Conurbation Basics


The English word conurbation came to our language as a conurbation. It is the set formed by different urban centers that, at first, were independent, but due to their growth they ended up joining.

According to, the term was coined by botanist and biologist Patrick Geddes, born in Scotland in 1854, who is widely recognized for his innovative ideas in the fields of education and urban planning. In 1915 he spoke for the first time of this concept in his book Cities in evolution, when elaborating a description of the growth of several cities looking at them as a whole.

In any case, the meaning that Geddes originally gave to the term conurbation is closer to the idea of expansion of a city in general, and not so much to the fusion, so to speak, to which he currently refers in the fields of urban planning and geography.

For a conurbation to develop, there must be several towns or cities located close to each other. Due to new construction and population growth, these towns are expanding their surface until the limits disappear and come together: it is difficult to establish where one town ends and the other begins. The conurbation, however, does not always imply physical contiguity.

Although it is not a requirement that the built spaces be located continuously, roads are usually created to connect the suburban areas of each city. In this way, when we speak of a conurbation, we refer to regions that generally cover several hundred square kilometers.

It is usual that, in a conurbation, each member maintains its administrative independence. Many times the cities that make up a conurbation have a center, different neighborhoods and a periphery that are their own, beyond being part of a larger group.

The identity of each component of a conurbation is maintained at various levels, such as the characteristics of their social groups, their suburban spaces, their culture, their economic resources and the activities pursued by investment plans for their development.

Greater Buenos Aires, also known as the Buenos Aires conurbation, is an example of a conurbation that occurred in Argentina. The various parties that surround the City of Buenos Aires or are close to it, such as Florencio Varela, General San Martín, Lomas de Zamora, Avellaneda and San Isidro, forged a union. In this conurbation several cords are usually distinguished: successive rings that are located according to their proximity to the City of Buenos Aires. The towns closest to theCity of Buenos Aires make up the first cordon of the Buenos Aires conurbation.

In Uruguay, for its part, there is the Maldonado – Punta del Este conurbation. These cities used to maintain a geographical and cultural distance but, over the years, they progressively came together.

It is important to differentiate the conurbation from the urban agglomeration, a phenomenon that consists of a city expanding and «absorbing» the neighboring nuclei, turning them into suburban areas that are part of a whole in which there is a single organization of space. In short, the agglomeration does require spatial continuity and does not admit the independence of functions.

Broadly speaking, three types of conurbation are distinguished: in the first we find those that arise from a regional process that is associated with the development of industry, where the different cities participate in the transformation; the second is related to the crisis in the countryside and urban growth; the third arises when a city acquires enough power to dominate those that are in its vicinity.