Anatomy of urban sprawl in Barcelona

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18 Citations (Scopus)


There is no commonly accepted definition of urban sprawl, and therefore applied research has worked with different indicators aiming to grasp the diverse meanings assigned to the term. This study measures how the dispersion of population and employment in the Barcelona Metropolitan Region (BMR) developed between 1986 and 2001. The dimensions that were investigated are divided into two groups. The first one involves dimensions of urban form (decentralization, low density and discontinuity), and the second, of urban structure. As opposed to some studies, where polycentrism and linear growth are presented as two forms of sprawl, in our case we contrast the idea of structured urban expansion (linear or poly-centric) with de structured urban expansion (amorphous, chaotic or random), identifying the latter with the fourth dimension of sprawl. The results suggest that population and employment in the BMR has become decentralized in a non-concentrated way and, in the case of population, the density has decreased. However, the BMR has not grown in a discontinuous or de-structured way, but quite the contrary. © EURE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-219
Issue number116
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Urban morphology
  • Urban sprawl
  • Urban structure


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