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49(16) 3627–3644, December 2012

Functional Polycentricity: Examining

Metropolitan Spatial Structure through
the Connectivity of Urban Sub-centres
Antti Vasanen

[Paper first received, November 2011; in final form, March 2012]

A shift from monocentric cities to increasingly polycentric urban regions has been
widely recognised in recent research literature. Although polycentricity in general
refers to the existence of several adjacent centres within the same area, many studies
have emphasised that functional linkages between the centres of an urban system are
also an essential part of polycentricity. Despite the increasing number of studies con-
cerning functional polycentricity, research on the subject is still in a development
phase. In this paper, a new approach to measure functional polycentricity is pre-
sented, in which functional polycentricity is approached through the connectivity of
individual centres to the whole urban system. The paper illustrates the potential
of the method with empirical case studies addressing the urban spatial structures of
three functional urban regions in Finland. In the case studies, detailed commuting
data are used in order to measure the degree of functional polycentricity.

1. Introduction
In recent research literature, there is a clear and detectable borders but rather as
growing consensus about how the spatial functional urban regions incorporating
structure of cities in developed societies is large areas around the central city (Parr,
becoming increasingly polycentric (Anas 2005; Hall, 2009). To this extent, the spatial
et al., 1998; Kloosterman and Musterd, logic behind contemporary urban regions
2001; Parr, 2004; Hall and Pain, 2006). The follows closely the spatial logic behind
debate on polycentricity is strongly inter- Manuel Castells’ (1996) concept of a ‘space
twined with a broader discussion about of flows’ as the urban form of most urban
urban change where cities are no longer regions includes a functional network of
seen as mere morphological entities with communities which may be physically

Antti Vasanen is in the Department of Geography and Geology, University of Turku 20014,
Finland. E-mail: antti.vasanen@utu.fi.

0042-0980 Print/1360-063X Online

Ó 2012 Urban Studies Journal Limited
DOI: 10.1177/0042098012447000

separate but connected through dense flows ago when the polycentric urban region
of commuting trips and other forms of (PUR) as a research agenda gained ground
daily mobility (Hall and Pain, 2006; Hall, (Batten, 1995; Kloosterman and Musterd,
2009). 2001; Parr, 2004). PUR refers to an interur-
The theoretical foundations of the con- ban scale where a dense network of distinct
cept of polycentricity, however, are far but adjacent cities exists without a clear
from being solid. Apart from the fact that leading centre. Most examples of such
the concept has gained notable normative regions are from Europe (Camagni and
connotations, particularly as a buzz word Salone, 1993; Hall and Pain, 2006; Meijers,
connected with strategic planning within 2007), but there is also similar evidence
the European Union (EC, 1999; Davoudi, reported from North America and Japan
2003), there is also fundamental fuzziness (Batten, 1995; Lang and Knox, 2009). The
in its use in a more analytical context most extensive scale related to the concept
(Green, 2007; Meijers, 2008). First, despite of polycentricity is the interregional scale
the growing consensus on the polycentric (Davoudi, 2003). This approach to poly-
development of urban regions, the term centricity is linked with European spatial
‘polycentricity’ may refer to the spatial development policies, which aim at achiev-
clustering of a number of different phe- ing balanced spatial development through
nomena. Principally, as Kloosterman and territorial polycentric development (EC,
Musterd (2001) point out, polycentricity 1999).
can refer to the multinodal development of A third source of conceptual confusion
any human activity. Typically, however, relating to the term ‘polycentricity’ is its
either population or employment distribu- usage in both morphological and functional
tion is considered. contexts. In strictly morphological terms,
Secondly, the concept of polycentricity is the concept of polycentricity refers to several
highly scale-dependent; a system which may adjacent centres that are located in the same
be polycentric at one scale may be mono- urban system. A number of recent studies,
centric when examined at another scale however, have emphasised that functional
(Hall and Pain, 2006; Taylor et al., 2008). linkages between the nodes in an urban
Polycentricity may also be understood dif- system are also required in order to call it
ferently when measured at different scales polycentric (Hall and Pain, 2006; Green,
(Davoudi, 2003). Traditionally, the concept 2007; Burger et al., 2011). Empirical research
of polycentricity has been applied at intra- on functional polycentricity has typically
urban scale where the focus has been on the included the measuring of flows between the
clustering of population or employment centres of the polycentric region. However,
within a metropolitan area or functional although an increasing amount of research
urban region. Such approaches have strong literature aimed at formally defining and
tradition in the United States (Garreau, analytically measuring the concept of func-
1991; Anas et al., 1998), but recently ques- tional polycentricity has been published,
tions regarding intra-urban polycentricity research on the subject is still in a develop-
have also been addressed elsewhere (Bontje ment phase.
and Burdack, 2005; Suárez and Delgado, In this paper, a new approach for mea-
2009; Garcia-López and Muñiz, 2010; Yue suring functional polycentricity is intro-
et al., 2010). duced. Here, functional polycentricity is
A new scalar approach to the concept of approached as the connectivity of individ-
polycentricity emerged a couple of decades ual centres to the whole polycentric urban

