Mathieu Helie’s blog Emergent Urbanism has an absolutely excellent post pertaining to the use of emergence theory in Urban Planning and Architecture.
Emergence is a systems theory that explains complex-systems as the product of simpler smaller interactions and rules. To you help visualize think of a giant flock of birds all flying in unison:
Pretty amazing, no? How do they do it?
To put it simply, rules. Each bird has an innate set of rules (or comfort zones) that tell it how far it should be from the other birds on each of its sides. When you put all of these birds, carrying all of these rules together you get a display like in the video above. It looks complicated and even random but it is the product of a set of simple rules.
Helie uses the research of Professor Bemin S. Hakim to explain the formation of the complex-seeming, clustered, urban communities of the Mediterranean. He describes the bustling communities as the result of loose, proscriptive rules and not contrived design.
Helie seems interested in how this understanding can be used to help us build better, more interesting, modern cities. He provides an excellent crtique of New Urbanism’s uber-contrived rules and the historical pastiche of the Postmodern mileu. I was fascinated by how emergence and complexity can be used by preservationists to help understand and protect historic districts and guide their growth in a culturally respectful manner.
In all, the post is a brilliant, cogent, assertion about the organization of the urban world and is well worth a read!