The layout of a city creates a unique "fingerprint" that researchers have used to compare cities and neighborhoods around the world. The results, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, show that some U.S. cities are very similar to European ones, and that certain cities around the world are like no others. Boston, shown here, is part of so-called group 3 and resembles many European cities.
Remi Louf and Marc Barthelemy
This is the network of streets (a) and the corresponding set of "blocks," or geometrical shapes (b), formed by the layout of the Shibuya neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan. Such geometrical shapes taken together give each neighborhood and city their own fingerprints, which can then be compared to others from across the globe. Co-authors Remi Louf and Marc Barthelemy explained to Discovery News that traditional methods for comparing city structures usually only consider "street patterns as a network where the nodes are essentially the intersections and the links represent the road segments." The new "fingerprint" method, however, includes visual aspects of street patterns and the overall layout, providing more information. Shibuya is a dynamic neighborhood that has variously been the site of a castle, the center of the IT industry in Japan, a destination for high fashion and a bustling nightlife. The irregularity of its blocks matches the dynamic nature of Shibuya.
Luis Argerich, Wikimedia Commons
Fingerprints for cities around the world fall into four basic groups. Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the only known member of Group One. It has blocks of medium size dominated by square and rectangular shapes. Buenos Aires is a popular tourist destination with the third highest quality of life among all Latin American cities, according to International Travel Adviser. The layout appears to confer a certain degree of harmony to its residents and visitors.Photos: Ancient Cities Found in Mexican Jungle
Athens, Greece, is a member of Group Two. Cities in this group are dominated by small blocks with shapes broadly distributed, Barthelemy of the Institut de Physique Theorique and the Centre d'Analyse et de Mathematique Sociales told Discovery News. All European cities have similar fingerprints except for Athens. "This can possibly be related to the fact that, during its evolution, walking was the dominant transportation mode in the city, favoring small blocks," he said.Marble Door Revealed in Greek Tomb
Michael Maples, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Representing Group Three is New Orleans, Louisiana. It is similar to Group Two in terms of the diversity of geometric shapes formed by the "blocks," but according to the researchers it "is more balanced in terms of areas, with a slight predominance of medium-sized blocks." While the culture of New Orleans is very unique, the city layout turns out to be characteristically American. All North American cities save for one, Vancouver, Canada, are part of Group Three.Can Sand Stop New Orleans from Drowning?
Vancouver, Canada, is a standout among all North American cities. Instead of being part of Group Three, per all other North American cities included in the study, it falls into Group Two. The original settlement for the city grew around the Hastings Mill logging sawmill. Now the metropolis is the most densely populated Canadian municipality. Its complex history contributed to its eccentric and beautifully unique present layout.
Perry Heimer, Wikimedia Commons
Mogadishu, Somalia, represents Group Four. Cities in this group consist of small, square-shaped blocks together with small rectangles. This aerial view shows some of that structure. Barthelemy said studying cities by their "fingerprints" reveals several important factors. He explained that they show the differences between self-organization versus a central planning authority. "Self-organization (as for Mogadishu) leads to rectangles and squares of roughly the same size," he continued, "while planning usually does not respect the previous geometry and leads to many unusual shapes, such as elongated triangles."
Partizanske, established in the early 20th century, has a predictable geometric layout. From above, it shows how the town was built around a large shoe factory. While the factory once produced millions of shoes, it has a lower production volume now.Slovakian Flying Car Prototype Takes Off
Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons
Seven of the American cities included in the study were remarkably similar in structure to European cities. These include Indianapolis, Indiana (shown here); Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Boston, Massachusetts. Barthelemy said, "Most of the American cities that we found to be similar to European cities were East Coast cities built before the appearance of cars. Natural consequences are that their citizens can actually walk through these cities and avoid using cars in the city centers."
Marshall Astor, Wikimedia Commons
In contrast to America's European-style cities is a city like Los Angeles. There, Barthelemy said "the evolution of the city is driven by cars and has a highly polycentric structure."Los Angeles 'Big One' Could Come Sooner Than Expected
William Warby, Wikimedia Commons
Manhattan is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City, but it turns out to be more European in nature than its surrounding areas. Barthelemy explained, "Brooklyn and Queens have very regular patterns, which are even more regular than Manhattan, which contains other shapes. This is very surprising, as Manhattan is usually cited as being the archetypical city."Roaches in NYC Cluster by Neighborhood