African City model ap human geography definition (2022)

Do you live in a galactic city? Cities are growing much faster than rural areas, and the dynamics of urban geography is an important subject to know about for the AP® Human Geography exam. Over the past 100 years, there have been several classic models developed to understand and explain the internal structures of cities and urban areas. In this AP® Human Geography study guide, we are going to see how urban land use has evolved as we consider Chauncey Harris’s galactic city model.

  • Why Do So Many People Live in the City?
  • Edge Cities
  • Urban Land Use Models
  • Galactic City (Peripheral) Model
  • Nodes of the Galactic City Model
  • Central Business District (CBD)
  • Light Industrial Park
  • Office Parks (Research and Development Parks and Service Organizations
  • Retail Centers and Malls
  • High Technology and Computing
  • The Galactic City Model and the AP® Human Geography Exam
  • Let’s put everything into practice. Try this AP® Human Geographypractice question:
  • Looking for more AP® Human Geography practice?

Why Do So Many People Live in the City?

Cities are at the center of every advanced society and act as the hub of economic, social and political activities in an area. They have a variety of shapes and functions, and their geography impacts the daily lives of those who live in the city and surrounding areas. All cities provide their residents a variety of services and functions: shopping, manufacturing, transportation, education, medical, and protective services.

Cities have evolved over time, and their populations have dramatically increased. This has led to urbanization (rapid growth, and migration to large cities). This increase in urban population resulted in rapid expansion of the city and greater urbanization of the society. After the conclusion of World War II, North America experienced rapid urbanization. There was a need for housing outside of the core urban areas due to growing population and demand. The result was the suburbanization of our society. Suburbanization is the movement of people from core urban areas to the outskirts.

Edge Cities

An even more recent phenomenon is the concept of the edge city. An edge city is an urban area with a large suburban residential and business area surrounding it. These areas are tied together by a beltway.

(Video) 7 Urban Geography City Models You Need To Know [AP Human Geography Unit 6 Topic 5] (6.5)

The edge cities started as suburban areas for those who worked in the central cities. Eventually, new shopping complexes developed in these suburban areas, such as enclosed shopping malls, and big-box chains. Many edge cities now a mix of business and some manufacturing centers. Edge cities are the opposite of bedroom communities (a residential suburb inhabited mainly by people who commute to a nearby city for work) because these places have many businesses, but very few residents.

Urban Land Use Models

In the early 1900’s, researchers wanted to find out how cities worked. They developed a variety of urban land use models to help describe and explain different types of cities and the neighborhoods that made up the city. It makes sense that scholars at the University of Chicago developed many of these land use models because Chicago was a city that saw rapid growth in the 19th century.

Some of those models like Burgess’s concentric zone model and Hoyt’s sector model asserted that all models used to explain urban land use have at their center the central business district (CBD). The CDB is found at the heart of every older city and is the area of skyscrapers, business headquarters, and banks.

A few years after Burgess and Hoyt published their findings, fellow Chicagoan geographers Chauncey Harris and Edward Ullman came up with their own idea of urban land use, the multiple-nuclei model. They asserted that the CBD was no longer the only center of an urban area or city. In the multiple-nuclei, the “nuclei” are multiple smaller growth centers that developed around the metropolitan area.

Harris and Ullman claimed that, in newer cities, automobile-based intra-urban diffusion was creating a multiple-nuclei structure of urban land use. This mobility allowed for regional centers to specialize their businesses. In the last half of the twentieth century, urban geographers, like Harris (co-author of the multiple-nuclei model) noticed that many of the new suburban CBDs in the United States became specialized toward a particular industrial or service sector. In 1960, Chauncy Harris published his galactic city model.

Galactic City (Peripheral) Model

African City model ap human geography definition (1)

Night-time skyline shot of glowing city that is Detroit. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The galactic city model is also known as the peripheral model. The model is based on the city of Detroit, Michigan and is made up of an inner city, with large suburban residential and business areas surrounding it. These areas are tied together by transportation nodes, like beltways, to avoid traffic congestion. This model takes the Harris and Ullman’s multiple nuclei model one step further. It accounts for the fact that the classic CBD is no longer dominant, but is instead upstaged by several specialized suburban areas. In the galactic city model, the urban area is decentralized and more focus is placed on edge cities.

(Video) Quick Review: Subsaharan City Model

The galactic city model depicts a city taken over by lives dominated by the car and has been affected by a quickly growing suburb. Models developed in the 1920s and 30’s assumed a lone urban center, which may have been a reliable assumption for much of urban history up to that point, but developments in transportation made these models less realistic by the by the 1950s. Cities would now be built at auto-scale, with parking lots around stores and office complexes. These suburban areas would spread out and single-use zones would separate one another.

