Characteristics of Territories-in-between

Beyond Urban–Rural Classifications: Characterising and Mapping Territories- in-between Across Europe


  • Alexander Wandl TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Vincent Nadin TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Wil Zonneveld TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Envrinment
  • Remon Rooij TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment



Much of physical territory of the Europe does not fit classic ‘urban–rural’ typologies but can best be described as ‘territories-in-between’ (TiB). There is considerable agreement that TiB is pervasive and very significant. However, typologies of territory or spatial development continue to employ only degrees of either urban or rural. Similarly, spatial planning and territorial development policies rarely make use of the notion of in-between areas but tend instead to divide the territory into urban and rural zones. Questions have been raised therefore about the lack of understanding of territories-in-between and their negligence in planning policy. This paper contributes to a better understanding of TiB, by proposing a method for their characterisation and mapping. It asks if there can be a common definition of TiB that reflects consistent and distinctive characteristics across the great variety of spatial development contexts in Europe. It proposes spatial and demographic criteria for their definition, mapping and comparison. The comparison with widely used urban–rural classifications shows that the presented classification of TiB has three advantages: (i) it maps the complexity of the spatial structure of urbanised areas on a regional scale, and thereby helps to overcome the prevalent idea that urbanised regions are characterised by a spatial gradient from urban centre(s) to rural periphery; (ii) it emphasises the network structure of territories-in-between and the underlying connectivity of places with different functions and (iii) it raises awareness that in some parts of Europe a settlement pattern has developed that cannot be understood as either urban or rural.






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