Components of the Material City
Cities represent multiple dimensions of human activity from economic, social, political and cultural standpoints. Here the focus is upon the material city; the city as a place of production, distribution and consumption of material goods. This includes activities generating material flows, but also those handling their waste. While the functions of production (e.g. manufacturing) and consumption (e.g. retailing) remain prominent forms of the material city, globalization enabled the expansion of the distribution sector as dominant element of the material city with terminals and distribution centers. The material city is increasingly transnational.
Depending on the economic and geographical context the material function some cities have a pronounced tertiary function (finance, administration, culture), implying that consumption accounts for the dominant share of the total goods being handled, with the functions of production and distribution (supplying local needs) assuming a more marginal role. Other cities have emerged as manufacturing centers where production accounts for a significant share of the total material flows. With containerization and the growth of long distance trade, several cities act as intermediaries for the material flows bound to large market areas. For instance, gateway cities often fulfill the material requirements of whole regions.