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Symbolic images

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Thematic Atlas

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Historical cartography

Symbolic Images

During the last thirty years (1970-2000) it has been a very intense research effort to produce such images, from both objective (scientific, rational) and subjective (artistic, creative) methods. Some of these images were powerful enough to provide a symbolic representation of the fundamental theoretical paradigms behind spatial development policies (e.g. Keeble “Center and periphery”, Reclus “Banane Blue” highlighting new axes of development, CEDRE “Road traffics” showing the networked structure of Europe).

The first antecendent, probably the better known, is the well-known image produced by Keeble in late seventies, visualising the so-called “Centre and periphery” development paradigm. Keeble maps represented the level of economic integration of each country, calculated simply in terms of geographic distance to other countries and relative trade. Once an image provides the visualisation required by the dominant paradigm, it becomes kind of policy icon. Before and after Keeble famous map, other attemps to develop indicators of the “Centre and periphery” paradigm, and produce images to visualise them, were carried out.


1970-1980: Rediscovering the Center and the peripheries of Europe

Firsts studies (Keeble, Bielh...), were based on exploring the regional accessibility to the European common market (in terms of interregional trade and distance) and the relative regional endowment of economic infrastructure. These studies identified the so-called “European center and peripheries”, and produce taxonomies of regions in relation to their development conditions.

All considered, geographic position was the explanatory factor: development declined with the distance to the center; central regions were much more integrated than peripheral ones. It was assumed that, because of the higher transport and communication costs of distant regions to access the common European market, less developed regions will likely have severe problems to catch up the central development level, and worse, development gaps risked to increase.


This argument gave scientific ground to support an strong transfer of resources from the center to the periphery. Over the years, Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds have had a decisive role largely improved their economic infrastructure (specially transport infrastructure).

Indicators of agricultural productivity, natural transport conditions etc. were produced to illustrate the different preexisting development conditions across Europe. Not surprisingly, almost all of these “resource-indicators” identified the same area (London-Paris-Randstad-Rhur-Upper Rhine) as the most advantageous position and integrated regions. Starting from agricultural surplus and having intense maritime commerce, they were able to start early on the industrial revolution, develop advanced economic infrastructures and high social capital basis and, during the last decade, create multinational corporations and invest relatively high resources on research and development.

European Spatial Development pattern is often considered “unbalanced”. While there is a developed and densely urbanised area in the center, where most wealth and innovation is generated, many relatively poor peripheral regions remain. Increasing congestion costs in the center, and declining population and activities in the peripheries, are the expected consequences.


Diapositiva5_p.gif (2098 bytes) Long-term economic growth seems unsustainable in an unbalanced territory: This has been one key argument supporting intensive capital transfers to less developed countries and regions.

On the other hand, the provision of “social” and “territorial”egalitarian conditions is deeply rooted in European public policies. Besides long-term economic and environmental reasons, some purely political and ethical arguments remain in favour of transfering resources from richs to poors, from more developed to less developed regions. To what extend this transfer is efficient remains as an open question.

The frontiers of European “Nation-States” were key elements both integrating and unifying the territory within and segregating it from neighboring regions, destroying preexisting socioeconomic and cultural relations across the borders: The functional distance between cities both sides of a political border (few kilometers) is longer that the distance from each city to its national capital (few hundred kilometers). European political integration is reducing such artificial distances as well as converting cities and regions, peripheral from a national scale, more central at European scale.


1980-1990: Reinventing new Europes

A closer look into spatial patterns brings deeper understanding: it highlights the existance of new peripheries in the center (e.g. obsolete industrial zones and suburbs) and old centers in the peripheries (e.g. dynamic touristical regions, city capitals). The development gap within the center or the peripheries may be larger than it is between the center and the peripheries as a whole. Areas with the same geographic position and equivalent social capital endowment may have different development levels.

Studies made in line with Europe 2000 and Europe 2000+ inniciatives (as well as other programmes, such as all interregional co-operation inniciatives) gave deeper understanding of development patterns and emphasised both more prospective and policy-oriented aims. These studies took advantage of the fact that more data and cartography was available, openning people minds to the diversity of Europe development patterns (e.g. the firsts road traffic maps of Europe, NASA satellite maps of Europe at night, EUROSTAT/GISCO and CORINE land-use coverages...).


Statistical databases at NUTSIII and even down to NUTSV allowed for more detailed territorial analysis as well, but however, data scarcity remains as a fundamental problem for regional sciences in Europe.

In a relatively developed territory such as EU, with ubiquous minimum level of social capital endowment, differences on social capital endowment would tend to become marginal. For instance, differences of transport costs between central and peripheral regions are unsignificant for most economic sectors.

