The rural settlements have different shapes and sizes. The site of the village, and the surrounding topography and terrain influence the shape and size of a village.
In fact, the pattern of rural settlement is the result of a series of adjustments to the environment which have been going on for centuries.
Moreover, socio-cultural factors such as caste structure of the people living in a village and the functional needs of the people also have a close bearing on its shape and size.
In the valleys in mountainous areas, the pattern of settlement is generally linear, while in the fertile plains their shapes may be rectangular; near the lakes and ponds the settlements are of circular or semi-circular type, while at the cross roads, the shape may be rectangular, circular or triangular.
In exceptional cases, the settlement pattern resembles the nebular form and on the river terraces resembles the stair-case type. The rural settlements may be broadly classified under the following patterns:
1. Rectangular Pattern:
Over 50 per cent of the world population lives in rural settlements, and most of the people inhabit the settlements of rectangular pattern. Rectangular settlements mainly develop in productive alluvial plains and wide intermontane valleys.
The lanes in the rectangular settlements are almost straight, meeting each other at right angles. The rural settlements of the Sutlej-Ganga plains, especially those which developed on the cross-roads, fall in this category.
The well-planned settlements of Germany, Russia, Central Asian Republics, China, North and South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Israel and France also fall under this category.
2. Linear Pattern:
Linear pattern is the other most important design of settlements. In the linear settlements, houses are arranged along either side of a road, railway line, river or canal. Such settlements also evolve along the edge of a valley, especially in the mountainous areas, above flood level or along the coast.
The development of linear settlements in the hilly areas is largely controlled by terrain and topography. Along the river banks and the sea shore, the flood and water level influence linear settlements.
Such settlements are numerous in the Middle Himalayas, Alps, Rockies, Andese, Pyrenees, Pamir, Hindukush, Zagros, and Elburz Siwaliks and along the roads in the plains of Ganga-Yamuna.
3. Circular and Semi-Circular Pattern:
The fishermen and salt producers develop their settlements along the sea coasts and salt lakes, respectively.
Since the people prefer to stay near the water, they construct their houses along the coasts. Such settlements acquire the circular or semi-circular shapes. In the vicinity of crater lakes and on the levees of ox-bow lakes, such settlements are found.
The main occupation of the people of circular settlements is to err their livelihood from the water either by catching fish, water-nuts, grasses, or by providing services to the recreates, picnic goers and aesthetic beauty lovers.
4. Star-Like Pattern:
The star-like settlements develop on the sites and places where several metalled or unhealed roads converge.
In the star-shaped settlements, houses spread out along the sides of roads in all direction. This pattern is common to both villages and towns, and is caused mostly by new development, spreading out along the major roads
This type of settlements is the characteristic of the countryside’s of North-West Europe, plains of Yangtzekiang, Punjab province of Pakistan and the Sutlej-Yamuna plains
5. Triangular patterns of rural:
Triangular patterns of rural settlement generally develop at the confluence of rivers. The lateral expansion of houses at the confluence is constrained by the rivers. Consequently, the settlement acquires a triangular shape
6. Nebular Pattern:
When the shape of a settlement resembles a nebula, it is known as a nebular settlement. The arrangement of roads is almost circular which ends at the central location or the nucleus of the settlement.
Generally, the size of nebular settlements is small and they develop around the house of the main landlord of the village or around the mosque, temple or church. There are several villages of this type in the Ganga-Yamuna doab.