Homogeneous Urban Environments and Attempts to Stand Out


This page introduces the idea of converging urban landscapes and how cultural landscapes in the built up environment are becoming more homogenized. It begins with a look at the theoretical urban models and how they suggest cities evolve. It then uses some fun gallery activities, such as name that city to develop what we mean by a cultural landscape. A presentation shows the rapid change and emergence of global cities and then students use a second presentation of urban collages to investigate the drivers of this change. These drivers are further developed through a number of short news articles before students explore how cities attempt to distinguish themselves through iconic signature architecture and cultural plants.

Enquiry Question

How are urban landscapes changing and what attempts are made for cities to stand out?

Lesson Time: 1 Hour

Lesson Objectives:

  • To describe the trend of changing cultural landscapes in the built environment towards homogeneous urban environments
  • To explain why the built up environment is becoming more homogeneous and attempts of cities to appear different

Teacher Notes:

Starter - The Relevance of Urban Model - Run through the selection of urban models in the gallery and students should discuss the relevance of the models and also what they suggest about the design and structure of urban environments

1. Cultural Landscapes - Students should then follow the second gallery on urban cultural landscapes. What is a cultural landscape and how these photographs represent cultural landscapes?

2. Homogeneous Landscapes - Students should follow the presentation of different before and now photos of global cities. To what extent are cities becoming more homogeneous?

3. Causes of Homogeneous Cultural Landscapes - Students can then follow the next PDF presentation and for each collage of photographs suggest and discuss the factors that lead to homogeneous cultural landscapes.

There is a full list of suggested factors for each image in the drop-down box

4. Drivers of homogenous urban environments - discussion list and noting sheet

5. Causes of Homogeneous Cultural Landscapes and Examples - Allocate on example to each student to read and in groups of three they should summarise it to peer. Hand it out and take it back before the summarising begins.

6. Gallery of Attempts to Stand out - Students should watch the gallery of iconic buildings and public art installations. Students should guess the city and then discuss why cities attempt to stand out.

Starter Activity_Urban Models_Processes and Places

Study the following gallery of urban models.

In the knowledge that urban models are outdated, with cities changing greatly since the times these models of cities were first developed, consider the following:

  1. What does each model suggest about the design and structure of cities?
  2. What do all the models have in common?
  3. In what way do you think the models still have relevance today?

Student Activity_ Identifying Cultural Landscapes in the Built Environment_ Processes and Places

What is a cultural landscape? For each of the following images:

  1. Name the city
  2. State how the photograph reflects a cultural landscape?

Student Activity_ Increasing Homogeneous Urban Environments_Places and Processes

Study the following PDF showing change in the built environment in different global cities

To what extent would you agree that cities and their cultural landscapes are becoming more homogeneous?

Changing Global Cities

Student Activity_ Drivers of Homogeneous Urban Environment_Processes and Places

Study the following PDF Presentation and for each collage of homogeneous urban landscape discuss the factors you think causing it.

Homogenous Urban Landscapes

Image One  shows homogenized downtown or CBD zones. They are dominated by economic factors such as cost of land and need for centrality of corporate offices. Cultural factors such as the architecture also reflect the dominance of high-rise.

Image Two shows a typical British highstreet. Homogeneous urban landscapes exists at the national scale. One British highstreet is very difficult to distinguish from another. In this context high street brands and franchises dominate. In other low income highstreets of Britain, vacant shops, £1 stores, charity shops, takeaways and highstreet gambling franchises prevail.

At the global scale transformational changes occur at the local scale through process such as gentrification and that lead to a certain homogony in cafe's bars. Functions move in that have appeal to a more more affluent population as well as for more tramsient populations such as tourists.

Image Three shows American suburbia dominated by uniform detached housing, large yards and homogenous road layouts. The suburbs were created due to out migration of wealthier groups and ubiquitous us of the car.

Image Four shows shopping Malls that are a feature of both downtown and out of town city characteristics. These result from the cultural need for convenience in a car dominated society as well as attaching a luxury experience to the ritual of consumer culture activity. Malls act as commercial centers for shopping and entertainment.

Image Five shows suburban strip malls that represent vast concrete commercial development on the outskirts of the city. They provide a one stop experience and feature drive through everything due to the dominance of convenience culture and the car.

Image Six shows urban transport dominating the city landscape. This vast expanse of infrastructure is created to service suburbia and fast easy access to the downtown regions of the city

Image Seven shows slums or informal housing zones in LICS. LICS also feature commercial downtown areas like any other city but on their outskirts lye huge sways of poorly constructed and densely situated slum dwellings. This is fueled by the process of rapid urbanization and the movement of poor rural inhabitants to the city and their need for affordable land and property.

Student Activity_ Other Drivers of Urban Landscape Convergence_Processes and Places

1. Discuss how the following factors influence homogeneous urban landscapes:

Noting Sheet

  1. Globalization of economic activity
  2. Time-space convergence (global village)
  3. The growth of information technology
  4. Increased international migration
  5. Global strategies of corporate brands and the need for growth markets
  6. Improvements in the standard of living

2. Discuss the extent to which you agree with the argument that cultural diversity in cities is part of the homgonized cultural landscape of the built up environment.

Student Activity_ Drivers of Cultural Loss_Processes and Places

Read one of the following adapted news articles and summarise (to a partner) the processes and drivers leading to homogenized cultural landscapes.

Homogenized Cultural Landscapes

Student Activity_ Attempts to Stand Out_ Processes and Places

In an increasing homogenized urban environment, cities make attempts to stand out. This is largely done through architecture and the use of iconic signature buildings and cultural plants such public art features and public space.

  1. Study the following images and name that city
  2. Why do cities attempt to stand out?
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