The evolution of polycentric metropolitan areas is one of the most incisive structural changes of the past 30 years. The current decentralized structure of metropolitan areas in western industrialized countries is described as a complex, network of centres and subcentres organized according to a functional division of labour. To what extent this transformation process from monocentric to polycentric settlement structures in German metropolitan regions has progressed has only begun to be systematically researched. One reason is the difficulty to empirically depict the networks of distributed centres in cities and metropolitan areas. In this project, the historic origin of polycentric settlement structures and the current extent of polycentricity will be investigated for selected German metropolitan areas. Innovative methodological tools will be used to address the framework of distributed centres in urban areas through their functional and morphological dimensions. For selected specimen areas, highly resolved occupational as well as multisensor remote sensing data will be used to generate a multidimensional structural model that — it is anticipated — will reveal the extent of polycentricity. The expectation is that the project will make a substantial contribution to an empirical investigation of the shaping of settlement structures in metropolitan transformation processes. Another goal is to clarify possible causes for such processes by analysing the characteristics of localities and their accoutrements.