It might not be immediately visible on a satellite image, but look at a population density map of Europe and there's a clear pattern: a network of conurbations from North West England to Northern Italy forms a distinct banana shape, an urban spatial phenomenon that is popularly referred to as the 'Blue Banana.' This European Megalopolis of approximately 111 million people stretches across the United Kingdom and Western Europe, roughly from Manchester to Milan, and includes some of Europe's largest cities, such as London, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.

The Blue Banana, image via Wikimedia Commons

In 1989, French geographer Roger Brunet sought to delineate the division between active and passive spaces that comprised this urban corridor of industry and services. But the memorable name wasn't coined by him. According to The Big Think, "The name was added by the media: the banana shape was pointed out at a press-conference by Jacques Chérèque, a government minister; the color was then given to it by an artist at the Nouvel Observateur, in an article by Josette Alia three days later which baptised the banane bleue." The colour was later attributed to the hue of the European flag and the blue collars of worker uniforms.

Population density of Europe, image via Wikimedia Commons

The term was quickly adopted by the media and local authorities, who eagerly promoted their cities as premier hubs for investment. Bolstered by its cachet, regions just outside the Blue Banana began to blur the boundaries and engage in promotional manipulation. But labeling a particular location as the "heart of Europe" is an inherently disputable assertion, even in the face of unwavering economic and demographic data. In addition to its discontinuity, represented by sparsely populated areas like the Alps, the Blue Banana notably excludes Paris, primarily as a political critique of France's perceived economic insularity. Brunet had hoped the concept, and the traction it gained, would spark greater economic integration within Europe.

The Golden Banana, image via Wikimedia Commons

The Golden Banana is an analogous region on the Mediterranean coast between Valencia and Genoa. Commonly called the "European Sunbelt," this urbanized area developed out of an environment warm in climate but cold to trade unions, leading to the establishment of countless new industries. The proliferation of other banana concepts calls into question the validity of the Blue Banana, which has mostly become outdated as new branches sprout out from the original conurbations. 

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