Nodes of the Galactic City Model

Central Business District (CBD)

In the middle of the galactic city model is the CBD, as it is in classic urban land use models. However, in the galactic city model, the CBD is very decentralized and somewhat empty due to the move from urban to suburban areas. The galactic city model shows the evolution of the post-industrial city and its movement away from the large central city CBD.

Light Industrial Park

As mentioned above, this model represents a clear-cut decentralization of the commercial urban landscape as the economy transitions to services as the leading form of production. Manufacturing has not disappeared, it has just decreased significantly and has become more specialized. Local governments often subsidized these industries to offset costs and increase job opportunities.

This change in focus means that new facilities are built in specially designed suburban industrial parks and can be smaller and operate on lower-cost land, called greenfield sites. These sites have ample land, parking areas, and access to highways.

Office Parks (Research and Development Parks and Service Organizations

Office parks are located on the beltway because it is easier to get there by car and is closer to the suburbs and not many people drive into the CBD to work. Also, there are the combined employment and shopping centers; this is where both offices and shopping malls are located.

Other types of service organizations are found in the suburban CBDs. A few examples, including those transportation services, biotechnology, medical centers, telecommunications and call centers, banking and finance, government centers, and academic institutions.

Retail Centers and Malls

You will find suburban retail centers in several areas around the city. They are often located at the intersection of the beltway and the artery leading from the old CBD. Large shopping malls are also located outside the CBD and are typically spread out in the suburbs where the people live. Entertainment businesses and other services have also migrated to the suburbs from the central CBD. These companies concentrate in edge cities which are located at highway junctions.

(Video) Demographic & Epidemiological Transition Model [AP Human Geography Unit 2 Topic 5] (2.5)

High Technology and Computing

Another trend in the development of office facilities in the suburbs is the growth of suburban corporate campuses. The 1980s saw the rapid growth of office space in the suburbs, rather than in the city. Many of those start-ups were the iconic high-tech corporations of today, like Apple, Google, and Microsoft. All of these companies have their headquarters in the suburbs.

The Galactic City Model and the AP® Human Geography Exam

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For the AP® Human Geography Exam, you will need to know some urban land use models. Just like other models in AP® Human Geography, knowing the structure is only part of the process. Knowing the composition will help you answer the “where,” but you also need to know the “who, why, and how” behind the different parts of the model.

Classic urban land-use models, like the Hoyt sector model, have been used as FRQs in the past (2002 FRQ, Question #3). If the galactic city model is presented as an FRQ, you could be asked to give examples of what these classic models represent. You may also be asked to explain the different parts of the model and how they relate to each other. So, spend time understanding how the model works, instead of memorizing the shape, and you will be able to earn more points on the question.


Urban land use models were developed to explain different types of cities, their neighborhoods, and how they functioned. But the modern metropolis has shed the confines of its old central-city in the second half of the 20th century. These models are longer capable of keeping up with a new reality where the suburbs are the heart and soul of the American urban landscape.

The galactic city model provides a good representation of the land-use organization of today’s using edge cities and decentralized specialty areas to illustrate how the urban land is used. The CBD is no longer at the center of the action, but several specialized business areas have evolved to support the outskirts of the city.

As we have discussed in this study guide, the models have changed over time. Both the cities themselves have changed, as well as how geographers have looked at cities and their urban patterns. As you go from the concentric zone model to the galactic city model, think of the growth of the city as an evolutionary process on your way to understanding the changing urban landscape.

(Video) Unit 1: Thinking Geographically

Let’s put everything into practice. Try this AP® Human Geographypractice question:

African City model ap human geography definition (3)

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What is the African city model? ›

Informal satellite townships: where squatter settlements and shantytowns are located. Shelter is made out of anything. Also known as "The Sub Saharan Model" The African City Model consists of three CBD's, market zone, transitional business center, and development.

What is the African Model AP Human Geography? ›

African City Model is also called the De Blij Model because De Blij, a famous geographer, created this. The tropics of Africa remain under forty percent urbanized and outside this area, the remaining regions are about fifty-seven percent urban.

What are the strengths of the African city model? ›

Strengths. Subsaharan Africa cities are centered around the 3 CBD's with middle income residential areas and mining/manufacturing areas. This puts neighborhoods next to marketing zones and factories for workers to live near their place of work or go into town for business.

What are the different types of city models? ›

  • City Models.
  • Concentric Zone Model.
  • Hoyt Sector Model.
  • Multiple Nuclei Model.
  • Peripheral Model - “Edge Cities”
Jun 1, 2020

What are the characteristics of African cities? ›

In sum, large African cities are characterized by their growth, urban macrocephaly, informality and colonial heritage. Such characters are sources of enormous difficulties in the management of these cities.

