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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 (CPU) – New M.Arch Atelier at the Manchester School of Architecture


Complexity, Planning & Urbanism (CPU) is a new M.Arch atelier. It develops advanced computational methodologies to address accelerated planetary urbanisation. Transdisciplinary urban research will build on a complexity science theoretical framework to question existing design practice. Investigations will involve innovative digital tools to comprehend trans-scalar flows and extrapolate future scenarios; spatial interventions will be rooted in the relational understanding of socio-economic and environmental realities.

CPU will use theory from the complexity sciences to understand the relationships between different scales and components of the city. Possibilities for critical interventions will emerge from an understanding of situated urban capacities and trajectories. Phenomena related to systems, self-organisation, emergence, collective intelligence and structural change form the basis for design. Top-down and bottom-up exploration of spatial patterns, urban ecologies and governance will lead to proposals for alternative urban futures, consideration of loss and damage associated with climate change, co-production of cities and change over time.

Students will be exposed to a comprehensive overview of the ways in which the city is approached in different academic disciplines. They will become familiar with a broad range of fundamental and emerging theories around urban processes; they will be able to analyse and evaluate the urban condition using transdisciplinary methods and tools as well as apply relevant theories and approaches in architectural practice. Contextual investigation will be encouraged through fieldwork on the ground and using Big Data.

The atelier will act as a digital urban laboratory developing new systemic approaches and computational methods for real world problems at both city (YR 5) and building scales (YR 6). Experimental digital design approaches will be encouraged through multiple softwares, taught computer programming, interactive interfaces and digital to physical testing.

• interdisciplinary research overlapping with Future Cities, Smart Cities, Big Data, Open Government agendas
• co-adaptation of urban and architectural morphology and patterns of everyday life and urban transmutations in East Asia
• international practice experience in the UK, Europe, USA, India, China and Japan
• experience in designing award winning buildings, city planning, urban regeneration, computational methodologies and integrated approaches to sustainability
• critical discourse between academic research and practice
• collaborative partnerships with multiple international academic institutions and practices

Ulysses Sengupta, Robert Hyde, Deljana Iossifova

26 June 2014
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