system rather than as functional relations measuring such interaction has started to
between the centres. Therefore, instead of emerge only recently.
addressing directional flows between nodes, Evolving functional polycentricity was
functional relations within the polycentric first observed in research analysing commut-
system are measured as interaction surfaces ing patterns where commuter flows were
of each centre. These surfaces, or connec- found no longer to follow the traditional
tivity fields, determine how intensely each monocentric model but to be increasingly
centre is functionally connected to the rest complex (Hamilton, 1982; Cervero and Wu,
of the polycentric system. The aim of the 1998; van der Laan et al., 1998). Van der
paper is to introduce the connectivity field Laan (1998) categorised urban regions
method and to illustrate its potential with a according to whether the commuting flows
case study in which the method is tested by in the regions were directed from the sub-
analysing the polycentric development of urbs to the central city or vice versa. He
the three largest functional urban regions defined four types of urban region: centra-
in Finland. In the case study, the functional lised, decentralised, cross-commuting and
polycentricity of both population and exchange-commuting, of which the three
employment distribution is measured using latter hold a functionally polycentric urban
detailed commuting data. In order to inter- pattern. Although the term functional poly-
pret the degree of functional polycentricity, centricity occurs rarely in these early studies,
a measure of morphological polycentricity which have their background in transport
is also introduced to the analysis. Although research, evidence of the increasing com-
the scale in the analysis is intra-urban, the plexity in commuting patterns clearly indi-
scalability of the method is discussed in the cates evolving functional polycentricity.
paper. A major contribution to conceptualising
functional polycentricity per se was made by
the POLYNET project, which aimed at
2. Functional Polycentricity and its exploring the association between informa-
Measures tion flows and polycentric development at
the regional scale (Hall and Pain, 2006).
Functional linkages are often assumed to Building on world-city literature (Sassen,
exist between the centres of a polycentric 1991; Scott, 2001; Taylor, 2004) and on
urban system (Kloosterman and Musterd, Castells’ (1996) concept of a space of flows,
2001; Lang and Knox, 2009). A typical the project’s case studies addressed func-
example of such functional linkages is com- tional polycentricity by analysing business
muter flows. As Parr (2004) remarks, an network connections and information flows,
important feature of a polycentric urban which are generated by advanced producer
region is that the centres of the PUR services (Taylor et al., 2006; Hoyler et al.,
have overlapping labour markets, which 2008). The analysis utilised an interlocking
generates complicated internal commuting network model which measures the intercity
patterns. However, other forms of spatial network of intrafirm information flows on
interaction can be considered to knit the basis of office locations (Taylor, 2001).
together a polycentric urban system as a Their findings highlighted the complexity
single functional entity. Despite the consen- and scale dependency of the concept of poly-
sus about spatial interaction being an inse- centricity as the level of polycentricity tends
parable part of polycentricity, research to decrease when the spatial scale increases
aiming at formally defining and analytically (Taylor et al., 2008).

