In this article we will discuss about the population and functional zoning effects in towns.
1. Population Zones:
One of the most obvious zoning effects in towns is that caused by differences of population groups within the town. For instance, people of different racial or linguistic groups will tend to congregate together, partly for the company of their fellow countrymen, partly because their traditional foodstuffs, or newspapers in their own languages may be available in such quarters, and partly because of prejudice against them in other parts of the towns.
Thus in many U.S. cities there are distinct Negro quarters such as Harlem in New York. Similarly there are sections in British towns where West Indians or Pakistanis form a large proportion of the population. On the other hand, in many tropical towns there are separate European quarters, where the former colonial administrators, or present-day advisers, businessmen or university staff live. Such quarters avoid the overcrowding of the city centre and at the same time allow the Europeans to be near their compatriots.
But major racial differences are not the only differences that lead to population zoning. In Europe and the Middle East many cities have a Jewish quarter. In London, too, there are areas dominated by Greeks or Italians or Irishmen. In West Africa tribal groupings are very important.
In most South-East Asian cities there are Chinese quarters and in Malaysia the towns have distinctive Malay, Chinese and Indian business areas and residential districts. Religious differences are important in Northern Ireland, for example, in Belfast where some streets are inhabited solely by Catholics and others are monopolized by Protestants. Cultural differences are sometimes significant, for example in Paris, where students, intellectuals and artists congregate in the Latin Quarter.
Some population zoning in towns is caused simply by income differences. Thus the suburbs, with their larger houses, gardens and pleasant tree-lined streets are inhabited by the wealthier citizens, while the older, run-down houses nearer the centre of the cities are the homes of the poorer people in most towns.
There are occasionally high-class districts near the centre of towns, e.g. Knightsbridge in London. In many underdeveloped countries there are areas of squatter settlement around the edges of towns, where people who cannot afford to live in rented homes build small shacks, often out of cardboard and corrugated iron.
This kind of settlement is found around many Asian, African and South American cities, e.g. Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Manila, and is aggravated by migration of poor people from the countryside or of refugees as in the case of Hong Kong or Ho Chi Minh City.
Immigrants or local coloured people in the U.S.A. or Britain are usually less well-off than other people in the towns and this helps to keep them in distinct areas, often of slum-like housing. In some cases population zones become functional zones.
2. Functional Zoning:
Distinctive quarters in a town are not the only form of differentiation. The working of economic laws often results in the functional zoning of towns. Thus the best position for shops, for instance, is on busy roads near the centre of the town where they can be reached by most people.
Similarly, if an office draws its workers from all parts of the town or city, the ideal location for it is in the centre, where lines of transport meet. On the other hand residential land use will be found on the outskirts of the town where the streets are quieter and more pleasant and where land is available for a garden. Because the land in the town centre is in demand by all kinds of business concerns which require a central location it becomes very valuable.
Around this central area is a zone of lower-valued land and on the outskirts of the town the land prices rise again because of the demand by wealthier people. This is an added reason for the division of commercial and residential parts of the town.
In the U.S.A. where this phenomenon has been studied most and is, in fact, best developed, a whole series of land use zones succeeds one another from the centre to the outskirts of the town. At the very centre is the C.B.D. or central business district in which the land values are at their highest and the land use is usually limited to office blocks, large shops and stores and other business enterprises.
In order to make the most of this valuable land, skyscrapers are often built so that the largest number of people can site their shops and offices in the city centre. The larger the number of people that use the central area, the greater the return to the landowner in rents, etc. on the expensive land. Thus the C.B.D. is characterized by the largest concentration of shops, offices, tall buildings and is the chief focus for traffic in the town.
Around the C.B.D. is usually a transition zone in which a number of land uses are found. Some sections of this zone may be occupied by older buildings which will gradually be replaced by the growth of the C.B.D. or by change to one of the other transitional functions, such as filling-stations, car sales rooms, supermarkets, boarding houses, some hotels and some industrial activity. Such uses reflect the conflict between the need for a central position and the cost of land.
For instance supermarkets, filling-stations and car sales businesses require a fairly central situation where they can serve the maximum number of customers, but they take up a lot of floor space and cannot always be arranged conveniently on several floors of a tall block. Thus they are built on the edge of the C.B.D. where land prices are moderate.
Some hotels may be built in this kind of position for centrality, but others choose sites in residential areas where the surroundings are more pleasant. Similarly public buildings such as courts and government offices must choose moderately priced sites and yet be accessible to most people.
The next zone is that of working-class housing and industry. This area was once, perhaps, one of better class housing but age and the growth of traffic and other urban problems have lowered its status. Thus housing conditions are moderate to poor and rather closely packed, either in old houses divided into flats, in old tenement blocks or ‘back-to-back’ houses or in modern flats which have replaced older buildings.
