Designing (with) complexity: improving adaptive capacity of urban form by design

Tümtürk, Onur
In the last century, as parallel to the transitions and paradigmatic shifts in the history of science, urbanism has experienced important theoretical breakthroughs and transitions, as well. At that point, emerging paradigm of complexity theories has come into the contemporary agenda of urban planning and design agenda by representing a dramatic shift from the conception of cities as totally controllable and designed artefacts. In that sense, the complexity-based perspective in urbanism asserts that the settled planning and design approaches conceptualizing the city as a finite and static product of a single mastermind that tends to predict its future state via deterministic projection mechanisms, and designing it with a clear image of an optimal form inescapably fall short to operate effectively. Adoption of complexity theories’ perspective portrays a city which is far from-equilibrium, dynamic, ever-evolving and full of uncertainties. From this point on, it is explicit that designing cities as static and non-progressive physical artefacts by controlling and regulating everything beforehand in accordance with a fixed image makes urban form fragile against the emerging uncertainties and changing spatial needs; and, decreases its capacity to respond different circumstances in a successful manner. For that reason, planning theory and practice should discover and develop a new form of intervention which would be more responsive to the uncertainties by relying on the derived understandings of complexity theory. The most fundamental motivation behind this research is to develop a model approach improving the adaptive capacity of urban form to respond emerging uncertainties and changing needs by operating design within the revealed context of urban complexity. To that end, the research investigates the morphological and programmatic characteristics of an adaptable urban form by revisiting the theoretical implications of the notion of adaptability and examining historical plot-based urbanism examples demonstrating an enhanced capacity of responsiveness. Moreover, two different contemporary urban design and development projects – IJburg, Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Middlehaven, Middlesbrough (UK) – are examined in detail to develop a better understanding about the kind of design approach which helps to achieve the morphological and programmatic characteristics required to improve the adaptive capacity of urban form.


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Citation Formats
O. Tümtürk, “Designing (with) complexity: improving adaptive capacity of urban form by design,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2018.