Megacities and Megacity-Regions in the 21st Century

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Diplomat Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Andre Sorensen, Danielle Labbe
Chairs: Danielle Labbe

Call for Submissions

Several participants in this session are contributors to the forthcoming International Handbook on Megacities and Megacity Regions, but we also welcome contributions from others who are interested in the research themes suggested here, and who may contribute to and/or challenge our interpretations.


The rapid spread of megacities of 10 million or more, and giant megacity-regions of up to 150 million is one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century. As we near the end of a century-and-a-half long global urban transition, it is clear that megaurbanization will play a central role in the future of human civilization. At the same time, demographic data indicate that not all urbanites will live in a megacity. We must ask, what place do megacities and megacity regions occupy in a world of cities? Why have megacity and megacity regions formed in specific places? And What role do they play in the hierarchy of cities?

It is significant that environmental challenges of congestion, air pollution, water supply, and waste management usually increase dramatically with settlement size. And while incomes and productivity also increase with size, housing and living costs and travel times tend to increase even faster, so the quality of life and housing tends to be worse and income inequality greater the larger the city. A major focus of research on very large-scale urbanization is on how these contradictory tendencies play out in actual places. At the same time, there are clear benefits of large city-regions, particularly the economic productivity benefits of agglomeration, that tend to increase with size, and which account in part for continued growth even of the largest megacity-regions. We ask, what political dynamics are associated with the identification of mega-city regions? How are discourses about urban scale, competitiveness, and agglomeration deployed to reshape conceptions of functional megaurban regions? And how do these dynamics and discourses vary across the full geo-economic spectrum of megacities ranging from world megacities such as Tokyo to “off-map” megacity regions such as the Accra-Lagos corridor?

Finally, whereas a generation ago it was common to see growth in urban scale as open-ended, it is projected that urbanization will slow over the next 50 years as world population approaches 80% urban and global population growth slows. Current processes of megaurban growth should therefore be seen as part of the culminating process of global urbanization; what we could call the “endgame” of urbanization. As such, meeting the challenges posed by megaurbanization is one key to global environmental and social sustainability. The patterns of megaurbanism created over the next century will certainly have significant long-term impacts. This suggests a heightened importance of attention to analysis of concrete urbanization processes and manifestations of the urban on the ground, and to the living environments created, patterns of housing and economy, and the distributional impacts associated with megaurban property development processes.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Andre Sorensen*, University of Toronto, The Developmental State and the Production of Urban Space: Tokaido Megalopolis, Rapid Growth, and the End of Urbanization 20 1:10 PM
Presenter Evert Meijers*, Delft University of Technology, Rodrigo Cardoso, Delft University of Technology, Polycentricity, performance and the process of metropolisation in mega-city regions 20 1:30 PM
Presenter Lake Sagaris*, Pontificia Universidad Catolica De Chile, Nurturing neighbourhoods to sustain quality of life in megacities and large city regions An interdisciplinary reflection on planning for sustainable and socially just cities, from Santiago, Chile 20 1:50 PM
Presenter Yingcheng Li*, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The evolving polycentricity of Chinese cities and its impacts on economic productivity 20 2:10 PM
Presenter Haoying Han*, Zhejiang University, Has the high-speed transportation system made Megacities larger in China? 20 2:30 PM

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