The same approach was applied in Goa. Settlement and multiple activities (trade, agriculture, industrial activities, culture, etc.) happened in many places simultaneously, which resulted in a decentralized form of urbanism. Outstanding for Goa, even today are the many small centres spatially distributed over a vast area, connected and reachable not only by roads, which were built much later but also through the waterways. This network-like approach is typical for Portugal as well. There we find many important cities with diverse functions and specializations, including the capital Lisbon, along the coastline, and hence connected through water. In general, the Portuguese understanding of the spatial distribution of settlements was much wider than that of the Britishers and reflected in a polycentric form of urbanism.
The impact of colonialism on urbanism is also reflected in the countries from where the imperial powers originated. One could even argue that the rise of European settlements was built on colonialism and the capital accumulation derived thereof. Capital expansion, trading, and investment were driven by the wealth accumulated through imperialism and allowed European cities to flourish. Bright examples of urban expansion during this period are France, Spain, and England. Those countries gave rise to big cities like Paris, Madrid, and London. The centralised form of urbanisation became the idealised model of infrastructure and the de facto model of urbanisation in Europe. This development resulted in a rather poorly developed countryside in awe of the inimitable capital. The growth of these megacities quickly became political projects supported by economic concentration, encouraging more people to migrate to these cities. The vision of becoming modern nations made the capital cities centres for global and national migration and national identity. Immense architectural work and infrastructure were developed, and the cities became showcases of advancement for the whole country. Throughout the 21st century, the dominant urbanization paradigm was centralized urbanization following the logic of concentration. The centralization became the integrating form not only for the West but, more recently, largely for the world. Similar developments can be observed in the USA, where New York and Chicago were emerging like global cities. It is evident that the imperial ambitions affected Europe but within Europe, there are also exceptions and countries which reflect a decentralized ethos. For example, Portuguese and Italian economies had developed backwards during the time of imperialism and experienced a different form of urbanism with small cities and villages. Most of their cities have city centres and squares and are evenly distributed over the whole country. Those “nodes” are important for different, oftentimes specialized activities and are interconnected. Overall nature remained more intact in countries where such decentralized urban systems have emerged but at the same time, overly dispersed systems also have a huge range of disadvantages.
Throughout history we have always had these two impulses:
- Centralized forms of urbanism, following the trajectory of one megalopolis
- Decentralized urban systems with multiple growths of cities, each of those cities developing their own identities of the population
In the following section, we take a closer look at two countries, each as an example of one of the two impulses mentioned above, starting with the former.
You can access part 2 here.