Prafull Ninale - 111214030
Ajinkya Rodge- 111214039
Hardik Sankhe- 111214041
Central-place theory, in geography, an element of location
theory concerning the size and distribution of central places (settlements)
within a system.
Central-place theory attempts to
illustrate how settlements locate in
relation to one another, the amount
of market area a central place can
control, and why some central places
function as hamlets, villages, towns,
Central place theory is a spatial theory in urban geography that attempts to
explain the reasons behind the distribution patterns, size, and number of
cities and towns around the world.
It also attempts to provide a framework by which those areas can be
studied both for historic reasons and for the locational patterns of areas
The German geographer Walter Christaller introduced central-place theory
in his book entitled Central Places in Southern Germany (1933). The
primary purpose of a settlement or market town, according to central-place
theory, is the provision of goods and services for the surrounding market
area. Such towns are centrally located and may be called Central Places.
Settlements that provide more goods and services than do other places are
called higher-order central places.
Lower-order central places have small market areas and provide goods and
services that are purchased more frequently than higher-order goods and
Higher-order places are more widely distributed and fewer in number than
Before testing his theory however, Christaller had to first define the central
place. In keeping with his economic focus, he came to the conclusion that
the central place exists primarily
to provide goods and services to its
Central place is a market center for the exchange of goods and
services by people attracted from the surrounding area.
Centrality is crucial to the development of urban places and their
Hinterland refers to the area surrounding a central place from which
consumers are drawn.
The urban hierarchy of settlements is based on the functions
available in a given settlement.
Functions and services attract people from the urban areas as well
as the hinterlands.
Every urban center has an economic reach.
In theory low order goods have a low range and low threshold. less people
needed to support it, smaller the distance people are willing to travel.
Low range and threshold goods are sold in small towns, villages etc.
Higher ranges and threshold are sold in large towns.
Range is the maximum distance people are willing to travel to use a service.
Threshold is the minimum number of people required to support the service.
Hamlet: fewest goods and services available.
Village: includes the region of the hamlet
and some additional goods and
Town: includes the region of the
village and hamlet and provides
some additional goods and services.
City: includes the region
of the village, hamlet and
town and provides
additional goods and services.
Because transport in equally reachable from all distance,
market areas are circular.
However circular shape results
in unserved area. So Christaller
suggested a hexagon shape.
This suggests that within a given
area there will be fewer high order
settlements in relation to lower order
It also suggests that theoretically settlements are
equidistance from each other, higher order settlements are
further away from each other.
The theory was originally published in 1933 by a German
geographer Walter Christaller who studied the settlement
patterns in southern Germany.
Walter Christaller attempted to design a model that would
show how and where central places in the urban hierarchy
would be functionally and spatially distributed.
In the flat landscape of southern Germany Christaller noticed
that towns of a certain size were roughly equidistant. By
examining and defining the functions of the settlement
structure and the size of the hinterland he found it possible to
model the pattern of settlement locations using geometric
The surface of the ideal region would be flat and have no
Soil fertility would be universal.
Population, purchasing power evenly distributed.
Uniform transport network that permitted direct travel
from each settlement to the other.
Constant maximum distance or range for the sale of any
good or service produced in a town prevailed in all
directions from the town center.
The larger the settlement,
the less number of
settlements and farther
apart they are.
The less there are of a
settlement, the larger the
hinterland, or sphere of
influence, of its goods and
Places of the same size will
be spaced the same
1. The marketing principle
2. The transportation principle
3. The administrative principle
According to the marketing principle K = 3,
The market area of a higher-order place(node) occupies 1/3rd of the
market area of each of the consecutive lower size place(node) which lies
on its neighbour.
The lower size nodes (6 in numbers and 2nd larger circles)
are located at the corner of
a largest hexagon around the
Each high-order settlement
gets 1/3rd of each satellite settlement
(which are 6 in total)
However, although in this K = 3
marketing network, the distance travelled is minimized.
Christaller pointed out that the marketing principle is an awkward
arrangement in terms of connecting different levels of the
As an alternate arrangement, Christaller suggested that central
places could be organized according to what he called the transport
The traffic principles states that the distribution of central places is
most favourable when as many important places as possible lie on
one traffic route between two important towns, the route being
established as straightly and as cheap as possible. The more
unimportant places may be left aside.
According to the transport principle, the central places would thus
be lined up on straight traffic routes which fan out from the central
When Central places are arranged according to the traffic principle,
the lower order centres are located at the midpoint of each side of
the hexagon rather than at the corner.
Thus the transport principle produces a hierarchy organized in a k=4
arrangement in which central places are nested according to the
rule of four.
Christaller’s other suggested organizing principle was based upon the
realization that from a political or administrative viewpoint centres it
was unrealistic for centres to be ‘shared’.
Any pattern of control which cuts through functional units is potentially
Christaller suggested that an arrangement whereby lower order centres
were entirely with the hexagon of the higher order centres would
obviate such problems. Such a pattern is shown in the following diagram.
