complexurban /

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.

Navigate +

2009-2010 Flux Territories

2009-2010 FLUX TERRITORIES (urban research methodologies for spatio temporal tangencies)

We attempted to use a series of open ended digital techniques and processes to explore, map and propose tangencies to multi layered urban 『flux territories’ as spatio-temporal fields. A method of abstraction and re-association was be deployed to facilitate the study of scenario based simulative models. The identification and formulation of links between space, time and experience allowed us to interrogate spatiality at multiple and overlapping scales. Projected scenarios and possible tangencies will be tested through re-association of socio-political and cultural aspects.

Flux – Continuous change, passage, or movement.
Territory – A territory (from the word 『terra’, meaning 『land’) is a defined area, a field or sphere of action, thought, domain or province of some definition or limitation.

Cities are increasingly at the centre of global flows of people, capital, culture and information. Over the last 30 years their role as financial command centres has expanded, creating a new type of sprawling, often multi-centred, urban agglomeration. There are now over 20 mega-city regions with more than ten million people. There are also nearly 450 city regions with over one million residents. Together they house more than one billion people in a relatively small surface of the earth. As they expand even further, into urbanised regions of over 50 million inhabitants, their footprint will have a direct impact on climate change and the ecological balance of the planet, as well as on the lives of existing and new city dwellers. (Ref: Cities Architecture &Society)

Megacity is usually defined as a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million people. Some definitions also set a minimum level for population density (at least 2,000 persons/square km). Megacities can be distinguished from global cities by their rapid growth, new forms of spatial density of population, formal and informal economics, as well as poverty, crime, and high levels of social fragmentation. A megacity can be a single metropolitan area or two or more metropolitan areas that converge upon one another.


The rapid rate of urbanization today has resulted in extreme changes to the physical fabric of the cities we live in. Urban territories undergoing the maximum rate of change in topology within the City was to be the basis of sites for study. The final project was based in Jingdezhen, China, a city undergoing the second wave of even faster and more competitive urbanisation encroaching from the East coast.

Time and Space have an interdependent relationship, and due to constantly advancing rates of urban change, we attempted to study complex situations through the use of dynamic models set up as abstract fields acting on influenced territories with defined rule based relationships.

After Effects
3D printing

Abstract Dynamic Time Based Models

「Environments include patterns ‘lines of force’ – meanings!」 Ponty

Abstract models were developed to explore the parameters of a system. Types of forces, influences, relationships and attractors were tested against fields of objects undergoing dispersal, multiplication, cohesion, decay and resistance. Starting with a Cartesian model, techniques for the manipulation of this field were employed to create a complex yet influencable system.

Identification of a highly active Flux Territory within the larger urban conglomeration based on identifiable boundaries and rate of change of the physical fabric through historic analysis and visual methods, was followed by the development of investigative and interrogative methods for the classification of geo-spatial and socio-political phenomenon. The collated data included subjective mapping of existing and potential spatial relationships and definable sub-territories, and objective mapping of the influences and drivers having an effect on the territory.

Simulative Model
Using a process of abstraction mapping data was translated into a dynamic simulation model. The resultant system was tested against a linear time line. Alternative outcomes were explored until a number of sufficiently predictive systems emerged. These systems were used to arrive at future urban scenarios and patterns.

Students were asked to propose individual projects that were based on the possibilities of influencing the direction or rate of change of
the studied urban territory. Projects were encouraged at a variety of scales towards alternative urban futures.

Identification of the new points or fields that could form the framework for a desired change.
Reinforcement versus tangency.
Working at the two extremities of the rate of change as a catalyst for desired tangencies or drag anchors inserted to create relative permanencies.

The disturbance to existing emergence and discontinuity was inhabited and tested for viability through its reinsertion into the existing context using various media to communicate the potential impact.

Time Based Media
The moving image as a medium has had a significant influence on the consideration and design of space, especially in relation to its temporal aspects and the scalelessness of a manipulatable image. However, with the advent of High end Animation Software like MAYA, originally developed to introduce special effects into real world film, we now have the possibility of reversing this in order to recontextualise the virtual by integrating the recognizable into the abstract.

Production of 2 mins of film/animation footage was encouraged exploiting the potential of interpretation within the abstract system.

Eric Cheung
Nde Forcob
Angel Gonzalez
John Lynch
Noriko Matsuda
Qiao Yang
Lenard Wong

THANKS (to experts who have contributed at various points towards making this course a possibility:

Thilo Aschmutat
Lecturer in animation and visualisation at the University of Hannover and Braunschweig Technical University
guest lecturer at the Architectural Association and University of Nottingham

Shajay Bhooshan
Zaha Hadid Architects/AA DRL

Mathias F. Richter

Pim van Wylick
graduated from the DRL, AA in 2005
curently director of Softgrid Nederlands. Previously at Herzog & DeMeuron and OMA
Founding Member of Rhino Group NL

Brady Peters
Associate Partner at Foster + Partners, Advanced Geometries Unit

Jethro Hon
Foster + Partners,
Advanced Geometries Unit

Anurag Verma
Histories & Theories lecturer,
University of East London

Dr Deljana Iossifova
Urban Research,
University of Westminister

Sans Facons
Art and Architecture collaborative based in Glasgow

Stuart Milne
Bentley Generative Components, London

Dr. Wolfgang Stille
Algorithm Engineering
Department of Computer Science,
Technical University of Darmstadt


03 July 2011