Furthermore, new ICT were subverting the conventional vision of “geographic position” as the ultimate reason (and constrain) to explain spatial development gaps. ICT vanishing distances and stimulates decentralisation and diffussion in an “isotropic” space.

Many studies regarding the impact of lack of transport infrastructure in development conditions (and other structural problems) were produced, in most cases applying the classic accessibility formulation with some adaptation (distances from one place to other places –difficulty of travelling- measured by the relative importance of each place –interest of the trip-).


Results were coincidents with other indicators (e.g. transport endowment) but allowed a more fine delimitation of central and peripheral zones, somehow showing a more extended central area from the Dutch Randstad to the Italian Padania. A new indicator of connectivity (based on the distance to the network and the utility of the connection) previously applied for mediterranean regions was applied for the Atlantic regions visualising, for the first time, the existance of central areas in the periphery (in terms of transport) and peripheries in the center, and presenting at an aggregate European scale results obtained from a local analyis.

During this period, interregional zones facing common development problems (e.g. mediterranean, atlantic, islands, mountain zones such as the Pyreness...) organised themselves and were active lobbying at national and European scale in their own interest. The “spatial integration” of these regions was driven by mostly political forces; still remoteness and peripherality were top arguments but deeper understanding of endogeneous problems and opportunities of regions in the wider European scenario were already emerging.


1990-2000: A networked geography for Europe (Links, corridors, nodes...) : Polycentrism and rururbanistion

Distance and proximity between places has to be therefore redefined. Nowadays, in developed areas, it is more the “distance to the networks” (in terms of time and/or cost of access) and the “utility” provided by the networks (the capacity to generate and disseminate added-value activities within the network) what matters.

At the same time the place is loosing its value in terms of “geographic position”, it is recovering its value in terms of environmental quality, social and cultural richness. In order to attract high-added value activities, “places”, once minimum accessibility conditions are achieved, compete in terms of services and overall business, cultural and natural environment. O the other hand, “position” remains a cultural value (e.g. in Europe “center” has a positive meaning –equilibrium, order- while in America “frontier” has the positive meaning –independence, freedom-).

It is “Geographical position” expressed nowadays (or will be soon expressed) as “Network connectivity”?.


Apparently, the “position” which affects development opportunities depends less on natural resources or relative distances to consumer centers, and much more to network connectivity (accessibility to the main nodes of the networks channelling people, information, energy and materials from everywhere to everywhere). It is not surprising that, when the “place” looses its attributes as “relative position” reinforces its absolute values as “site” (in relation to landscape beauty, environment quality, cultural richness). In other words, are we moving from the traditional “geography of places”, to an emerging “geography of networks” which reinforces both local and global scales?.

Is “Spatial integration” expressed nowadays as “real-time interactivity” between services and products generated anywhere?. If it is, development opportunities will depend on the efficiency of any activity to obtain inputs from the networks and take advantage of local relative advantages to add value to them and, finally, bring them back to the network, “just-in-time”. More economic and technologic integration at global scale may reinforce more cultural and social diversity at local scale. From the “Territorial borders” (integrating the activities within and excluding foreigners, making homogeneous national cultures) are we moving towards a borderless and inclusive “Space of flows”?


A number of advanced studies on transport networks (specially from a supply point of view) have produced useful results in terms of accessibility. Using detailed multimodal transport graphs and loading basic data concerning infrastructure characteristics (and services in some cases), many types of accessibility indicators have been calculated, often to assess the impact of large Trans-European projects changing the relative distances between places. These indicators are segmented (e.g. for last minute business travellers, e.g. leasure trips...) and describe in more detail de transport path (e.g. access times, waiting times, available time in destination...).

Other indicators including non-specific transport variables (e.g. the capacity of people to speak foreign languages, the availability of hotels and conference centres...) have been developed as well. Information concerning interregional traffic flows and other relevant measures of spatial integration has been produced within the European research programme.


Thematic Atlas
Genetic trends in Europe
Built up from dozens of separate genes to reveal the trends across the continent.

Jones, Steve (1996) In the Blood. God, Genes and Destiny. HarperCollins Publishers. P.164


In Europe -in spite of its long history of political separatism- the most obvious feature of the Common Market and its neighbours is that most people are much the same. There is much less genetic differentiation than there is in, for example Africa. However, some trends are apparent. There is a wave, shaded red, of shared similarity tracking across north-west Europe; and a similar pattern of common ancestry, coloured green, pointing west along the north shores of the Mediterranean.

These might represent two branches of a surge of farmers from the Middle East, penetrating the original hunting population. The orange wave in central Europe may be the relics of a separate immigration of nomads from the steppes. None of these trends is very striking, and because of the genetic homogeneity of Europe other interpretations are possible. Sardinia-not shown on this map-is, for unknown reasons, very different from the rest of Europe.