What are the 3 models of urban development? ›

Through the years ecological researchers have identified three major models of the geometry of city form: concentric zone, sector, and multiple nuclei.

What cities use the African city model? ›

European colonization put urban centers like Kenya, The Congo, Nairobi, and Zimbabwe in the interior. Along Coasts: Senegal, Ivory Coast, Angola, and Mozambique.

What does the galactic city model explain? ›

Galactic City Model. represents the post-industrial city with its several, dispersed business districts. This model represents a distinct decentralization of the commercial urban landscape as the economy has transitioned to services as the leading form of production.

What are the three types of models used by physical geographers? ›

In general, however, there are three broad categories of models that you'll encounter frequently.
  • Spatial Models. Perhaps the most common type of geographic model is the spatial model, which defines data points in set, determined physical space. ...
  • Urban Models. ...
  • Non-Spatial Models.
Dec 21, 2021

Why did African cities grow wealthy and powerful? ›

Why did African cities grow wealthy and powerful? Plantations, slave trade, and trade routes.

What are the major urban challenges facing African cities? ›

Recent African urbanization analyses have confirmed the problems of limited job creation, inadequate structural transformation, and poor livability seen in many sub-Saharan African cities today.

Which African city is most developed? ›

1. Cape Town, South Africa. Most Developed Cities In Africa-Cape Town skyline.

What are the 3 types models? ›

They include visual models, mathematical models, and computer models. All three types of models can be used in every branch of science.

What type of city model is Atlanta? ›

A multiple nuclei model involves an OBD and a CBD, followed by several districts surrounding it. (A great example of this would be Atlanta, Georgia and its OBD, Buckhead) It originated in 1945 by two men, Chauncy Harris and Edward Ullman in the article "The Nature of Cities."

What are the 3 models of North American cities? ›

The major textbooks all discuss three classic models describing North American cities: concentric zone, sector, and multiple nuclei. Understanding these models provides a foundation from which students examine more recent interpretations of cities.

What are three major African cities? ›

Lagos, in Nigeria, ranked as the most populated city in Africa as of 2022, with an estimated population of roughly 15.4 million inhabitants. Kinshasa, in Congo, and Cairo, in Egypt, followed with some 7.8 million and 7.7 million dwellers.

What were the 3 ancient cities in Africa? ›

Ancient Africa was home to many great cities. These include the Egyptian cities of Memphis and Thebes as well as Carthage, home of the great warrior Hannibal, and Alexandria, known for its legendary library.

What urban model is Paris? ›

The urban area of Paris is characteristic of the “classical” centre–periphery model with a particularly significant difference in price between the centre and the suburbs (Figure 5).

How many types of urbanization models are there? ›

Brown (2006), president of the United States Earth Policy Institute and an ecological economist, believes that there are two types of urbanization and economic development models, model A and model B. The former is the development model of developed countries represented by the USA.

What is an example of a sector model city? ›

The sector model of a city was based on Chicago; the higher income residential was built along the desirable Lake Michigan and north of the CBD. Chicago closely implementing the Sector Model.

What is the meaning of model city? ›

Model Cities, in contrast to urban renewal, was not a construction project centered around new housing developments. Instead, it was meant to be a more holistic development project, enfolding health, education, job opportunities, and new housing projects into its domain.

What does the galactic city model explain? ›

Galactic City Model. represents the post-industrial city with its several, dispersed business districts. This model represents a distinct decentralization of the commercial urban landscape as the economy has transitioned to services as the leading form of production.

What does the McGee model show? ›

McGee studied the medium‐sized cities of Southeast Asia and found that they exhibit similar land‐use patterns, creating a model referred to as the McGee model. The focal point of the city is the old colonial port zone combined with the largely commercial district that surrounds it.

What is the primate city model? ›

A primate city is the dominant city among a country's urban areas. Countries have urban hierarchies comprising large and small cities in terms of their population sizes, spatial extent, or territorial size and the importance of their economies.


1. APHUG - Urban Models and Hierarchy of Cities
2. Introduction and Origin to Cities and Urbanization! AP Human Geography (Advanced Placement)
(The Eason)
3. 1.4 Understanding Maps (AP Human Geography)
(Ms. Sinclair)
4. AP Human Geography Cities & Urban Lecture Part 1
(Byte-Sized Human Geography)
5. AP Human Geography Unit 2 Review [Population & Migration Patterns & Processes]
(Mr. Sinn)
6. Ch 9 Urban Geography Video Lecture Part 1
(Amy Wildey)

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