Drawing on the POLYNET research, Burger et al. (2011) analysed the com-
Green (2007) developed a formal method muting flows in English and Welsh city-
of defining functional polycentricity. He regions in order to examine the degree of
emphasises that a functionally polycentric polycentricity in both functional and mor-
network is not tied down to physical loca- phological terms. They used a variety of
tion: functional relations within the mor- indices to measure the degree of polycentri-
phologically polycentric system may change city including network density, primacy
without changes in the physical location index (the ratio of commuting flows or
of the nodes. Building on social network employment between the central city and
analysis, Green (2007) measures functional the rest of the city-region) and outward
polycentricity in terms of network density, openness (the ratio of commuters from
which is a ratio of the actual flows under other city-regions compared with total
study to the total potential flows. Although employment). Furthermore, building on
network density provides a useful tool to the commuting patterns introduced by van
analyse the functional organisation of a der Laan (1998), Burger et al. (2011)
spatial system, it has been criticised as assessed the level of functional polycentri-
being incapable of measuring functional city of the city-regions according to the
polycentricity properly in certain situations degree of cross-commuting and the degree
as hierarchically organised urban systems of exchange commuting. They conclude
may have high network density and centres that although the city-regions have become
with equal connectivity may have relatively more polycentric in both functional and
low network density (Burger and Meijers, morphological terms, their spatial structure
2012). differs considerably and some regions have
Another approach used for measuring even become more monocentric (Burger
the degree of functional polycentricity in an et al., 2011).
urban system is the gravity model (de Goei Linked to this research on English and
et al., 2010; van Oort et al., 2010). In the Welsh city-regions, Burger and Meijers
gravity model, the interaction between the (2012) developed the analysis further based
spatial units is explained by their size and on the logic behind the primacy indices in
the distance from another, similar to order to combine the morphological and
Newton’s law of universal gravitation. In a functional aspects of polycentricity in a way
fully functional polycentric system, the that both could be measured in a coherent
interaction between the nodes should be manner. Building on Preston’s (1971)
solely determined by the gravity model and approach to central place theory, Burger
no signs of hierarchy should be evident. De and Meijers used the rank–size distribution
Goei et al. (2010) used Poisson regression of nodality scores (i.e. the absolute impor-
in order to explore whether the commuting tance of the centre) to assess the degree of
patterns in south-east England meet these morphological polycentricity and, likewise,
conditions. Their findings indicated func- the rank–size distribution of the centrality
tionally polycentric development at the scores (i.e. the importance of the centre
intra-urban scale, but to a lesser extent at related to its surrounding) to measure the
the interurban scale. Applying the same degree of functional polycentricity. Their
approach, van Oort et al. (2010) found sim- indicator for polycentricity is a log-linear
ilar evidence in their analysis of the func- regression line of the rank–size distribution
tional integration of the Randstad region where a flat slope indicates a polycentric
using data on interfirm relationships. urban region. Their findings were similar

to those of Burger et al. (2011), indicating 4. Methodology

major variation in the level of polycentri-
city between the urban regions. 4.1 Sub-centre Identification
A wide range of methods to identify intra-
3. Data and the Case Study Areas urban sub-centres have been used. Early
approaches to detect sub-centres utilised
Data used in this study are obtained from simple cut-off values which were adjusted
the Monitoring System of the Spatial according to local knowledge (McMillen,
Structure maintained by the Finnish 2001). Giuliano and Small (1991), for
Environment Institute. The system offers instance, in their study on the Los Angeles
register-based data for the whole of Finland region defined an employment sub-centre
in five-year intervals starting from 1980 as having at least 10 000 workplaces at a
(Helminen and Ristimäki, 2007). The data minimum density of 10 employees per acre.
are aggregated to 2503250 metre grid More formal approaches have utilised para-
cells, which enable very detailed analysis metric methods where the outlying resi-
independent of administrative boundaries. duals of a monocentric regression model of
The commuting data include the origin employment density are used to mark sub-
(the place of residence) and destination (the centres (McDonald and Prather, 1994) or
location of workplace) grid cell for each com- non-parametric methods, which make use
muter. Thereby, the data are not based on of geographically weighted regression in
the actual commuter flows. Data from the order to allow for local variation in the
years 1980 and 2007 were used and all the density surfaces (McMillen, 2001). More
grid cells within the study area, apart from recent approaches have detected urban sub-
those completely covered by water, were centres through spatial cluster analysis
included in the study. (Baumont et al., 2004; Riguelle et al., 2007)
The case study areas cover the functional or kernel density analysis (Leslie, 2010).
urban regions (FURs) of the three largest Since the data used in this study consti-
urban areas in Finland: Helsinki, Turku and tute high-resolution grid cells, a sub-centre
Tampere. The functional urban regions are is understood as a local cluster of cells.
defined according to Parr’s (2007) definition Therefore, spatial cluster analysis is used for
where a FUR constitutes of a central, densely sub-centre identification. Several methods
built city and its surrounding area, which is exist for defining the location of spatial clus-
dependent on the workplaces of the central ters and a local version of Moran’s I
city. In this study, the central built-up area is described by Anselin (1995) is used here.
defined using the spatial cluster analysis of The method detects local agglomerations of
aggregated population and employment high values and calculates the statistical sig-
counts.1 The study area includes all the nificance level for each spatial cluster. Due
municipalities from which at least 25 per to spatial autocorrelation in the data, the
cent of the employed workforce commutes levels of statistical significance are influ-
to the central city area (Figure 1). This pro- enced by the problem of multiple compari-
cedure resulted in coherent functional urban sons creating a risk that the typical 0.05
regions, which in 2007 had total populations significance level may be too liberal. The sta-
of 1.26 million in the Helsinki region, tistical significance level also has a direct effect
325 000 in the Turku region and 379 000 in on the number of identified sub-centres. A
the Tampere region. conservative significance level decreases the

