Polycentric Metropolitan Form: Application of a ‘Northern’ Concept in Latin America


  • Arie Romein
  • Otto Verkoren
  • Ana María Fernandez




Since the mid 20th century, large urban areas in advanced economies have experienced a fundamental transformation from relatively compact monocentric cities towards more extended polycentric metropolitan areas. By now, it is being commented repeatedly, but not investigated systematically that the concept of polycentricity is also adequate to characterise recent metropolitan dynamics in Latin-America.

This paper aims to present a few key-issues for a future research agenda into polycentricity in Latin-American metropolitan areas. These elements are identified from a review of existing literature. Since no clear-cut definition and operationalisation of polycentricity exist yet, we distinguish some key-elements of this phenomenon in North America as a frame of reference for this review. It reveals that ‘polycentricity U.S. style’ is at best dawning in Latin-America. In order to achieve a more appropriate picture of polycentricity of Latin American metropolitan areas, our ideas for a research agenda take into account these areas typical economic, social and spatial conditions.

Author Biographies

Arie Romein

Arie Romein is an academic staff member of the OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies of the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. He is a researcher in the section of Urban and Regional Studies. His current research focuses on the activity system of urban entertainment and leisure, and on the ‘creative city’, with special emphasis on polycentric urban areas and networks. He can be contacted at a.romein@tudelft.nl

Otto Verkoren

Otto Verkoren is an urban geographer, specialized in the urban geography of Latin America. Before his retirement, he chaired the International Development Studies Unit of the Department of Human Geography and Planning, Faculty of GeoSciences, University of Utrecht. His contact email is verko053@planet.nl

Ana María Fernandez

Ana María Fernández-Maldonado is part of the academic staff of the Faculty of Architecture of the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. She is a researcher in the group of Spatial Planning and Strategy from the section of Urbanism. Her current research focuses on ICT-related urban transformations, the urban effects of the knowledge-based economy, and urban developments in large cities of developing countries. Her contact email is a.m.fernandezmaldonado@tudelft.nl