The Key Dimensions That Define Suburbs in India

Categories: IndiaStructure


This paper examines the range of suburban definitions in terms of their structure and function. Suburbs have been defined according to many different dimensions from location and transportation modes to culture and physical appearance. The importance of Suburban is understood through literature study. Gurgaon city of Delhi NCR as an Indian suburban has been taken as an example to understand these key dimensions that defines a suburb. The study concludes how these American definitions for suburbs fits into the Indian context to show the relationship.


While both urban and rural studies have long thrived, the academic study of suburbs is still a relatively new field—despite the fact that, as the author Peter Ackroyd has claimed, suburbs are as old as the city itself. Taking Harappa civilization as an example, we can understand the concept of suburban is practiced from ancient times. The workers and the troops used to live outside the city gates due to low prices and another example is from historical record, the carved stone relief of the ancient Persian city of Madaktu, dating from the 600s BCE, shows a remarkable distinction between the city itself, with its neatly arrayed buildings, and the suburban villas dispersed outside the wall, each with its own palm tree.

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This image of city contrasted with suburb is a commonplace visual and conceptual trope that has continued to feature in urban studies, especially in the past century and a half.

What are Suburb?

The definition of suburban area is not defined in single definition.

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Different planners and designers define it with varied characteristics. Some define Suburban as Metropolitan municipalities outside the central city and others as places that are dominated by detached houses with a low-density population. Many definitions of suburbs as a whole incorporate several dimensions at once meaning they are quite complex. Gober and Behr (1982) used 9 important characteristics thought to distinguish suburbs from core cities in United States. Family age, ethnicity, income, density, auto-orientation, housing age and employment in manufacturing, retail, and services. Race and ethnicity are most important in distinguishing the core and suburbs according to them. Flint (2006,2) focusing on the situation in the U.S simply described "Suburbia-Spread out, drive-thru, car-dependent, newer-the-better suburbia" This simple definition combines the dimension of density, newness and dominant transportation mode.

Why Suburbs are Important to City?

Suburbanization is just not the live beyond the wall, but it was the results of the growth, along with socioeconomic patterning. The city depends on Suburban and suburban depends on city. Suburbs are starting points in change over time, not the end of the line. Old suburbs were once new, and today's new suburbs, springing up rapidly across the world, will one day be old. As dynamic environments they continue to act as vectors of social, economic and political development, locally, nationally and globally.So, the planning of the city and the suburban are as important as others because cities of the future are both urban and suburban because the livelihood of one depends on the livelihood of the other. Contrary to popular belief that urban areas will attract more people from suburbs because of their high commercial activity, suburbs will not be phased out because modern suburban communities provide residents with the same, if not better, amenities as cities do. If anything, suburbs have developed an ability to attract wealth through increasing commercial activity and, as a significant sustainer of cities, must not be forgotten in urban planning considerations. Suburbs are low density with low rise buildings have middle class families, have open spaces compared to cities and scattered employment are the positives. Unplanned growth in few cases, not diverse, not dense is the negative features of the suburbs.On the contrary there has been shift in the characteristics of suburbs along with the speculative development. Cities are formed and work due to the features like mobility, transactions, negotiations transportation etc. To cater the need of cities rapid growth, suburbs are formed organically or planned due to the migration, low rents, low cost of living. At the developing stages of the Suburb there will be negative impact on the resources. Suburban areas in the dimension of land prices and housing choice. Land prices in suburban areas are low city, the opportunities to live and own land is more in suburban then compared to city. Due to low rental prices and land prices almost 40% of the monthly expenditure can be saved by a family. Due to availability of land and low prices, mostly houses are of low rise and have less density.Suburban will have choice in housing due to availability of the housing with affordable cost.


