Multidimensional Characterization of The Regional Urban Model and The Urban Sprawl in Valencia

Multidimensional Characterization of The Regional Urban Model and The Urban Sprawl in Valencia

Eric Gielen José Luis Miralles I Garcia Gabriel Riutort Mayol 

Department of Urbanism, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain

1 April 2018
| Citation



The big urban development produced in Spain about last 30 years has produced a paradigm shift in the regional urban model. The traditionally compact city has become a scattered city. This phenomenon is usual in the American model but is relatively new in Spain and in the European context.

Many of the contemporary cities present an urban sprawl model. In this situation, the city is not only constituted by its historical nucleus and its extension, but also includes discontinuous urban land. Therefore, new analysis tools are needed.

This paper shows a part of PhD research and studies the characterization of the pattern of urban occupation from a morphological perspective. The application of multivariate statistical techniques allows to reduce an initial set of 12 variables in five independent dimensions: density, fragmentation, distance, complexity and extension.

It is shown that the urban sprawl is a multidimensional phenomenon. The research conclude that urban sprawl is an urban model of occupation of the territory, characterized by low density settlements spread over large areas, fragmented in several urban units, distant between them and defining a complex structure.

The research has been carried out in the Valencian Community at the municipal level. As a result, the five dimensions of the urban model have been calculated to all municipalities. This has allowed to identify processes of urban dispersion in the coastal areas and the metropolitan areas of the most important cities.


Urban sprawl dimensions, Valencian community, multidimensional regional analysis, multivariate statistical techniques


[1] Moreira, J.M., Urbanismo expansivo de la utopía a la realidad. Reflexiones desde la información ambiental. In Gozálvez, V. & Marco, J.A. (eds.), Geografía: retos ambientales y territoriales, Universidad de Alicante: Alicante, pp. 125–164, 2012.

[2] Nechyba, T. & Walsh, R., Urban sprawl. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18(4), pp. 177–200, 2004.

[3] Pichler-Milanovic, N., European urban sprawl: sustainability, cultures of (Anti)Urbanism and “Hybrid Cityscapes”. Dela, 27, pp. 101–133, 2007.

[4] Patacchini, E. & Zenou, Y., Urban sprawl in Europe. Papers on Urban Affairs, 2009(1), pp. 125–149, 2009.

[5] EEA, Urban sprawl in Europe. The ignored challenge. Report Nº 10/2006, 2006.

[6] EEA, Urban sprawl in Europe. Joint EEA-FOEN report. Report Nº 11/2016, 2016.

[7] Susino, J. & Duque Calvache, R., Veinte años de suburbanización en España (1981–2001). El perfil de sus protagonistas. Documents d’Anàlisi Geogràfica, 59(2), pp. 265–290, 2013.

[8] Miralles i Garcia, J.L., El darrer cicle immobiliari al País Valencià. O el progrés de la miseria, Fundació Nexe: València, 2014.

[9] Miralles i Garcia, J.L., Urban coastal development in Valencian country: a paradigmatic case of non-sustainable development. International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning, 10(3), pp. 301–314, 2015.

[10] Gielen, E., Costes del urban sprawl para la administración local. El caso valenciano [Doctoral thesis], Universitat Politècnica de València, 2016. 10.4995/Thesis/10251/62866

[11] Cantarino, I., Torrijo, F.J., Palencia, S. & Gielen, E., Assessing residential building values in Spain for risk analyses – application to the landslide hazard in the Autonomous Community of Valencia. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences Journal, 14, pp. 3015–3030, 2014.

[12] Colaninno, N., Cerda, J.F. & Roca, J., Spatial patterns of land use: morphology and demography, in a dynamic evaluation of urban sprawl phenomena along the Spanish mediterranean coast. 51st European Congress of the Regional Science Association International, pp. 1–18, 2011.

[13] Shlens, J., A tutorial on principal component analysis. Available at: (Accessed 5 May 2017). 

[14] Hyvärinen, A. & Oja, E., Independent component analysis: algorithms and applications.Neural Networks, 13(4–5), pp. 411–430, 2000.

[15] Graffelman, J., Factor analysis. In Encyclopedia of Environmetrics. Wiley, 2013.

[16] Gielen, E., Riutort-Mayol, G., Palencia Jiménez, J.S. & Cantarino-Martí, I., An urban sprawl index based on multivariate and Bayesian factor analysis with application at the municipality level in Valencia. Environment And Planning B-Planning & Design, pp. 1–27, 2017.