Swimming Pools as Indicator of Urban Sprawl: an Exploratory Analysis in a Mediterranean City

Document Type : Original Research Paper


1 Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Italy

2 Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain


Studies relating form and functions of cities indicate sprawl as an intriguing research issue, especially for certain typologies of cities. Although with inherent differences on a local scale, Mediterranean cities offer a kaleidoscopic overview of sprawl morphologies that require dedicated monitoring tools. The present study provides an original assessment of recent urbanization processes in the Mediterranean region by considering swimming pools as a ‘sprawl landmark’. Two indicators (‘pools per population’ and ‘pools per area’) are derived from digital interpretation of Google Earth diachronic imagery at two points in time (early 2000s and early 2010s) in a compact Mediterranean city (Athens, Greece) which is actually evolving towards urban scattering. The spatial distribution of swimming pools in Athens is strongly polarized with the ‘pools per population’ indicator being associated to low-density, isolated settlements and the ‘pools per area’ indicator growing in medium-low density, discontinuous settlements. Both indicators were validated through correlation with independent variables assessing sprawl patterns on a municipal scale. The indicators proposed respond to basic criteria such as easy computation and graphical representation, flexibility, cheapness and comprehensibility to non-technical stakeholders.


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