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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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It was a pleasure to meet the Complexity in Planning family at the 11th meeting on Complexity and Planning, where the theme of self-organisation was relooked at. The second round of the theme as well as the small but well versed group of participants allowed for heavier discussions and lively end of presentation Q&A sessions. Thanks to Paulo Silva and Ward Rauws for a memorable session.

In co-opertaion with the Manchester School of Architecture and MMU, we concenrated on positioning our previous work on digital urban modelling within the three related fields of Complexity Sciences, Urban SPatial Design & Planning Theory. The presentation is attached and examines ‘WHY COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS?’.

Aims Re-examined

Our original research (presented previously) was to develop new tools and approaches for spatial planning.  We were exploring computational modelling techniques for simulating complex non-deterministic urban territories in states of rapid change. The aim was to develop the potential to observe urban phenomenon more acutely, and study possibilities of spatial and policy based interventions on morphological territories displaying complex behaviours.

This forced us to start experimenting with complex adaptive systems, but it was difficult to position this work. due to its very open ended nature.

‘… you will have to convince people that it is worth supporting research which will not give them any final or fixed answer … ‘   Peter Allen (informal comment)

New Influences

However, the recent publication  ‘Systems, Assemblages & Simulations’ (De Roo, et al 2012) has started a whole new conversation that we look forward to pursuing, which attempts to position research into systems based urban modelling at various stages of the planning and urban process, rather than just as a sophisticated production tool.

Special thanks to my ex students Eric Cheung, Jonathan Pick, Benjamin Minton, Matthew Sandhu, James Rixon, Adrian Tsang and Aurelia Lee, whose work is visible throughout this presentation.

The AESOP group on Complexity & Planning can be found at:


03 June 2013
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