Research‎ > ‎

The shape of a city


Together with my colleague M. Barthelemy (CEA, Paris, FR) we are gathering data from the Census Bureau about population and productive activities spatial distribution across the US.

Our first goal is to review the traditional approach that describes towns as organized and growing around a single or few ”centers” that has dominated the literature for decades. Starting from population and productive activities density data at the level of zip codes, we devised a smoothing strategy that allows to study the population density distribution and its inhomogeneities at different resolution scale.

This allowed to discover regularities and patterns that characterize urban settlement across scales, from little municipalities to Metropolitan Statistical Areas and huge aggregated settlements as the Boston-Washington corridor. We started experimenting with Fourier Analysis on our smoothed distributions, to produce a sort of ”spectroscopy” of cities.

Also, is there any statistical pattern in the distribution of population at very large scales?

We are approaching these question using graph-clustering techniques, starting from the Delauney triangulation of the zip codes map.