Other approaches – EPUM Platform

Other approaches


25. International Seminar on Urban Form Urban Morphology

Website: http://www.urbanform.org/

The website of the ‘International Seminar on Urban Form’ (ISUF) offers an insight on the activity of this organization for researchers (including the historico-geographical, the process-typological approaches and space syntax) and practitioners inaugurated in 1994. The website is in five fundamental parts. After presenting the organization and staff, ‘About ISUF’ gathers papers on the history of the study of urban form in different countries (the collection ‘the study of urban form in…’) and on the history of different schools of morphological thought, and offers an insight into four ISUF projects. The ‘Conferences’ section presents information on the conferences that ISUF has organized since the first meetings in Lausanne in the mid-1990s, including for most cases a link to the specific conference website and a conference report published in ‘Urban Morphology’. The ‘Bibliography’ compiled by Peter Larkham lists a comprehensive number of titles organized in fourteen sections, from general works to specific morphological schools. The ‘Glossary’ compiled by Peter Lakham and Andrew Jones offers basic definitions of technical terms common principally in historico-geographical studies. Finally, the fifth section is devoted to the journal ‘Urban Morphology’ published biannually since 1997, edited by Jeremy Whitehand. The website offers online access to all papers published in the journal between 1997 and 2007 and presents the structure of the journal (editorial, articles, viewpoints, reports, book reviews, book notes, notes and notices).

26. ‘Environment and Planning B: urban analytics and city science’

Website: http://journals.sagepub.com/home/epb

This is the website of ‘Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science’ (formerly sub- titled as ‘Planning and Design’), an international and multidisciplinary journal focused on the application of quantitative, computational, design and visual methods to the spatial structure of cities and regions. The journal is edited by Michael Batty (Lionel March was the founding editor of EPB, six years after the establishment of ‘Environment and Planning’, and acted as editor of that new series B until the early 1980s). The website gathers all issues published since 1974 offering open access to some of these. The journal includes many papers on space syntax and ‘spatial analysis’, but also some papers on the historico-geographical approach. The homepage of the website offers easy and quick searching. First, it lists the latest articles published online for this journal; second, it lists the articles most read in the last year; and, third, lists the most cited articles in the last year.

History of cities
27. ‘UNESCO World Heritage List’

Website: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

The ‘World Heritage List’ is one of the seven sections of the ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’ / UNESCO website, including: i) ‘News and Events’; ii) ‘The List’; iii) ‘About World Heritage’, providing information and documentation about the World Heritage Convention, and access to regional actions; iv) ‘Activities’, gathering information, recommendations and activities for each of the specific plans related to World Heritage; v) ‘Publications’, gathering publications such as The World Heritage Journal, the World Heritage Paper Series and Manuals; vi) ‘Partnerships’, providing information on partnerships and how to be part of it; and finally, vii) ‘Resources’ containing all documents, forms and tools necessary for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. The second section of the website, on the World Heritage List offers a first insight into the architectural and urban history of more than 1000 sites – including cultural sites, natural sites and mixed sites – spread around the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. For each of these sites, the website offers a description (in different languages), a set of maps, a number of documents and a set of indicators on the classification of the property, a photographic gallery, and data on assistance for the conservation of the property.

28. ‘The greatest grid’

Website: http://thegreatestgrid.mcny.org/

The website ‘The greatest grid’, created by the Museum of the City of New York, offers information on one of the fundamental documents of planning history worldwide, the 1811 plan for Manhattan. The website is in seven parts and includes interactive maps (the 1811 plan, John Randel’s composite map and map gallery) and a number of learning resources. The first part of the website describes how New York grew organically, with no overarching order, before the existence of the grid. The 1811 plan prepared by The Commissioners and John Randel is presented in the second part: the proposed street system and plot system and the guidelines for the building system. The third part addresses the process of building the grid (with a focus on the first 60 years after the design of the plan), from surveying the city to opening streets up to 155th Street and selling the plots. The fourth part continues to focus on the nineteenth century development: from the 1860s, when development was approaching 155th Street, requiring a new plan for the north end of the island, to the end of the 19th century, when the grid was fully laid out and filled in. The twentieth century is the focus of the fifth part, from the construction of skyscrapers to the laid down of plazas and of superblocks (erasing part of the grid). The sixth part describes how the grid affects almost all aspects of urban life, from utilities to transportation networks, and to social patterns. Finally, the last part presents a number of grids in other cities.

