in the concentric theory. 
  • Zone of Wholesale Light Manufacturing, this zone consists of industrial and trade areas. 
  • Low-class residential zone, this zone consists of the settlements of workers with low economic levels. 
  • Middle class residential zone, this zone consists of residential areas with middle economic level. 
  • Upscale residential zone, this zone consists of settlements for officials and businessmen with high economic levels.

Multiple Nuclei Theory

Chauncy D. Harris and Edward L. Ullman are the people who put forward the double core theory. Chauncy D. Harris and Edward L. Ullman are the people who put forward the double core theory. The dual core theory explains that cities have multiple nuclei located in close proximity to other centers of activity. The complex formed center will encourage the formation of cities around it as growth poles.

For example, a land has strategic economic value because it is close to human resources, the right marketing location, and supported by transportation facilities, then the land around it will quickly develop and become a new growth center. The Dual Core Theory consists of 9 zones. The following is an explanation of the existing zones.

  • Zone 1: the central area of ​​activity (DPK or CBD), the two previous theories state that the city developed from the center of activity, which distinguishes the dual core theory from the two theories. CBD here is not depicted as a perfect circle because the area actually does not have a boundary that points to the central area. activity. 
  • Zone 2: wholesale or manufacturing area, this zone is adjacent to the center of activity because the industry in this zone does not require large land and large transportation. 
  •  Zone 3: low-class residential areas, low-class residential zones are located around industries because they are oriented to work 
  •  Zone 4: middle-class settlements, this zone is described as wide and residents in this area stay away from the center of activity, this is because residents have private transportation and prefer to seek services from the center of activities on the outskirts of the city. 
  • Zone 5: high-class settlements, this zone is described as getting further away from the center of activity (CBD) because people in this area usually have high incomes and tend to avoid noise and pollution 
  • Zone 6: heavy manufacturing area, this zone is described as being on the outskirts of the city and adjacent to low-class settlements because low-class residents will work there. Industries in this area require a large area of ​​land and require large transportation, such as the chemical industry and the steel processing industry. 
  • Zone 7: suburban business zone, this zone is described as a location close to middle-class and upper-class settlements due to serving residents in the area, such as airports, colleges or shopping centers. 
  • Zone 8: suburban settlements, this zone is an area that is on the outskirts of the city such as a village. 
  • Zone 9: suburban industrial area, this zone is outside the city area. Small scale industries are in this area.


Cities have various spatial structures influenced by the characteristics of each region. Based on the three theories, it can be seen that the theory of spatial structure is always evolving, starting from the concentric theory, developing it into a sector theory and becoming a dual core theory. The three theories developed starting with a central activity area (CBD) but the dual core theory explains that the development of the city structure does not only start from one activity center area but there are other activity centers on the outskirts of the city.