Tag: seminar series

Seminar with Yaara Rosner-Manor

Population formetics and the circulation of urban forms

In the the third instalment of this year’s seminar series, we continued to host a dialogue about the adaptation of evolutionary thinking to the study of cities. We were delighted to host Ya’ara Rosner-Manor from Ben-Gurion University and the Urban Clinic.

Dr. Rosner-Manor is the author of very interesting research on “the adaptation of urban codes” from one place to another. This work aligns with own theorizing in Parts III, and III of “Towards a Model of Urban Evolution,” which thanks to Dr. Rosner-Manor’s critical commentary we will continue to revise, in particular through closer engagement with the ideas of Christopher Alexander.

For our seminar, Dr. Rosner-Manor presented a paper on “Stigmergy in informal communities: The unrecognized Bedouin settlements in the Negev, Israel.” The abstract is below.


Informal settlements seem to lack order and are often regarded by the authorities as holding no value, when planning for rebuilding of the same area or for the relocation of the population to legitimate urbanized areas. In this paper we show, in the case of the Bedouin Villages in the Israeli desert, that consistent patterns of spatial order can be discerned in the way those informal settlements self-organize. Often these patterns reflect unique connections among the community’s social structure and the environments in which they exist. These connections, we argue, are fundamental for the future wellbeing of the community.

Drawing from the study of complex systems, we use the explanatory framework of ‘Stigmergy’ to evaluate the relations observed between social coordination and spatial order in the Bedouin villages in the Israeli Negev desert. Stigmergy, most generally, describes the collective phenomenon of indirect communication and coordination mediated by modifications of the shared environment. In this paper, it is used to identify significant socio-spatial patterns anchoring the traditional narrative of these communities to the structure of the environment they inhabit. 

Seminar with Juste Raimbault


Generative models of urban form

In the the second instalment of this year’s seminar series, we continued to host a dialogue about the adaptation of evolutionary thinking to the study of cities. We were delighted to host Juste Raimbault, from University College London.

Dr. Raimbault is the author of a stream of very interesting work on theories and models of urban evolution, coupled with epistemological insights about the value and meaning of interdisciplinarity. This work informs own theorizing in Parts III, and III of “Towards a Model of Urban Evolution” — which thanks to Dr. Raimbault’s critical commentary we will continue to revise under the more appropriate heading, “Towards a meta-model of urban evolution.”  

For our seminar, Dr. Raimbault presented his paper on “Modelling urban evolution and co-evolution in systems of cities.? The abstract is below, and a recording of the presentation may be viewed here

Systems of cities are adaptive complex systems, which have been theorized and modelled from many viewpoints and by different disciplines. Understanding the processes driving their dynamics is a crucial challenge for sustainable urban and territorial planning. The concept of urban evolution has proved relevant in this regard. This presentation summarises recent results obtained within the frame of the Evolutionary Urban Theory, a geographical approach to urban systems dynamics developed for more than 20 years by Denise Pumain and collaborators. We first review the main theoretical assumptions underlying this theory and results obtained with different simulation models in previous works. We also highlight the role of new model exploration and validation practices and tools developed in that context, implemented in the OpenMOLE platform.

We then describe a model of urban evolution positioned in this approach, in which the diffusion of innovations between cities captures transformation processes (mutations) and transmission processes (diffusion), using two coupled spatial interaction models. Explorations of the model on synthetic systems of cities show the role of spatial interaction and innovation diffusion ranges on measures of diversity and utility, and the existence of intermediate interaction ranges yielding an optimal utility. Multi-objective optimization shows how the model produces a compromise between utility and diversity.

The last part of the presentation focuses on the concept of co-evolution in urban systems, proposing a specific definition, a method to characterize it based on circular causations, and an application to the co-evolution between transportation networks and territories. For this particular case, we summarise results from co-evolution models at the mesoscopic scale (co-evolution between urban form and road networks) and at the macroscopic scale (co-evolution between cities and urban networks). We finally discuss perspectives towards more complex and multi-scalar models of urban evolution.

Seminar with Abid Mehmood

In the first of this year’s seminar series, we were delighted to host Abid Mehmood, from Cardiff University.

Dr. Mehmood’s paper, “On the history and potentials of evolutionary metaphors in urban planning” provides important insight into various ways in which urban thinkers have incorporated evolutionary images into their conceptualizations of cities. This paper has informed our own theorizing in Parts III, and III of “Towards a Model of Urban Evolution.” 

For our seminar, Dr. Mehmood presented his paper on nature-inspired approaches to urban planning. Here is the abstract:

“Considering cities as complex adaptive systems, the talk will critically examine the (re)emergence of nature-inspired trends in urban planning and design as a way of exploring new relationships between people and places. Although the use of metaphors is not new when describing the state of a city, the recent turn is more concerned with achieving optimal efficiency and overall sustainability of the built environment through observations and experiences from nature. I would further argue that such approaches should aim for integrating citizens’ needs, inclusion and empowerment for a holistic view to the science of cities.”