29. ‘Charles Booth’s London’

Website: https://booth.lse.ac.uk/

This website is devoted to Charles Booth and the ‘Inquiry into Life and Labour in London’. It comprises over 450 volumes of interviews, questionnaires, observations and statistical information, documenting the social and economic life of London and showing how Booth developed new methodologies and techniques in the development of social research techniques. The archive is in three main series: i) poverty, containing detailed information about living conditions and levels of poverty among the families; ii) industry, detailing patterns of work, wage levels and conditions of employment; and iii) religious influences, documenting social and moral forces acting on the lives of the people. Profoundly concerned with contemporary social problems, Booth recognized and demonstrated, through his notebooks and maps, the limitations of philanthropy and conditional charity in addressing the poverty which scarred British society. The website allows access to Booth’s map (enabling, also, access to notebook entry for each location) and comparison with the current map of London. It also provides, answers to questions such as who was Charles Booth (from his youth, through his political and social interests, and to his later years); what was the question (the research assistants, data and methodology); what were the maps of poverty (poverty classification is explained); and what were the topics covered by Booth’s descriptions of street life (drinking and drugs, migrant communities, and prostitution).

30. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

This documentary presents the history of Pruitt-Igoe, gathering a number of retrospective interviews and archival footage of local news. To inform and enhance the debate on public housing and government welfare programs, the documentary illustrates the main reasons for the failure of this modernist estate. This reasons include: i) the Modernist layout, including blocks of flats surrounded by open space, which represented a break with the traditional city building; ii) the loss of people and jobs, and the deterioration of the centre (the economy flourishes but out of city); iii) the government control; iv) the lack of financing for maintenance and operation; v) the planned segregation, as public housing was used as an instrument of racial segregation and as a justification for the cleaning of the poor and working class neighbourhood, and finally, vi) the violence, crime, closing and others. Consequently, the 11-storey buildings experience was a failure, leading to its demolition. Adding a human face to a subject that has become so ‘inhuman’, this documentary reveals the myth behind Pruitt-Igoe.

Other approaches
31. ‘The Seaside Research Portal’

Website: https://seaside.library.nd.edu/

This website is on Seaside, United States, a small coastal community that has been planned by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Leon Krier, under the framework of the New Urbanism. The website is three parts: ‘About Seaside’, ‘Planning Seaside’ and ‘Building Seaside’. The first part contains historical information about the creation of the town (after Robert Davis was gifted an 80-acre plot in Florida Panhandle) along with essays from the founders and interviews with some of the fundamental agents in Seaside’s creation and development. The second part presents information about the Plan and the Code. An interactive map offers an overview on the design of the plan, going through its different alternatives prepared from the end of the 1970s to the mid-1980s, until the final version of the plan and the consolidation of the town. The Code, framing the transformation of the urban landscape, is also presented. It is very simple in its form (one single sheet) but aims at creating a rich and complex environment. The Code divides the city into eight different urban tissues, regulating the design and transformation of yard, porch, balcony, outbuilding, parking and height. The third part of the website addresses the buildings, and the architects, of Seaside.

32. Citizen Jane: battle for the city

Video: https://www.kizi.video/view.php?vid=c36060976

This documentary, draws on a number of interviews with various agents (including Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses), excerpts from books, newspapers and magazines, to illustrate the battle for New York City, between Jacobs, the author of ‘The death and life of great American cities’ and Moses, a promoter of modernist infrastructures and super blocks. On one side of the battle was Moses, an enthusiast for massive highways, wiped away slum tenements wholesale and replaced them with grim, soulless and cheaply made projects. On the other side was Jacobs, who insisted that the city is a place for the people; and that is why you cannot simply serve them but to express who they are. Jacobs’ thoughts are explained throughout the documentary: i) the city is an ecosystem, a community of diverse people, mutually supporting each other; ii) mixed-use urban development should be promoted, (different uses in cities are not a form of chaos, on the contrary, they represent a complex and highly developed form of order; iii) bottom-up community planning should be promoted, as cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

