Field Study – Granville Island, Vancouver

Table of Content

Granville Island, located in False Creek under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge, is often regarded as an ‘urban planning success story’ because it is an area being analyzed and copied worldwide. Although Granville Island retains its old name, it is no longer an island but a peninsula, connected to the shore by Anderson Street. Once a derelict industrial park, it has since then been transformed to the thriving market and entertainment destination it is today, attracting both local residents as well as tourists from across the globe.

The question “Is Granville Island a higher order central place?” is the focal point of this urban studies topic. The purpose of this mission is to discover what sort of goods and services are available on Granville Island and whether these goods are regarded as ‘higher order’. Higher order goods and services are those which are infrequently purchased[ and require a larger threshold. Having a high order service implies there are low order services around it, but not vice versa. Lower level settlements are arranged within the sphere of influence of the highest order settlement. This is done so that the lower order settlements can be completely controlled by higher levels.

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I hypothesize that Granville Island is a higher order central place because:

1. It is a settlement which provides specialized goods and services rarely found elsewhere

2. Visitors are willing to travel a relatively long distance (cost is a function of distance between home and higher order place, and the number of trips made to the place)

With reference to the Central Place Theory, I will attempt to demonstrate and explain the extent to which Granville Island exhibits characteristics of being a higher order central place.

The Central Place Theory, created by the German geographer Walter Christaller, is a geographical theory that seeks to explain the size and spacing of human settlements. It rests on the notion that centralization is a natural principle of order and that human settlements follow it.

The theory relies on two concepts: threshold, the minimum market needed to bring about the selling of a particular good or service, and range, the maximum distance consumers are prepared to travel to acquire goods (at some point, the cost or inconvenience will outweigh the need for the good).


Waking up to the fresh morning breeze and wintry temperature of 2.1C on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007, the classes arrived at Granville Island. Despite the chilly coldness, we were eager to set out on an exciting, inspiring tour. To find support that Granville Island is a higher order central place, certain procedures were taken.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT: My group visited art supply shops, art galleries, and studios to collect brochures and to record details. We encountered a busker who offered us primary data, and by donation, we watched him present a few classic tricks and asked him questions regarding Granville Island’s busker business. These methods of data collection enabled us to find support to verify that Granville Island is a higher order central place (discussed in part D). A possible arrangement for the market is k = 3 (market optimizingmarketing principle), maximizing the number of central places.

SURVEYORS: The group surveyed for 54-55 minutes at the Water Park, 10-15 minutes outside the Arts Umbrella, 10-15 minutes at the Emily Carr Institute, an hour at the intersection of Johnston Street and Old Bridge, and 10 minutes at the Public Market. While circling Granville Island’s outer boundaries, they questioned people along the way. By surveying visitors, the group found out the estimated distance and time visitors were willing to travel along with their reason for visit. These factors are fundamental when determining if a place is of higher order or not. Perhaps this aspect can be connected with Christaller’s pattern of k = 7 (administrative principle), a system which allows efficient organization or control of several places, so that all surrounding areas come to one area.

PUBLIC MARKET: The group stood at the door for 10 minutes and complete 3 trials of head-counts of people entering and exiting. The dynamic and density of traffic flow may reflect business rates, directly linked to the question of whether Granville Island is a higher order central place or not.

MARITIME MARKET: The group arrived at points 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the map (see appendix A) and entered shops to gather pamphlets; however, no customers were present as it was too early. But data from the pamphlets allow us to see the frequency that a good and service is required, which ultimately reflects whether or not the place is high order.

TRANSPORTATION: The group stationed themselves at entrances and counted the number of people entering at certain times. At some point, the cost or inconvenience will outweigh the need for the good, and this would be a determining factor to arrive at an answer. Here, the possible arrangement would be k = 4 (transport optimizing) because the pattern is based on a traffic principle where travel between 2 centres is made easy and cheap.

FOOD: Between 10am and 2pm, the group asked the workers or managers of shops some questions concerning prices, variety, hours of operation, availability of seating and number of customers per day. But some exceptions were made, as a few stores refused to respond to the proposed questions due to privacy. The group strived to find variety and exclusive in the menus in order to provide evidence that the food was higher order.

MISCELLANEOUS: The group located industries and special shops on the Granville Island map, and set out to ask the staff for information about their businesses. Data was also taken from brochures. One thing the group members say they noticed was that ‘almost every place we went into were small businesses with worldwide reputations’, possibly suggesting that these businesses were categorized as higher order central places.


Seven groups set out to investigate the different areas of Granville Island.


The surveyors posed six questions to each of the visitors who were willing to provide responses. Altogether, the group was successful in conducting their surveys and received responses from 153 individuals.

A question asked by the group was “Which method of transportation did you use?” The pie graph below shows the number and percentage of visitors who used each form of transportation to arrive at Granville Island.

Graph 1.

Other questions posed were “How much did you spend?” and “How much do you plan to spend?” By combining the results of these two questions, I produced a double-bar graph to illustrate the differences when comparing the two.

Graph 2.

Another significant question was “What is your reason for visiting?” Six choices of answers were possible. For this question, 169 people responded. The responses to this question enable us to have a brief idea of why most visitors come to Granville Island. The results obtained are shown as follows:

Graph 3.


The public market contained several shops where the number of customers and range of prices differed greatly. In an attempt to identify any possible correlations between the x-value (number of customers per day) and the y-value (prices of items in Canadian dollar), I translated the numbers into this scatter graph which allows an easier interpretation.

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Field Study – Granville Island, Vancouver. (2017, Dec 11). Retrieved from

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