This zone is inhabited by working class people who cannot afford to move out to better homes in the middle class residential districts. Another reason for the predominance of workers in such areas is the presence of industrial plants built on land which is relatively cheap.
Beyond the poorer residential sections is a belt where land values again rise, though they do not reach the level of C.B.D. values. Here new suburbs are inhabited by middle class to wealthy citizens. The suburbs grade into a commuter belt where old villages or towns and modern housing developments are occupied by people who travel each day to offices in the city centre. Between the suburbs there may be stretches of agricultural land.
This land is devoted to the most profitable forms of farming, namely market gardening, dairy farming and intensive poultry farming, and provides the city with fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, etc. Outside this ring again is a belt of more mixed farming including truck farming and livestock rearing.
This belt may be interrupted by small towns or enlarged villages which have residential functions, housing commuters, but which are not a continuous urban settlement like the true suburbs. Thus functional zoning extends throughout the town and into the surrounding countryside.
The development of a C.B.D. is most marked in American towns and is fairly advanced in European cities, and in older colonial towns like those of South America, e.g. Buenos Aires, Caracas. It is also found in lands (settled later but by predominantly European settlers) such as Australia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
However some of these ‘colonial’ towns also share some of the characteristics of the towns of African and Asian countries, such as squatter zones. C.B.D.s are generally less well developed in Asian and African cities. The reasons for these variations are different for different areas.
In Europe, for instance, the desire to preserve ancient buildings in the town centres may militate against the development of tall skyscraper blocks, and though retail shops and offices are centrally located, land values may not be as high as in America because tall buildings cannot be built. Many towns, as a result, have both a new centre with conditions approaching those of a C.B.D. and an older centre.
In Asia or Africa, the same factors may apply, in that old buildings may occupy key positions, but another factor especially in Asia is the traditional institution of the shophouse, which makes the city centre not only the main commercial centre but also the most densely settled residential area of the town. This contrasts markedly with the true C.B.D., which is almost completely deserted at night since it consists of shops and offices used only during working hours.
In Asian towns the shops are usually small and living accommodation is in the same building. Department stores are few because there are few traders with the resources to set up such stores or because the market would not justify their development. The result is a proliferation of smaller shops and fairly low buildings, with tall office blocks only in certain parts of the town, and this means the area covered by the town centre is usually very large.
Functional zoning on the C.B.D. model is rather poorly developed, so that a broad commercial section in the centre is usually surrounded by a broad residential sector with some pockets of commercial or industrial activity along main roads. Modern industrial activity is usually on the outskirts of the town, because overcrowding in more central areas prevents the building of large factories. Squatter areas may sometimes form an additional zone on the outskirts of the town.
The patterns of such traditional towns are now being changed, partly by spontaneous economic selection, and partly by deliberate planning. Some sections of towns where tourists are numerous, such as Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore are moving towards a more western pattern.
Elsewhere, as in Kuala Lumpur for instance, squatter areas are being cleared, new low- cost flats and houses are being built and the building of tall office blocks in the town centre is actively encouraged.
In many African and Asian towns, however, zones are not in concentric rings at all. This is partly because the different racial or national groups concentrate on certain activities, so that population zones become functional zones. For example, Chinese people in South-East Asia or Indians or Syrians in various parts of Africa, have concentrated on trading activities.
As a result the zone where they live has also become a trading zone. This may be the only trading zone in the town or there may be trading zones dominated by other groups. Moreover certain craftsmen or petty- manufacturers, e.g. goldsmiths, leather workers, may congregate in certain streets or special parts of the town.
In many old towns there is no room for new buildings near the centre. Thus when the European administrators wanted to build government offices, district headquarters, land offices or agricultural offices they usually chose a site outside the existing centre. Many towns, e.g. Kuala Lumpur, have very distinctive sections where administrative offices are concentrated.
At the same time the practice of providing houses for government officers as part of their terms of service, means that government servants tend to live in specific areas. In many underdeveloped countries, too, there is a great need to develop industries. This development is encouraged by setting aside special industrial estates.
Thus industries are concentrated in one area instead of being distributed throughout the town. Another factor is that the provision of low cost housing for workers by governments is usually concentrated in specific areas where there is land to spare for building. This may be near the industrial sites or may be quite separate.
All these factors combine to produce a pattern of zones which is relatively unrelated to strictly economic factors, but which reflects the piecemeal development and expansion of towns by different people or for specific reasons.
Medieval towns in Europe resembled this pattern in some ways, with their Jewish trading quarters, streets of smiths or butchers, suburban settlements outside the town walls, and so on, but gradual development over hundreds of years has changed the old pattern. It may well be that the patterns of present-day Asian and African towns will change in a similar way.