A century of decoupling size and structure of urban spaces in the United States

Johannes H. Uhl, Dylan S. Connor, Stefan Leyk, Anna E. Braswell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Most cities in the United States of America are thought to have followed similar development trajectories to evolve into their present form. However, data on spatial development of cities are limited prior to 1970. Here we leverage a compilation of high-resolution spatial land use and building data to examine the evolving size and form (shape and structure) of US metropolitan areas since the early twentieth century. Our analysis of building patterns over 100 years reveals strong regularities in the development of the size and density of cities and their surroundings, regardless of timing or location of development. At the same time, we find that trajectories regarding shape and structure are harder to codify and more complex. We conclude that these discrepant developments of urban size- and form-related characteristics are driven, in part, by the long-term decoupling of these two sets of attributes over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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