The continuous process of urban transformation, which has included multiple works and demolitions over the years, has been possible thanks to the energy flows that converge in the city. Now, we can guide urban decisions by “natural” criteria to make them more efficient. For this, it is key to observe and detect where there are flows rubbing against the territory with enough potential to create life around them. This is the true substratum of an organic urbanism.
Urbanism can be understood as the set of processes that take advantage of the energy that reaches a city for its conversion into an urban structure. Thus, the configuration of the built space corresponds to possible states in which matter can be organized in a stable way (at least for a while).
How does a city acquire “order” (or, decrease its entropy) and increase its complexity? In the same way that a system of dunes, a plant, or any living being does, thanks to the contribution of energy and matter. From this perspective, the set of processes that deal with the use of that energy for the formation of a city structure is what we call urbanism.
If, the structure of natural ecosystems, organisms, and social organizations is formed and grows thanks to the energy flows that affect them, it does not seem unreasonable to think that in cities, social ecosystems formed by all kinds of organisms (including people), urbanism and thermodynamics are related through similar phenomena.
Mobility in a city is the aggregate sum of millions of micro-decisions that its inhabitants make every day when going to work, shopping or meeting friends. Most of us are pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and users of public transport at the same time. Therefore, changing mobility in a city means that more and more micro-decisions go through sustainable means of transport.
Scientific progress is coming from unexpected directions. Mathematics, biology, and astrophysics promise to bring new theoretical tools to advance in how cities work. Social networks, Internet of Things, and big data are sending much of the information about flows between humans and between humans and objects at local and distant scales. But, in screening the universe of cities, our observation artifacts are maybe too narrow and rudimentary.
Proposals of new data sharing platforms are still much guided by technologists. As a result, many of them were relying too much on the promises of technology, and some of them were underestimating the impact on digital rights of such systems, thinking in good faith that complying with the recently issued GDPR automatically placed citizens on the safe side.
Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch… I share a very interesting list of the most influential texts on urban design, found in this good article by Hooman Foroughmand Araabi. The list has bee compiled from readings of more than thirty universities in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The Image of the City Lynch, Kevin 1960 The Death …...
Jaime Lerner (1937-2021), knew that “cities were the solution, not the problem”. So acting on cities is a smart strategy to help heal the world from some of its most acute threats. The combined success of cities and political influence of mayors reflect the fact that cities, nowadays, are an engine of economic growth and source opportunities to contribute to the solution of a great portion of the problems that challenge our societies.
Do city planners play dice with cities? The question admits of several answers, and all of them are probably true and false at the same time. In any case, recognizing the intricate complexity of the city advises accepting our limits when modeling and predicting its behaviors. Big data can help us understand the city, but the city is not the product of a creator, rather each inhabitant creates their own version every day when they open their eyes.