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The South African functional metropolis – A synthesis

Herman Geyer
Philip Geyer
Manie Geyer


Confusing usage of terms such as metropolis and metropolitan region in planning policy in South Africa has led to the need for a fundamental investigation into the morphological and functional properties of the country’s three largest cities. Using Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban as examples, the article distinguishes between different elements of functionality of metropolitan areas linking urban function to urban form. Starting at the global level and zooming in, the article examines metropolitan functional space at the national through the regional to the local level. Semantically, it distinguishes between the terms metropolis and megalopolis; daily and weekly urban systems; and between urban monocentricism, multinodality and polycentricism. Based on morphological differences, it classifies Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria and the Witwatersrand as metropolitan areas, but regards the sprawled urban agglomeration in Gauteng as a megalopolis. A case is also made for greater recognition of the daily urban regions of the three primary cities of South Africa as part of the larger urban system of each. Planning has focused for too long on metropolitan space inside the urban edge and too little on those parts of the cities that lie outside the edge.

Keywords: Urban system, polycentrism, multimodality, urban function

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eISSN: 2415-0495
print ISSN: 1012-280X