Historically, one element considered as mandatory for a city to succeed is its ability to achieve high densities: the concentration of many people in compact areas. Agglomerating citizens and their economic structure in proximities can be economically and even socially liberating. Yet, achieving the correct density is a relative task.
Jane Jacobs, the urban theorist, wrote: ‘densities are too low, or too high, when they frustrate city diversity instead of abetting it’. Factors such as the quality//quantity of the energy consumption per dwelling and the quality//quantity of the cultural-educational facilities in a settlement are consequences of an efficient urban density.
Richard L. Morrill, in his book The Spatial Organization of Society, indicated that the advantages of agglomeration and scale provide rationale for concentrating population in urban settlements. He mentioned that whether cities are designed to control a population or to exchange and process goods, costs are reduced and the value of the activities is enhanced by concentrating them at one point.
Another argument is that because of the fact of space, its differential quality, and since even central-place and processing activities and population activities use space, activities and population must be somewhat disaggregated and dispersed; then, a complex pattern of settlements emerges in the form of multi centralization or polycentrism.
Stewart Brand in the book Whole Earth Discipline has noticed that the 10,000-year flow of people to cities has become a torrent. He explains that in 1800 the world was 3% urban; in 1900, 14% urban; and in 2007, 50% of the world’s population became urban. His conclusion is that denser cities are the most sustainable forms of agglomeration because they have always benefited from what are called ‘economies of agglomeration’ and lately they have gotten a further boost from globalization.
On the other hand, Pieter Versteegh believes that research on the urban is as necessary as abundant; however tremendous rural territories still exist, inhabited by 20-50% of the world populations (figures depending on the statistics, definitions, areas, etc.). He also indicates that Rurality survives more or less, even today, in the occidental world’s overdeveloped societies, of a minority and vegetative existence. To study ‘Rural Densities’ is as important as the study of ‘Urban Densities’.