Figure 1. Case study areas.

Map source: National Land Survey of Finland.

number of spatial clusters but a too liberal three case study areas, the number of sub-
significance level may have a similar effect if centres has increased notably, particularly
distinct spatial clusters agglomerate together. around the ring roads, whereas the geogra-
Therefore, the choice of the used statistical phical sizes of the core area have not chan-
significance level is not only a means to con- ged much. In Turku and Tampere, many
trol correct bounds of statistical reasoning, industrial sub-centres that still existed in
but it can also be used to adjust the sub- 1980 have disappeared. In strictly morpholo-
centre identification process according to gical terms, it seems that the intra-urban
local knowledge. In this study, a significance spatial structure of these three urban regions
level of 0.01 was considered to generate a sub- has become increasingly polycentric in the
centre structure that most adequately resem- terms of employment distribution, while
bles the urban form of the study areas. population distribution does not show clear
Since spatial cluster analysis determines development towards a polycentric spatial
local non-randomness in the data, it will structure.
also detect rather weak spatial clusters. To
eliminate small and practically insignificant 4.2 Connectivity Fields as a Measure of
spatial clusters, a cut-off value is applied. Functional Polycentricity
In order to make the cut-off value sensitive
to local variation in each of the study Functional polycentricity has typically been
areas, the cut-off value is defined in rela- examined using measures that derive from
tive terms where sub-centres having a pop- the internodal flows of people or informa-
ulation or employment representing less tion within the polycentric system. In this
than 0.5 per cent of the regional total are paper, however, functional polycentricity is
excluded from the study. Of the remaining approached as the connectivity of indivi-
spatial clusters, the largest was considered dual centres to the whole polycentric urban
as the urban core area and the rest as sub- system. Instead of addressing directional flows
centres. In the case where several earlier between nodes, functional relations within the
separate sub-centres have merged together polycentric system are approached through
during the study period, all previously sep- the surfaces of interaction where the surface,
arate sub-centres are considered as one or connectivity field, determines how inten-
centre in order to enable unbiased longitu- sely a particular centre is functionally con-
dinal comparison. nected to the rest of the polycentric system.
Figure 2 illustrates the population and The advantage of the connectivity field
employment centres in all three study areas approach over the internodal approach is
in 1980 and 2007. The figure shows that the that it considers the totality of functional
development of population and employment flows within the urban region, not only flows
distribution have taken a rather different between the centres. In this regard, the con-
form. In terms of population distribution, nectivity field method resembles the bottom–
major developments have been taking place up approach of identifying functional urban
in the core areas where a number of sub- regions developed by Coombes et al. (1986).
centres, which were still separate in 1980, In the bottom–up approach, FURs are identi-
have sprawled together by 2007. Apart from fied using an algorithm that optimises the
the Turku region, the development of new regional boundaries on the basis of a full set
population sub-centres has been modest. of commuting data (Robson et al., 2006;
The development of employment distribu- Davoudi, 2008). In contrast, the top–down
tion has taken rather a different form. In all approach uses predetermined core areas as a

Figure 2. Urban core and sub-centres in 1980 and 2007. (Note the different scale in panels
(e) and (f)).
Base map source: National Land Survey of Finland.