  • Literature Review
  • Understanding the history and importance of Suburbs.
  • Identifying the suburban definition and key dimensions through authors perspective.
  • Case Review Analysis
  • Gurgaon Suburb of Delhi NCR with respect to key dimensions
  • Results


India consists of a large number of suburbs in terms of population. One such example is a Gurgaon city of Delhi NCR with a population of 876, 824 as per 2011. Gurgaon has witnessed rapid urbanization and is considered a leading financial and industrial hub with third-highest per capita income in India The American suburban boom has also influenced Gurgaon's development. Gurgaon is a glaring example of an urban growth. The growth can be witnessed spatially and demographically. The suburb was developed from a small town to a Millenium City of the country. It is referred as an icon of India's growth and development at the international platform.

To define Gurgaon city as a suburb it fulfills following key dimensions listed. These dimensions are namely Location, Built-environment, Transportation and Socio-cultural activities. The characteristics that define the Built-environment are the distinct features that can be identified with the naked eye. Earlier the city was dependent on small-scale agro-based industries the city witnesses spurt of growth in terms of population at the end of the 1990s due to the much attention being given to infrastructure facilities to attract the foreign companies. The architecture of Gurgaon majorly developed by DLF and Ansals has noteworthy buildings in a wide array of style. The Gurgaon's skyline with its skyscrapers is nationally recognized and the city is a home to several tall buildings with modern planning. Apart from tall buildings suburb has sectors 4 and 7 were developed as first residential sector and sector-18 as industrial sector during the 1970s. The demographic dynamics has brought with it the areal growth and spatial transformation of the city. The growth in its area has brought with it the change in the nature of land use with the growing limits of the city. It has brought the encroachment of the peripheral villages. The increase has been only marginal and since 2001 there has been a sharp spurt in the areal increase of the city. This influx of huge population is due to the generation of multiple jobs in the city accompanied by the huge range of housing offered by the private developers.

Transportation being another key dimension defines a suburb in terms of suburban areas that are within the commuting distance of the core city and where the city can be reached conveniently and quickly. Gurgaon is connected to major cities through National Highways, Expressways, Railways, Delhi Metro, Rapid Metro, Airways and Public transit. National Highway 8 is a major highway that links Gurgaon and the roads run from Delhi to Mumbai. There are five metro stations served by Delhi Metro located on Yellow line. The rapid transit of Gurgaon has eleven stations with an interchange with Yellow line Delhi Metro. The nearest airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport located just outside the Gurgaon city limits near National Highway 8.

Socio-cultural dimension is a prominent one in many definitions. The subset of sociocultural is the population character, level of exclusivity and cultural heritage and tastes. In Gurgaon, the population of the city has not only taken a numeric spurt but also has changed its cultural composition. The population composition has become much more heterogeneous due to increase in the size of the city and the availability of employment opportunities. The cultural layers of Gurgaon have been derived from its historical past and had only Ahirs, Jats, and Gujars as major caste groups. Gurgaon has expanded and diversified and so is home to diverse ethnic groups and the population includes people from Bengal, Gujrat, Rajasthan, UP, MP etc.


As per the dimensions listed to define a suburb, Gurgaon fulfills the dimensions thus considering as one of the major Suburbs of India. With architectural elements like chrome-and-glass high rises greeting you on both the sides Gurgaon proudly displays logos of several multinational companies. It can be said that Gurgaon as the most successful suburban business district in India over the last decade. Since Gurgaon homes several MNCs like Google, ITS, PepsiCo, IBM, and American Express- it is amazing that same factors which prompted and promoted Suburban America in the 1940s, are at play in Gurgaon. Since, American suburbanization was triggered by the end of WW-II, and coupled with lifting of spending curbs in the US and a whole host of financial sops by the US Federal government - saw millions of Americans setting up homes in the suburbs - away from the hustle and bustle of the city centers or from distant rural areas - for want of a better quality of life. American corporate houses literally followed their employees - current and perspective - to the suburbs. In the Indian context, as more and more people set up their homes in the suburbs - and more importantly, away from the claustrophobic city centers - corporates also followed suit. To reiterate, the reasons for the shift to the suburban and peripheral locations can be summed up as: Non-availability of quality space in the city centers and availability of large areas in suburbs, accessibility and improved infrastructure in the suburbs and integrated nature (co-existence of residential and commercial areas) of the suburbs.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Key Dimensions That Define Suburbs in India. (2024, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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