33. ‘What is a city?’, by Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt

In this short film (four minutes), physicists Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt, look at existing data on cities around the world and try to understand how they are and how they work. The film argues that cities can be compared to every complex system and to some non-complex systems. Cities are like machines (that can be optimized), ecosystems, huge magnets for socioeconomic activity, or special kinds of social reactors. The film states that there are some universal properties that can describe every city. Cities obey some fairly simple and universal parameters. They change in a predictable way. For example, after a city doubles its size, it also experiences an increase of until 50 per cent in a set of different things such as wage, patents, AIDS cases, crime or hospitals. The film also highlights the fact that, despite some tragic exceptions, cities never die, their resilience is extraordinary, and the solution to the existing problems are within them (cities are the only solution to the problems of cities).

34. ‘What is a complex system?’, by Complexity Labs

This short film (ten minutes) presents a working definition of what is a complex system (for which there is no formal definition). It starts by defining ‘system’ as a set of ordered or unordered parts called elements, and a set of connections between these parts called relations. The film then moves to defining ‘complex system’ as a product of four primary parameters: numeracy, non-linearity, connectivity, autonomy and adaptation. The four primary parameters are then explained: i) the only property in all definitions of complex systems is that they consist of many parts – this is the primary source of complexity; ii) it is also acknowledged that non-additive interactions and feedback loops over time can give exponential relations between the input and output of a system and lead to phase transitions; iii) many definitions of complex systems involve high dense or high levels of interconnectivity between components (the network concept); and, finally, iv) in a complex system, elements have a degree of autonomy and also a degree of adaptation (concept of evolution) – the greater the autonomy and capacity for adaptation that elements have, the more complex is the system.

35. ‘Global cities’, by Complexity Labs

This five-parts, documentary explores the changes on urban landscape, and the development of urban networks as an emerging geography of connectivity in an age of globalization. The first part of the film, ‘Historical context’, reviews thousand years of urban development, from the first urban environments to the complex urban network today, arguing that our engineering environment has a direct relationship with our knowledge of the natural environment around us. The second part, ‘Globalization’, states the existence of a new geography based on functional connectivity (economy of services and informational technology) instead of physical borders; this leading to the explanation and conceptualization of the concept of Global Cities. ‘Territory and Governance’ proposes the existence of a new form of governance. This new type of geography, geometry and governance transforms the environment, thus giving rise to a new era, the Age of the Anthropocene. In the fourth part, ‘Loading Environment’, the concepts of Mega City, City Region and Sustainability are discussed, to understand the influence of human activity on climate and on the urban environment. To conclude, ‘Economic Development’ discusses the idea that global cities are physically super connected in this network and, also super disconnected (social exclusion and inequalities within cities because of the rapid and unplanned urban growth), leading to the argument of the inexistence of the ‘local’.

36. ‘What is cellular automata modelling?’ by Andreas Flache

In this short film (eight minutes) Andreas Flache introduces one of the different forms of spatial analysis, Cellular Automata (CA). The film starts with a description of the two basic principles of CA. The first is the spatial structure. Considering that a social self-organization in a complex social system arises from interactions of individuals with each other, CA provides a precise meaning of what is meant by this interaction. The second principle is local interaction. It means that individuals can only interact with others at close range, and thus, the way the neighbourhood is modelled can be used to express how local or global the interaction is. The film continues, explaining how the interaction can be modelled. In CA, each cell has a state and that state can change over time. How the state of a cell changes depends both on the cell state and on the neighbourhood cells state.