starting-point in identifying FURs and cer- attracts commuters not only from nearby
tain commuting thresholds are applied to locations, but also evenly throughout the
determine the FUR boundaries. As a whole, region. SC2, on the other hand, has a much
the bottom–up approach provides a more more local labour market and thus also
comprehensive way of analysing urban sys- lower connectivity to the region.
tems compared with the top–down approach, In order to formally measure the level of
which focuses on flows between pre-defined connectivity, the R2 statistic of ordinary
nodes (Davoudi, 2008). least squares (OLS) is used to estimate
The connectivity fields are calculated using whether the relationship between the con-
a flow attribute which may be any interaction nectivity field and the potential field distri-
data that have origin and destination loca- butions is linear. If a linear relationship
tions, such as commuting, shopping trips, exists, the connectivity field of the centre in
telephone and e-mail traffic, business net- question has a more or less equal distribu-
works or international flights. The connectiv- tion with the potential field suggesting that
ity field of a particular centre is comprised of the centre is functionally connected to the
the distribution of destination locations that rest of the urban system. The connectivity
have their origin in the centre. Internal flows, field that differs from the potential field
which have both origin and destination in the
same centre, are omitted from the analysis. As
a result, the connectivity field reveals the (a) The connectivity field of the sub-centre 1
degree to which each centre is functionally sc2
connected to the other parts of the urban
system. The level of connectivity is deter- core
mined by comparing each connectivity field
with a potential field, which is formed from sc3
the distribution of the total number of desti-
nations in the interaction data. The more the
connectivity field of a particular centre resem- (b) The connectivity field of the sub-centre 2
bles the potential field, the more connected
the centre is with the rest of the region. sc2
This can be illustrated through a simple sc1
example where commuting in a hypotheti- core
cal urban region having a core area and
three employment sub-centres is considered
(Figure 3). In Figure 3(a), the connectivity
field of sub-centre 1 (SC1) is illustrated. The (c) The potential field
darker the tone in the diagram, the more
workers living in that particular location sc2
commute to the SC1. Similarly, the connec- sc1
tivity field of the sub-centre 2 (SC2) is illu- core
strated in Figure 3(b). Figure 3(c) shows the
potential field for commuting, which is sc3

determined by the distribution of places of

residence for all employees in the region. It
is clearly visible from Figure 3 that SC1 is Figure 3. An example of the connectivity
more connected to the urban region as it field method.

implies limited functional connectivity. The polycentric urban system is functionally

higher the R2 value, the more closely the interlinked or if this applies to only some of
connectivity field resembles the potential the centres thus revealing internal func-
field and, thereby, the more functionally tional dynamics in the urban system.
connected the centre is with the rest of the
urban system. In the example illustrated in
Figure 3, the R2 value for SC1 would pre-
5. Empirical Analysis of
sumably be high, well above 0.5, whereas
Polycentricity in Finnish
the same value for SC2 would be consider-
Urban Regions
ably lower.
5.1 Morphological Polycentricity
The overall degree of functional polycen-
tricity of a given region is measured from In strictly morphological terms, polycentri-
the average connectivity values of the cen- city refers to the existence of several adjacent
tres. The higher the average connectivity centres in a given region. In polycentricity
level of all centres in the urban system, the literature, however, polycentric urban sys-
more functional linkages exist within the tems are usually assumed to have an even
system, hence suggesting a high degree of distribution of inhabitants or workplaces
functional polycentricity. However, in addi- between the centres (Parr, 2004; Meijers,
tion to examining the overall degree of func- 2008; Burger and Meijers, 2012). Following
tional polycentricity, the connectivity field this line of reasoning, morphological poly-
method also enables one to examine the centricity is examined here by comparing
connectivity of a single centre to the urban the population and job counts of the centres
system and, therefore, to evaluate the spatial within the case study areas.
extent of functional polycentricity. In other Table 1 shows that all case study
words, the connectivity field method can areas seem to be morphologically more or
be used to evaluate whether the whole less monocentric. Whether population or

Table 1. Changes in population and employment distribution, 1980–2007

Population Employment
Percentage Percentage
change change
1980 2007 1980–2007 1980 2007 1980–2007

