Emergent Urbanism

Rediscovering Urban Complexity

Jane Jacobs

The Meaning of Emergent Urbanism, after A New Kind of Science

Stephen Wolfram is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the publication of A New Kind of Science, a milestone in the development of complexity science that is more significant than any other for me, as it was reading through that book in 2007 that gave me the motivation and the sense of purpose to begin writing about urbanism and complexity science.

To walk the path of Jane Jacobs - review of What We See, Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs died in the spring of 2006. Three years earlier she had published the last book of her illustrious career as a philosopher, Dark Age Ahead, prophesying the fall of North American civilization. Today, this civilization is having a severe stroke due to all the factors that she warned us about.

Make little plans

In Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Jane Jacobs quotes a Japanese economist about his country's capitalist revolution following the Meiji Restoration. He said that the greatest periods of creativity and productivity had been experienced when the country was adrift, not focused on any particular goal but open to all opportunities.

The Journey to Emergence

This is part I of a series of excerpts of an article to be published in the International Journal of Architectural Research entitled The Principles of Emergent Urbanism. Additional parts will be posted on this blog with the editor's permission until the complete article appears exclusively in the journal's upcoming issue.

Fake Complexity - Mixed Used Development

The economic crash has cities scrambling to keep their real estate markets alive. Disappearing credit has caused many of the most capital-intensive projects, meaning big buildings, to halt. Some have been surprised that projects modeled on traditional patterns of urbanism, such as mixed-used developments, have been caught up in the storm. It's one thing when a lone skyscraper or a subdivision at the edge the city stops dead in development. It's simple to ignore and get around.

The movement economies

Bill Hillier of Space Syntax is, along with Christopher Alexander and Michael Batty, part of the British old school of urban complexity researchers. (Hillier has joked that he would have used the term "Pattern Language" instead of Space Syntax had Alexander not used it first.) He has studied the functional impact of spatial relationships on human behavior over a career spanning several decades, and came upon some very insightful results.

Emerging the city

In the 20th century, the modern movement in architecture drew up grand plans to remake cities for the machine age. Le Corbusier, the leader of the movement, conceived his Radiant City plan. He designed every part of it himself so that it would work as he had willed it to. His machine provided the solution to four problems: inhabitation, work, recreation, circulation. Everything else was removed.

The idea of a machine city expressed three assumptions that led to the catastrophic results of modernism.

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