37. ‘Fractals and the art of roughness’, by Benoit Mandelbrot

In this short film (seventeen minutes) prepared for a Technology, Entertainment and Design / TED conference, Benoit Mandelbrot presents the fractal geometry of roughness. In 1979, Mandelbrot discovered the so-called ‘Mandelbrot set’, which shows how visual complexity can be created from simple rules (that would be repeated without end). He constructed a geometry of things that apparently do not have a geometry and found that the rules of this new geometry are quite simple. With this presentation, and with the use of some real and artificial examples, Mandelbrot tries to demonstrate what he means by roughness (by contrast to regularity), its importance and how this can be used as a practical measure (developing a proposal made in 1919 by Hausdorff). The example of cauliflower, with its convoluted and peculiar shape, illustrates that the idea of something that is both complicated and simple. Fake fractal clouds are also complicated, instable and variable but have a simple rule behind it.

38. ‘Fractal cities: a geometry of form and function’, by Michael Batty and Paul Longley

Website: http://www.fractalcities.org/

Fractal geometry, proposed by Benoit Mandelbrot, enables the understanding of order and regularity in what, at first sight, appears irregular and disordered. In this sense, all cities show some irregularity in most of their parts and are thus ideal candidates for the application of fractal geometry. This book presents an initial attempt to apply fractal geometry to cities, sketching out how fractal geometry might be applied to cities, first in terms of visualizing urban form through computer models and computer graphics, and then through the measurement of patterns in real cities and their dynamic simulation. The first chapter, ‘The shape of cities: geometry, morphology, complexity and form’, starts by reviewing what is known about the shape of cities and about urban form. The next three chapters, from ‘Size and shape, scale and dimension’ to ‘Laboratories for visualizing urban form’, lay the foundations for a fractal theory of cities. The next two, ‘Urban boundaries and edges’ and ‘The morphology of urban land use’ consider specific methods of measurement and estimation. Considering the theory described in the previous parts, chapters 7 to 10, ‘Urban growth and form’ to ‘Extending the geometry to systems of fractal cities’, begin the construction of fully-fledged dynamic models of the city and systems of cities using fractal geometry. The last chapter summarizes the theory, and suggests directions in which the application of fractal geometry to cities as well as the theory of the fractal city might develop.

39. ‘A science of cities’, by Michael Batty

Website: http://www.complexcity.info/

In the website/blog ‘A Science of Cities’, Michael Batty develops a number of concepts, explains spatial analysis models, and presents some fundamental books (‘Urban modelling: algorithms, calibrations, predictions’ and ‘Fractal cities: a geometry of form and function’ are open access), papers (published between 2001 and 2011), editorials (published in ‘Environment and Planning B’ since 2002), presentations (recent presentations in pdf format), and working papers supporting this ‘science’. In terms of concepts, offers definitions of complexity, fractals and networks, and recommends additional open access readings on these. Complex systems are those that have the potential to reconfigure themselves in ways that may be surprising. A fractal is an object whose properties remain invariant with changes in scale. Networks are the containers through which flows (of material goods, information, and so on) take place and their physical configuration represents ways in which such exchange is organized to fill the space taken up by those engaged in such exchange. In terms of models, the website introduces the LUTI models, the Cellular Automata, the Agent-Based Models and other variants. Through movies, detailed software description and simple demos (demonstrate ideas about how cities grow, restructure and change using hypothetical example), the spatial analysis models are explained.

40. ‘Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis’

Website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/casa/

This is the website of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), a centre that was established in 1995 at the Bartlett, University College London (UCL). CASA is an interdisciplinary research institute; among its staff are physicists, planners, geographers, data scientists, architects, mathematicians and computer scientists, all working on the same projects. The goal of this mix is to be at the forefront of what is one of the grand challenges of twenty-first century science: to build a science of cities from a multidisciplinary base, drawing on cutting edge methods, and ideas in modelling, complexity, visualization and computation. It also aims at advancing the state of the art through research complemented by graduate study, undergraduate teaching, consultancy and distance learning. CASA research interests include a common domain knowledge in cities, smart cities, internet of things and connected environments, urban planning, data visualization, migration, urban and regional modelling, GIS, fractal analysis and network science. The website offers an insight into CASA and also the possibility to download different kinds of software accompanied by an explanation of what they are, their use, their results. It also enables the possibility to receive information about the latest news, events, publications and videos of CASA.