Core area 590 776 780 178 32.1 219 052 276 830 26.4
Sub-centres 58 132 142 882 145.8 40 255 153 711 281.8
Core/sub-centre ratio 0.10 0.18 86.1 0.18 0.56 202.1
Core area 170 507 191 572 12.4 51 817 81 764 57.8
Sub-centres 17 751 35 551 100.3 13 806 18 671 35.2
Core/sub-centre ratio 0.10 0.19 78.3 0.27 0.23 –14.3
Core area 173 162 231 298 33.6 62 866 93 293 48.4
Sub-centres 42 691 61 745 44.6 18 188 36 136 98.7
Core/sub-centre ratio 0.25 0.27 8.3 0.29 0.39 33.9

employment is considered, all the sub-cen- for employment distribution. The employ-
tres’ figures together do not amount to the ment sub-centres in Tampere have almost
figures of the respective core areas. In 2007, doubled in size, whereas the growth of
the population sub-centres amounted to employment sub-centres in Turku has been
only from 18 to 27 per cent of the inhabi- more moderate than in the core area sug-
tants of the core area depending on the gesting development towards a more
region. The most even distribution was monocentric spatial structure. This finding,
visible in the Tampere region where the however, can be explained by a drastic
study area includes a few relatively large decrease of industrial jobs in some sub-
and densely populated towns that are not centres of the Turku region from 1980 to
incorporated into the core area (see Figure 2). 2007 and, regardless of the declining core/
In terms of employment, the ratios between sub-centre ratio, new employment districts
the sub-centres and the core areas were have developed along the ring road simi-
somewhat higher ranging from 23 per cent larly to the Helsinki region.
in the Turku region to 56 per cent in the
Helsinki region. 5.2 Functional Polycentricity
When the change in morphological
polycentricity from 1980 to 2007 is consid- Table 2 shows the average R2 values indi-
ered, a clear trend of increasing polycentri- cating the level of functional polycentricity.
city becomes visible. In all cases, urban core In 2007 the overall degree of functional
areas have grown moderately, by about 10 polycentricity in the three case study areas
to 50 per cent. The sub-centres, however, ranged from 0.2 to 0.4 for employment
have grown in many cases at a much faster centres and from 0.5 to 0.6 for population
pace, the growth rates ranging from 45 to centres indicating differences in their gen-
145 per cent for population and from 35 to eral functional structure. The considerably
280 per cent for employment. The highest lower degree of functional polycentricity of
sub-centre growth rates are visible in the employment centres implies that they have
Helsinki region where the number of more local labour market compared with
employees in the employment sub-centres population centres. In other words, people
has increased remarkably from 40 000 to living in the population centres seem to
over 150 000. It seems that, in the terms of commute diversely across the urban region,
employment distribution, Helsinki is rap- whereas the employment centres seem to
idly developing towards polycentric region attract a larger number of local commuters,
as, in addition to an increase in number of thus making their functional structure
the employees, the number of sub-centres more monocentric.
has increased considerably, particularly Despite the relatively high overall degree
along the ring roads (see Figure 2). of functional polycentricity, the connectiv-
The growth rates of sub-centres in the ity levels of the urban core areas are still
Turku and Tampere regions are more notably higher than those of the sub-cen-
diverse. Whereas the number of inhabitants tres. However, the connectivity values of
has doubled in the population sub-centres the sub-centres, ranging from 0.18 to 0.56,
in Turku, the population growth rate of the suggest that also they have significant func-
sub-centres in the Tampere region was tional connectivity within their respective
basically at the same level as in the core regions. In general, the sub-centres seem to
area indicating rather modest polycentric be more functionally than morphologically
development. An opposite finding is visible polycentric as in most cases the ratios

Table 2. Changes in the degree of functional polycentricity, 1980–2007

Population Employment
Percentage Percentage
1980 2007 change 1980–2007 1980 2007 change 1980–2007

Overall 0.532 0.606 13.9 0.317 0.400 26.2
Core area 0.824 0.904 9.7 0.921 0.884 –4.0
Sub-centres 0.460 0.563 22.4 0.242 0.367 51.7
Core/sub-centre ratio 0.56 0.62 11.6 0.26 0.42 58.0
Overall 0.255 0.526 106.3 0.176 0.236 34.1
Core area 0.805 0.876 8.8 0.860 0.875 1.7
Sub-centres 0.118 0.487 312.7 0.124 0.178 43.5
Core/sub-centre ratio 0.15 0.56 279.3 0.14 0.20 41.1
Overall 0.204 0.411 101.5 0.112 0.227 102.7
Core area 0.442 0.774 75.1 0.843 0.873 3.6
Sub-centres 0.175 0.371 112.0 0.045 0.178 297.3
Core/sub-centre ratio 0.40 0.48 21.1 0.05 0.20 283.7

