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Complexity, Planning & Urbanism

New MArch Atelier at the Manchester School of Architecture: Developing new theoretical approaches & computational tools using a complexity science framework (systems, self-organisation, emergence, intelligence, structural change, adaptation) for the design, management, governance and understanding of future cities related to climate change, citizen participation, development strategies, resilient interventions, policy making, urban morphology and capacity management.

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Complexity, Planning & Urbanism was initiated by Ulysses Sengupta & Eric Cheung as DesignUnit6, a research orientated design unit at the University of Nottingham which was conceived as a laboratory for the development of techniques to explore complex urban territories as influencable fields. The primary research of the unit focused on developing tools and approaches to deal with emergent and complex urban contexts utilizing contemporary investigative and computational tools to propose large and small scale strategic interventions in rapidly changing urban environments that can only be made cognitive through simulative & algorithmic modelling. #complexurban

Ulysses is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture where a new MA in Complexity, Planning & Urbanism is being formulated.

The new research (and upcoming MA) focuses on complex urban situations produced by the rapid rate of urbanization today and the resulting extreme changes to the physical fabric of many cities. This has led to looking more closely at Planning & Complexity research (a new framework for cities and governance beyond the ‘smart cities’ definition). The Complex Systems framework encompasses current theories referring to Smart Cities, Big Data, Computational Modelling and Digital Development and Participation. The Research is about how to design and manage our cities in the future through collaborative platforms based around real time geo-spatial systems. Our research points to open online platforms and gamification and moves beyond the simple idea of sensors updating a basic data display model.

We are working on developing a multi-disciplinary team now [academics/ industry/ policymakers] in order to develop this emerging area. Please get in touch if you are interested in serious long term collaboration.

Ulysses Sengupta is also Director of Softgrid Limited a Planning, Consultancy, Research and Architecture focused internationally networked office with FORM Foundation: Amsterdam, Tsoulos Associates: Athens, BAND: Zurich/London. Practitioners in the Softgrid Network have been involved in some of the largest urban regeneration projects in the U.K. and large urban scale projects in India and China.


My primary teaching interests lie in theories and approaches emerging out of the overlap of complexity sciences, computational design and computational thinking, especially as related to ‘Alternative Approaches to Urbanism’, ‘Computational Thinking and Logic’ and ‘Designing with Constant Change’.


Designing for and within contemporary urban conditions, especially within the developing world, there is a need to augment existing methodologies with new thinking and processes reflecting the speed of change and the increasing proliferation of unplanned and informal settlements. I am starting new research based on my initial work, developing new theoretical approaches in parallel with new digital tools and computational thinking/methodologies, which will prove useful for designing and comprehending the impact of architectural interventions and urban processes within the accelerated and complex urbanity of today.


Sengupta, U., 2011. Unplannable City – Approaches to Urban Emergence & Complexity, Studio X Mumbai, 2011.

Sengupta, U., 2009. Mega-City Vs. Identity – Territory, Architecture, Culture in Istanbul, Istanbul Metropolitan Planning, 2009.

Book Chapters

Sengupta, U., 2013. ‘Acknowledging Complexity in Continuous Urban Change’. In Iossifova, D. (eds.) Times of Scarcity: Reclaiming the Possibility of Making the City, 35-39, Primedia e-Launch LLC.

Sengupta, U., Iossifova, D., 2012. ‘Systemic Diagramming: An Approach to Decoding Urban Ecologies’. In Goodbun, J., Till, J. and Iossifova, D. (eds.) Scarcity: Architecture in an Age of Depleting Resources, 44-51, Architectural Design, Wiley.

Sengupta, U., Cheung,, E, Wong, L., Matsuda, N., Lynch, J., 2011. ‘Urban Morphology: Incorporating Complexity & Variation’. In Mironowicz, I. and Ryser, J. (eds.) Urban change: the prospect of transformation, 180-189, UN-HABITAT & Wroclaw University of Technology, Nairobi/Wroclaw.

Internet Publications

Sengupta, U., Cheung, E., Pick, J., 2012. ‘Urban Resilience: A Potential Approach based on Complex Ecological Patterns’, Mat.zine,


Sengupta, U., Cheung, E., 2013. ‘Complexity Thinking: Computational Tools to Temporality & Self Organisation’, Out of the Box: Diverse Tools for Planning, SCUPAD (Salzburg Congress on Urban Planning and Development). Salzburg), May 2013.

Sengupta, U., 2013. ‘Why Complex Adaptive Systems?’, Self-organization and Spatial Planning: In-Depth Analysis, AESOP: Aveiro, May 2013.

Sengupta, U., Cheung, E., 2012. ‘Designing in Potential – Understanding and Incorporating the Inherencies of Complex Spatial Patterns into Urban Futures’, Complexity Science and Social Science at the Interface to the Real World, University of Surrey, September 2012.

Sengupta, U., 2012. ‘Informal patterns’, Cities to be Tamed?, Politecnico di Milano, November 2012.

Sengupta, U., 2012. ‘Loose Fit: A Spatio-temporal Approach to Incorporating Bottom up Behaviours’, Complexity and the Collaborative Rationale to Planning – 10th meeting of Planning & Complexity group AESOP, University of Groningen, November 2012, in

Sengupta, U., 2012. ‘Planning for Unknown Futures & Constant Urban Change’, Rethinking Cities: Framing the Future, Barcelona Congress Center, at the Fira de Barcelona, October 2012, in

Sengupta, U., Cheung, E., 2011. ‘Digital Tools – Flux Territories’, Self-Organizing and Spatial Planning – 9th meeting of Planning & Complexity, AESOP, Istanbul, 2011.

Sengupta, U., Cheung,, E, Wong, L., Matsuda, N., Lynch, J., 2010. ‘Urban Patterns & Spatial Memory’, Complex Urban symposium, United Nations University (IAS) Yokohama, 2010, in

Other Outputs

Sengupta, U., 2011. ‘Report on Aternative Urban Policy Approaches’, Report on alternative policy approaches for 5 year urban development plan, Jingdezhen, China.

Sengupta, U., Verma, A., 2011. ‘Report on urban and environmental strategies for a new campus IIT’, Report on urban and environmental strategies for a new campus (Indian Institute of Technology) in a desertified location, Jodhpur, India.

Sengupta, U., 2010. ‘Critique of 5 year urban development plan Jingdezhen’, Critique of 5 year urban development plan Jingdezhen, China.

25 September 2010