All the six lower order centres are fully subordinate to the higher order
centre which, therefore, dominates the equivalent of seven market areas
at the next lowest level.
The pattern of cities predicted by central place theory may not
hold because of the failure to meet initial assumptions.
1.Production costs may vary not only because of economies of scale
but also by natural resource endowments. (i.e. not a homogeneous
2.Transportation costs are not equal in all directions.
3.Rural markets (initially households) are not evenly distributed.
4.Non economic factors (culture, politics, leadership) may be
important but not evenly distributed.
5.Competitive practices may lead to freight absorption and phantom
freight. (other forms of imperfect competition)
The theory does a reasonably good job of describing the spatial pattern
of urbanization. No other economic theory explains why there is a
hierarchy of urban centres.
Central place theory does a good job of describing the location of trade
and service activity.
It also does a good job of describing consumer market oriented
Trade and service activity has an increasing relevance as the U.S.
economy shifts from manufacturing to services over time.
Small-town community economic developers can secure quite specific,
relevant information about what kind of trade or service enterprise will
likely work, and what kind of enterprise will not likely work in a given
Large areas of flat land rarely exist-transport is uneven.
There are many forms of transportation- cost cannot be proportional to
People and wealth are not evenly distributed.
People do not always to the nearest place.
Purchasing power of people differs.
Perfect competition is unreal-some make more money than others.
Shopping habits have changed.
Theory sees the central place as having a particular function-in reality,
places have several which changes over time.
Walter Christaller Central Place Theory" states that the central place
(Melbourne) provides the hinterland with goods and services that are of
high cost where as low cost necessities would be supplied by local
markets in the hinterland.
High cost goods would be sold in larger cities because the thresholds for
these goods would be high enough to sustain a store.
Low cost necessity goods like bread and milk would be sold at small
markets in the small towns surrounding the central place.
In light of this theory we can see that population distribution would
decrease as you made your way out of the central place and then begin
the rise again as one became closer to the next central city.
At the midway point between the two central cities you would find the
least expensive land. This land was often used for purposes such as
farming and grazing.
Christaller’s theory, however, does not hold in Victoria for several
reasons. To begin, there were only few supporting cities located around
Melbourne like Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong (all to the west).
There were no other central cities either, the nearest would be Sydney
which is over 900 kilometres from Melbourne. There were however, a
multitude of small cities caused by the gold rushes of the mid and late
1800s. This caused Melbourne’s hinterland population to fall
dramatically as it reached the outback.
This would lead us to believe that Melbourne could be sketched as a
central city with several concentric circles, each one holding less and less
This concentric circle concept is altered by the fact that Melbourne is
sitting on the rather large Port Phillip Bay.
towns near Perth
The largest factor contributing to the non-conformation with the Central Place
Theory is the actions of government officials in Melbourne.
After the initial railroad entrepreneurs fell into bankruptcy the government was
forced to buy them out and make a go of it themselves.
However, these government officials found they could use the railroad to line
their own pockets.
The scheme went as follows:
First, the officials would trek out into the bush land and purchase cheep grazing
land. Then, they would build a railroad line out to their once inexpensive land.
This caused land prices to soar. The more wealthy middle and upper-class
citizens would purchase the new subdivided land and build their own houses.
Public transportation made it possible for these citizens to reach the outer
Reasons for this were threefold: transport time in and out of
the city was now very small. Train transport was much faster
than omnibuses and trams.
They provided exact schedules which made it possible for
passengers to rely on them for everyday transport; the price
of a ticket was within the budget of its upper and middle-class
This caused a ring of unused land between the central station
(Flinders Station) in Melbourne and the final termini of the
The unused land stayed unused because the lower-class
workers still had to be within walking distance of their work
and the mid and upper-class preferred to either be in close,
upper-class, suburbs like St. Kilda, Windsor, Brighton and Kew
or in the far out suburbs of Frankston, Pakenham and Whittle
This situation, however, fixed itself over time. Lower-class
workers became more wealthy due to government intervention
in the case of workers rights and to the rise of unions.
This new found wealth allowed them move out of walking
distance and into the previously uninhabited band of land
between the outer and inner suburbs.
Another factor leading to the settlement of the inner area was
that the railroad made an allowance for special worker trains
that cost less and where directed right to the factory areas.
This is a model, not reality
Use of hexagons explain hierarchy and interconnectedness
Originally applied to Germany
Found to be applicable in China and the Midwestern US
The Model Is Completely Unrealistic In
Large areas of flat land are rare, with the presence of relief
barriers channelling transport in certain directions
Government intervention can dictate the location of industry
Perfect competition is unreal with some firms making more
money than others.
People vary their shopping trends, not always going to the
nearest centre People or resources are never perfectly
distributed Christaller envisaged each centre with a particular
function whereas they have many which change over time
“MODELS ARE NOT REAL, BUT
THEY HELP US UNDERSTAND