Commercial Backbones Worldwide and Europe(CAIDA, Mapnet)

Source: Drewe Paul (1999) The Internet -Beyond the “Hype”: How to position the Randstad Holland. Faculty of Architecture. Delft University of Technology.



Photosynthesis activity index NDVI:

red (very low); yellow (average); green (high)




Bassins hydrographiques en Europe

Source: Eurostat, GISCO


Mediterranean Bassin from a biological view

Source: ICM-ERF


Changes on Europe's frontiers


323 BC Europe after Alexander


AD 180 The Triumph of Rome


1030 Feudal Europe


1530 The Habsburg Ascendancy


1885 Imperial Europe


1925 The Aftermath of the First World War


1949 Cold War Europe



1993 The Collapse of Communism



The Network paradigm
Participating Regions and Trans European Network System

Source: Strategy Report Berlin-Brandenburg



Intensity of agriculture Index of 100 average European yield per acre

Van Valkenburg (1970)



Rail Service Diffusion in Europe

Peter R. Gould, Spatial Diffusion, Washington D.C. Association of American Geographers



EUR 12 Regional Peripherality Indices

Based on GDP in ECUS at current exchange rates (1983)



Air traffic density in Europe



The Regional Impact of the Channel Tunnel throughout the E.C.

Marcial Echenique and Partners (1992)



The Regional Core of Europe

Seers-Schaffer Kilfmen (1979)



The wpe5.jpg (754 bytes) Development

Unknown author (1980s)


The Core & Periphery paradigm: Areas with development perspectives

Unknown author (1980s)


The Axes of Development Paradigm

Development axes in the EU

Sáenz de Buruaga (1988)


The Axes of Development Paradigm

Prospective des Territoroires: Zones et Axes

LAD-CESA (1991)


The Axes of Development Paradigm

L’Europe Sous-Jacente: Structures et Dynamiques

R. Brunet (1990)



Accessibility to Mediterranean Regions




Accesibilite Regionale Infrastructures du Transport: Project Prospectif Arc Atlantique

Mcrit (CEDRE, DG XVI, 1991)



Accessibility to Transport Networks: ICON Situation 1995




Accessibility to Transport Networks: ICON Situation 2010



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INFRAMED: Étude des Besoins en Infrastructures de Transport des Six Pays de la Méditerranée Occidentale: Accessibilité aux Capitales (1997) Modes Terrestres



INFRAMED: Étude des Besoins en Infrastructures de Transport des Six Pays de la Méditerranée Occidentale: Accessibilité aux Capitales du Maghreb (Avenir)



PDI Dotación de grandes infraestructuras de transporte: Escenarios 1993 / 2007

Indicador de Conexión a las Redes ICON, Mcrit (1993)



PDI Dotación de Infraestructuras viarias: Escenarios 1993 / 2007

Indicador de Conexión a las Redes ICON, Mcrit (1993)



PDI Dotación de Infraestructuras ferroviarias: Escenarios 1993 / 2007

Indicador de Conexión a las Redes ICON, Mcrit (1993)



Global Accessibility Method: Bi-linial Interpolation 

Source: Annuaires de Compagnies Ferroviaires (France)

H. Reymond, N.Barthelemy-M.Deblanc (1991)



Towns accessibility to airports

RECLUS (Université Louis-Pasteur de Strasbourg, 1989).

Multimodal Freight Time Accessibility, 1995

European Market (FreC(B))

Number of inhabitants reached in day “B”


Road Freight Accessibility Costs

European Market (FreR(EU))

Difference of Absolute cost between network 1995 and network 2010



Europe 2015 by TGV perspective

C.Cauvin (1992)


Daily accessibility to GDP, without high-level network (top), and by rail in 1996 (bottom)

IRPUD (1998)



Chronocarte (“Shadow effects”)

LAD-CESA (1991)



UTS Competitiveness Impact Images

Bars represent CON(T) increases relative to EU average

UTS Study (DGVII, 1996) Mcrit/INRETS


UTS Cohesion Impact Images

Blue zones represent NUTS III with higher CON (T) relative increases

UTS Study (DGVII, 1996) Mcrit/INRETS


UTS Sustainability Impact Images

The width of archs represents their potentiality to get higher traffic increases (rail-gray, road-green and air-blue

UTS Study (DGVII, 1996) Mcrit/INRETS

Historical cartography

Hecateus Mapamundi (500 a.c)

Herodotus Mapamundi (450 a.c)

Tolomeo Mapamundi (275 a.c)
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Eeratóstenes de Cirene Mapamundi (220 a.c)

Estrabon Mapamundi (63 a.c)

Al Idrisi Mapamundi (S.XI)
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Andrea Bianco Mapamundi (1446)
Abraham Ortelius Mapamundi (1570)