between core and sub-centres are consider- and Tampere. In these regions, both popu-
ably higher in Table 2 than in Table 1. lation and employment sub-centres, charac-
However, it must be noted that the ratios terised by rather low connectivity in 1980,
are not fully comparable between the tables appear to have amalgamated functionally
as the values presenting morphological with their urban regions during the studied
polycentricity in Table 1 are sums of all period. Therefore, the development in
the inhabitants or workplaces in the sub- Turku and Tampere seems to be following a
centres, whereas Table 2 shows the average polycentric development similar to that
connectivity values for the sub-centres. apparent in the Helsinki region where sub-
Therefore, an identical core/sub-centre centres already had rather high connectivity
ratio in Tables 1 and 2 would suggest levels in 1980.
greater polycentricity in functional than in
morphological terms. 5.3 Functional and Morphological
Table 2 shows that the overall functional
Polycentricity Compared
polycentricity levels have increased consid-
erably in all regions from 1980 to 2007. This The findings presented thus far suggest that
trend becomes even clearer when the core the case study regions are more polycentric
areas and the sub-centres are considered in functional than in morphological terms.
separately. On the one hand, the functional In this section, the comparison between the
connectivity of core areas has in most cases two measures of polycentricity is deepened
increased only slightly or even decreased. by a joint analysis of functional and mor-
The connectivity of the sub-centres, on the phological polycentricity. In the analysis, the
other hand, has grown markedly with the individual polycentricity level for each centre
fastest growth rates taking place in Turku is examined in relation to their distance to

the city centre. The level of functional con- in 1980 and 2007. Therefore, although a
nectivity is measured using R2 values as trend of increasing polycentricity is visible
described earlier. Morphological polycentri- in absolute terms in Table 1, this observed
city, however, is approached in relative development disappears when the centres
rather than absolute terms in order to enable are examined separately in relative terms.
comparison. The degree of morphological Conversely, the internal structure of the
polycentricity is measured as the proportion functionally polycentric development has
of inhabitants or workplaces in each centre, changed significantly. The most notable
thus yielding a figure ranging between 0 and increases in connectivity have taken place
1. Although this figure is not fully compara- in the sub-centres located approximately
ble with the R2 value,2 it enables the compar- 10–20 kilometres from the city centres,
ison of both measures on the same scale. whereas changes in the centres located fur-
Figure 4 shows that in morphological ther away from the central areas have been
terms all of the case study regions are indeed more modest. It therefore seems that, at
very monocentric. A clear majority of all least in terms of commuting, intensive
inhabitants and workplaces are located in the functional polycentric urban development
core areas leaving only fractions to the sub- has been limited to rather small areas
centres, which forms L-shaped trend lines in within the urban regions.
Figure 4. Although an explanation for this
lies in the large geographical area covered by
the cores thus resulting in large population 6. Conclusions
and employment counts, it does not explain
the increase in functional polycentricity A substantial amount of research literature
apparent, particularly through the rapid has addressed polycentricity both empiri-
increase of the connectivity of the sub- cally and conceptually. Yet, despite numer-
centres. Figure 4 shows that the connectivity ous demands to clarify the concept
levels have increased notably in all regions. (Davoudi, 2003; Parr, 2004; Hoyler et al.,
Particularly rapid growth has taken place in 2008; Meijers, 2008), the term ‘polycentri-
the population distribution of Turku and city’ has been surrounded by a certain fuz-
Tampere where the trend line has changed ziness as regards to its formal definition
from a rather steep curve to almost linear and analytical measurement. This paper has
indicating a significant increase in the degree contributed to the discussion on measuring
of functional polycentricity. Although this urban polycentricity, an issue which Burger
trend is not as striking in the employment and Meijers (2012) bring forth as the next
centres as in the population centres, the ten- step in the polycentricity debate. In the
dency towards functionally more polycentric paper, a new method of measuring func-
urban structures is nevertheless clearly visible. tional polycentricity has been introduced
Since the levels of functional and mor- where the degree of polycentricity is mea-
phological polycentricity are shown sepa- sured through the connectivity of the
rately for each centre in Figure 4, it is urban centres to the rest of the polycentric
possible to examine the internal dynamics urban system.
of polycentric development within the The empirical results support the findings
regions. The changes in the degree of mor- of Burger and Meijers (2012) who concluded
phological polycentricity are small, as is that the urban regions in the Netherlands
apparent from the practically identical seem to be more polycentric in functional
trend lines of morphological polycentricity rather than in morphological terms. This

