Formal region

Functional region
Functional region is organised by horizontal relations in space in a form of spatial flows or interactions of various kind (persons, goods, material, energy, information etc.) between parts of a region. These flows and interactions have a character of a vector, i.e. they are ordered in different patterns. Generally, functional relations organising a region should be maximised within a region (maximisation of intra-regional flows or interactions) and minimised across its borders (minimisation of inter-regional flows or interactions) so that the principles of internal cohesiveness and external separation regarding the intensities of spatial flows or interactions are met. It means that a functional region is an autonomous section of space in terms of horizontal spatial relations. Quantitatively these principles are expressed by the so called “self-containment” of a region. A functional region is considered a general term and its special instances have to meet certain limitations regarding the character of relations or inner structure.

Internal structure of functional region

Several types of functional regions can be identified on the basis of three criteria regarding the spatial interaction pattern:

Daily urban system

A daily urban system is a special instance of a functional region, particularly of a functional urban region. The difference between daily urban system and functional urban region rests in the character of interactions organising a region. Daily urban system should be based on daily rhytms of interactions, it means that they should follow a daily cycle of movements and contacts, a daily dynamics of the organisation of geographical environment. As such daily urban systems are spatially more limited than functional urban regions, since only flows and interactions feasible within 24 hours are taken into account.

Functional urban region
A functional urban region is a special instance of a functional region.The quality of a core and the character of spatial interactions organising a region play an important role. The core should possess an urban character and the interactions should be directed towards or emit from a city or a town. A urban – suburban – rural gradient is developed within a region. Urban core provides its suburban and rural hinterland with services, labour opportunities, and its hinterland can serve agricultural, resident or recreational purposes.

Nodal region
A nodal region is a special instance of a functional region. It conforms in most cases to the concept of the functional region with nodal ordered interactions, where region-organising interactions are directed towards or emit from the so called node (also nucleus, focus, centre, core). The limitation of a general definition of a functional region rests in the internal structure of a nodal region. A nodal region however demonstrates one important difference from a functional region with nodal ordered interactions – it does not necessarily have to comply with an internal cohesiveness principle.

Local labour market area
A local labour market area is a special instance of a functional region and a near synonym to a travel-to-work area. Local labour market area differs from functional region in the cahracter of region-organising spatial interactions that are related to specific movements of persons – labour commuting, travel-to-work flows. The interactions mostly face a restriction to daily cycles of these movements, even if other, weekly, rhythm could be theoretically applied. The interaction need not necessarily be oriented at any core, though mostly they are. In the former aspect local labour markets and travel-to-work areas are similar to daily urban systems, in the latter aspect they resemble general functional regions. However, both aspects often intermingle and which one prevails is not a matter of theoretical definition rather than a matter of influence of a particular spatial situation and arrangement. Local labour market areas and travel-to-work areas can be seen as most dynamic concepts of functional regions.

Klapka, P., Halás, M., Tonev, P. (2013): Functional regions: concept and types. In 16th International Colloquim on Regional Science. Conference Proceedings. (Valtice 19.-21.6.2013). Masarykova univerzita, Brno, 94 – 101.

Further readings and sources:

Ball, R. M. (1980): The use and definition of travel-to-work areas in Great Britain: some problems. Regional Studies 14 (2), 125-139.

Bašovský, O., Lauko V. (1990): Úvod do regionálnej geografie [Introduction to regional geography]. SPN, Bratislava.

Berry, B. J. L. (1973): Growth Centers in the American Urban System: Community development and regional growth in the sixties and seventies. Balinger Publishing Company, Cambridge (Mass.).

Cheshire, P. C., Hay, D. G. (1989): Urban Problems in Western Europe: An Economic Analysis. HarperCollins Academic/Routledge, London.

Coombes, M. G., Dixon, J. S., Goddard, J. B., Openshaw, S., Taylor, P. J. (1978): Towards a more rational consideration of census areal units: daily urban systems in Britain. Environment and Planning A 10 (10), 1179-1185.

Coombes, M. G., Dixon, J. S., Goddard, J. B., Openshaw, S., Taylor, P. J. (1979): Daily urban systems in Britain: from theory to practice. Environment and Planning A 11 (5), 565–574.

Coombes, M. G., Openshaw, S. (1982): The use and definition of travel-to-work areas in Great Britain: some comments. Regional Studies 16 (2), 141–149.

Domański, R. (1982): Teoretyczne podstawy geografii ekonomicznej [Theoretical foundations of economic geography]. PWN, Warszawa.

Dziewoński, K. (1967): Concepts and terms in the field of economic regionalization. In Macka, M. (ed.) Economic regionalization. Academia, Praha, 25 – 36.

Haggett, P. (1965): Locational Analysis in Human Geography. Arnold, London.

Hall, P. G., Hay, D. G. (1980): Growth Centres in the European Urban System. Heinemann Educational, London.

Johnston, R. J., Gregory, D., Pratt, G., Watts, M. (eds.) (2000): The Dictionary of Human Geography. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Nystuen, J. D., Dacey, M. F. (1961): A graph theory interpretation of nodal regions. Regional Science Association, Papers and Proceedings 7, 29 – 42.

Philbrick, A. K. (1957): Principles of areal functional organization in regional human geography. Economic Geography 33 (4), 299 – 336.

Smart, M. W. (1974): Labour market areas: uses and definition. Progress in Planning 2 (4), 239–353.