Object structure


Rozrost terytorialny dużych miast w Polsce = Territorial development of large cities in Poland


Przegląd Geograficzny T. 92 z. 4 (2020)


Szmytkie, Robert : Autor


Szmytkie, Robert : Autor


Szmytkie, Robert : Uniwersytet Wrocławski Instytut Geografii i Rozwoju Regionalnego



Place of publishing:


Date issued/created:



24 cm

Type of object:


Subject and Keywords:

territorial expansion ; spatial development ; development cycle ; large cities


The primary aim of the study was to identify the process of territorial expansion and spatial development in large cities of Poland: Wrocław, Warsaw and Cracow. This denoted the gathering of information on changes in administrative boundaries as well as population in the cities referred to – from the 13th century all the way through to modern times. The research hypothesis adopted was that cities expand their territories gradually, with each extension of administrative boundaries following a specific pattern and reflecting social and economic growth. The territorial development of a city (territorial change) thus relates to growth (change) in the administrative area, often in the form of expansion in relation to a widening of administrative boundaries, but with narrowing also possible. The spatial development of the city in turn follows the development of urbanised areas both within the boundaries and in the immediate vicinity of the given city. The study was inspired by observations on the specific nature of territorial growth in Wrocław and other large cities in Poland, for which analysis revealed some regularities to the settlement processes during different historical periods. Firstly, changes in the administrative boundaries of large cities followed a pulsatile pattern, with consecutive modifications alternating with periods of stability of variable length. Secondly, the territorial expansion of a city usually came after a period of dynamic social and economic growth both within existing boundaries and in the surrounding zone connected closely with the city and transformed under its influence. In turn, most longer periods in which boundaries were stable corresponded to periods of social and economic stagnation in the given city. Thirdly, the boundaries of cities changed when a certain climax point of population density was exceeded, and the city could no longer grow within its existing boundaries. Each extension contributed to an increase in the administered area and to population growth, albeit with populati n density decreasing considerably – in statistical terms – given the incorporation of new, less-urbanised areas offering free (potential) land for further urban growth. Fourthly, the sequence of development processes and their specific repeatability are cyclical in nature, and consecutive cycles are seen to end successive stages involving the extension of cities’ administrative boundaries. A single cycle of changes in the administrative boundaries of the city consists of five basic phases. Phase I is the initial phase, which takes place at the moment of foundation of a city, or in the case of subsequent cycles – when there is extension of the city limits. During phase II the number of residents and population density within the city borders increase as a result of socio-economic growth. During phase III population density within the city boundaries continues to increase, and after reaching the limit of its growth potential the city sprawls to the nearest neighbourhood. During phase IV the impact of the city n its neighbourhood stimulates further development of the suburbs. This process may also often encompass suburban villages or smaller towns strongly connected with the city. During phase V the functional link between the city and its neighbourhood (suburbs) is so strong that the administrative boundaries are extended to include suburban areas that represent a natural extension of the city. This contributes to an increase in area and population growth, as well as to a major decrease in population density within the new boundaries. This phase is at the same time the initial phase for the next cycle of a city’s spatial and territorial development. The above described cyclical pattern of territorial growth concerns a specific group of cities – monocentric regional centres developing as a result of the influence of centripetal forces in the physicalism and functional approach.


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2300-8466 (on-line) ; 10.7163/PrzG.2020.4.3


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Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization of the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Central Library of Geography and Environmental Protection. Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization PAS

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Operational Program Digital Poland, 2014-2020, Measure 2.3: Digital accessibility and usefulness of public sector information; funds from the European Regional Development Fund and national co-financing from the state budget.





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