Mapping transitional urban forms from afar

Ricchiardi, Ana; (2022) Mapping transitional urban forms from afar. In: Annual Conference Proceedings of the XXVIII International Seminar on Urban Form. University of Strathclyde Publishing, Glasgow, pp. 776-785. ISBN 9781914241161

[thumbnail of Ricchiardi-ISUF-2021-Mapping-transitional-urban-forms-from]
Text. Filename: Ricchiardi_ISUF_2021_Mapping_transitional_urban_forms_from.pdf
Final Published Version
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 logo

Download (5MB)| Preview


Lack of data often complicates research on urbanization processes in developing regions. What is more, carrying out research without the possibility of doing fieldwork has become a challenge to face during the 2020’s pandemic. The presented study argues for mapping and urban morphology as potential research methods to explore complex urban environments from remote. Available online resources with maps and satellite imagery can potentially be used as a source of up-to-date geographic information to map settlements and their developmental dynamics from afar. Advances in geographic information systems and satellite imagery provide tools and images to analyze cities’ changing morphology. This study proposes a methodology for the mapping and systematic observation of urban forms at different scales. The paper presents an ongoing mapping project to test the methodology in 4 different cities in the context of Sub Saharan Africa, where rapid urbanization has created complex interactions between formal and informal morphologies in recent years. An analytical approach and deductive observation of satellite images help define the areas used to exemplify the urbanization phenomena. The mapping operation is carried out with the remotely collected open-source information. The samples selected are observed in different scales (territorial scale, urban scale, and block scale) and different time frames. This study uses the morphology of a city as a descriptive language that frames the recognized phenomena. In the developed maps, the fact that mapping is not just a matter of establishing facts, but can be a means of constructing spatial knowledge, is put to the test. As this is still an evolving study, the chosen cases are exploratory and may not represent the wide range of informal-formal relations and dynamics, however the opportunity to see the overwhelming changes from a spatial and morphological point of view opens up opportunities for reflections about urbanisations and ways of studying it.

Persistent Identifier