1.0 1.0
(a) Helsinki, population (b) Helsinki, employment
1980 functional 1980 functional
2007 functional 2007 functional
0.8 1980 morphological 0.8 1980 morphological
2007 morphological 2007 morphological
Level of polycentricity

Level of polycentricity
0.6 0.6

0.4 0.4

0.2 0.2

0.0 0.0
0 10 20 30 40 0 10 20 30 40
Mean distance to city centre (km) Mean distance to city centre (km)
1.0 1.0
(c) Turku, population (d) Turku, employment
1980 functional 1980 functional
2007 functional 2007 functional
0.8 1980 morphological 0.8 1980 morphological
2007 morphological 2007 morphological
Level of polycentricity

Level of polycentricity

0.6 0.6

0.4 0.4

0.2 0.2

0.0 0.0
0 5 10 15 20 25 5 10 0 15 20 25 30
Mean distance to city centre (km) Mean distance to city centre (km)
1.0 1.0
(e) Tampere, population (f) Tampere, employment
1980 functional 1980 functional
2007 functional 2007 functional
0.8 1980 morphological 0.8 1980 morphological
2007 morphological 2007 morphological
Level of polycentricity

Level of polycentricity

0.6 0.6

0.4 0.4

0.2 0.2

0.0 0.0
0 10 20 30 40 0 10 20 30 40
Mean distance to city centre (km) Mean distance to city centre (km)

Figure 4. The relationship between functional and morphological polycentricity.


finding is in line with the observation that utilised also at interurban or even higher
cities have changed from mere morphologi- scales, as long as applicable interaction data
cal objects to increasingly functional entities are available. On a global scale, for example,
better determined by flows than physical international air traffic could be used as
structure (Hall, 2009). It seems that urban interaction data where the connectivity field
regions are indeed increasingly characterised of each region would be the number of daily
by Manuel Castells’ (1996) ‘space of flows’. or weekly flight connections to other regions
However, despite the evidence of increasing in the world and the potential field would be
functional polycentricity in Finnish urban the total number of all flights arriving at
regions, the paper has shown that the intra- each region. The analysis would thereby
urban spatial structure, in morphological yield high connectivity for regions with
terms, is still more or less monocentric. dense intercontinental and regional flight
Similar evidence has been reported in several connections whereas those regions having
other studies (for example, Halbert, 2004; connections only with a few other regions
Musterd et al., 2006; Suárez and Delgado, would have a low level of connectivity.
2009; Garcia-López and Muñiz, 2010; Yue The major limitation of the connectivity
et al., 2010). It is clear that, despite certain field method is the poor availability of
development towards polycentricity, the applicable data. The method requires com-
importance of central cities is far from being plete datasets covering the whole popula-
threatened. tion under study, which limits the use of
The particular strength of the connectiv- survey data, for instance. In intra-urban or
ity field method lies in its ability to examine interurban research settings, commuting
the internal dynamics of functional poly- data are widely used as they are often the
centricity. The empirical analysis showed only available high-quality interaction data
how the increased functional polycentricity (Parr, 2005; Burger et al., 2011). However,
has primarily been an outcome of the at higher scales where commuting does not
increased connectivity of the inner sub- provide realistic information about the
centres, located typically along the ring daily flows of people, similar interaction
roads. This ‘ring road effect’ emphasises the data are rarely readily available. The avail-
importance of transport infrastructure in ability of applicable data is also linked with
functional polycentric development (see another shortcoming of the method. As
Giuliano et al., 2012). It is not surprising available data are often economic in nature,
that centres which are easily reachable from the method effectively omits the socio-
every corner of the urban region also tend ecological spaces that shape the functional
to be functionally connected with the rest structure of the urban regions as well
of the region. Furthermore, the empirical (Davoudi, 2008). Other interaction data,
findings highlight the relatively small size of such as social visits, trips to cultural or lei-
the functionally polycentric urban regions sure amenities and commodity or waste
in Finland. Following Castells’s (1996) spa- flows, for instance, might form completely
tial logic, it seems that in Finnish urban different connectivity patterns within urban
regions, the area characterised by the space regions. Such data, however, are rarely
of flows seems to cover only rather limited available, at least at the required level of
areas of polycentric urban systems. detail.
The scalar focus in this paper has been This paper has introduced a new method
intra-urban. The connectivity field method, of analysing functional polycentricity together
however, is fully scalable and it can be with empirical examples from the three

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