28 September 2014

Top Urban Themes ~ CityLab on New Science...

The Atlantic CityLab posts Michael Mehaffy's 5 Key Themes Emerging From the 'New Science of Cities' ~ In the most innovative incubators of urban research, the lessons of Jane Jacobs are more vital than ever...
"Researchers at cutting-edge hubs of urban theory like the University College London and the Santa Fe Institute have been homing in on some key properties of urban systems -- and contradicting much of today's orthodoxy. [...] In one sense, these lessons are not so new. Legendary urbanist Jane Jacobs was famous for her prescient insights about the emerging sciences of “organized complexity” and what they offered for a more effective approach to urban planning -- insights she published all the way back in 1961. [...] Jacobs was also famous for excoriating the backward-looking “pseudo-science” of that era's planning and architecture, which she said seemed “almost neurotic in its determination to imitate empiric failure and ignore empiric success.” She urged city-makers to understand the real “kind of problem a city is” -- not a conventional problem of top-down mechanical or visual order, but a complex problem of interacting factors that are “interrelated into an organic whole.” She urged planners and architects to show greater respect for the intrinsic order of cities, and to apply the best insights of the new sciences, coupled with the most pragmatic methods. [...] The new findings confirm and extend Jacobs' original insights. Here are five of the most significant:
  1. Cities generate economic growth through networks of proximity, casual encounters and “economic spillovers."
  2. Cities generate a remarkably large “green dividend."
  3. Cities perform best economically and environmentally when they feature pervasive human-scale connectivity.
  4. Cities perform best when they adapt to human psychological dynamics and patterns of activity.
  5. Cities perform best when they offer some control of spatial structure to residents.
These examples illustrate that cities are complex, adaptive systems with their own characteristic dynamics, and -- if they are going to perform well from a human point of view -- they need to be dealt with as such. In that light we must re-assess our current systems of planning, building and managing cities -- the laws, codes, standards, models, incentives, and disincentives that effectively make up the “operating system” for urban growth. To make better cities, we need to shift to an evidence-based approach, able to draw on the best lessons of science and history about the making of good cities, from a human point of view. But this is far from conventional urban practice, which too often features an art-dominated approach to architecture that values novel visual imagery over enduring human city-making."
Here CityLab spots Physicists Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt of the Santa Fe Institute describing What Is A City?

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