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The New Science of Cities

The New Science of Cities

Michael Batty
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 520
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  • Book Info
    The New Science of Cities
    Book Description:

    InThe New Science of Cities, Michael Batty suggests that to understand cities we must view them not simply as places in space but as systems of networks and flows. To understand space, he argues, we must understand flows, and to understand flows, we must understand networks -- the relations between objects that comprise the system of the city. Drawing on the complexity sciences, social physics, urban economics, transportation theory, regional science, and urban geography, and building on his own previous work, Batty introduces theories and methods that reveal the deep structure of how cities function.Batty presents the foundations of a new science of cities, defining flows and their networks and introducing tools that can be applied to understanding different aspects of city structure. He examines the size of cities, their internal order, the transport routes that define them, and the locations that fix these networks. He introduces methods of simulation that range from simple stochastic models to bottom-up evolutionary models to aggregate land-use transportation models. Then, using largely the same tools, he presents design and decision-making models that predict interactions and flows in future cities. These networks emphasize a notion with relevance for future research and planning: that design of cities is collective action.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31823-5
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Michael Batty
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Preamble
    (pp. 1-6)

    During the last one hundred years, if not before, there have been many attempts at fashioning a science of cities. All have emphasized different aspects of the city, but none have succeeded in being universally recognized as providing the kind of comprehension that other areas such as the physical sciences appear to display. There is no single paradigm that has come to dominate our understanding of cities, and as we will elaborate here, there is unlikely to be one. So what is our rationale for a “new science”? We believe it axiomatic that to understand cities, we must simplify, we...


    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 7-12)

      Jane Jacobs once said, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody” (1961, p. 238). Her insight is one that we feel deeply because all of us articulate our understanding of the city in different ways, thus implying that cities are kaleidoscopes of plurality, a multiplicity of ideas, perceptions, theories, models—indeed of every and any abstraction that we might imagine. It is thus rather difficult to convince ourselves that any one approach to understanding the city takes precedence over any other, and this makes the development of a...

    • 1 Building a Science of Cities
      (pp. 13-46)

      A science of cities has taken a long time coming. More than 150 years ago, Ildefonso Cerda anticipated a world of cities based on a science of geometry and form as the substructure for social behavior, while some fifty years later, Patrick Geddes (1915/1949) switched the argument away from notions of mechanism to flows and fluxes that had begun to dominate the life sciences. In hisCities in Evolution, Geddes focused on the theory and practice of such science when he said: “ Thus, in fact, appear the methods of a Science of Cities—that our cities should be individually...

    • 2 Ebb and Flow: Interaction, Gravity, and Potential
      (pp. 47-78)

      Analogies between cities and machines and cities and organisms provide immediate characterizations of the overall structure and dynamics of urban form. Machines illustrate an intricate clockwork composed of moving parts that click together to provide a synchronized harmony of form and process, one that is static in conception but built, as we illustrated in the previous chapter, in a strict hierarchical manner. In contrast, organisms based on connections that manifest themselves as networks to deliver flows of energy and sustain their moving parts cannot span the entire space in which the organism resides, but strictly self-organize the structure into hierarchically...

    • 3 Connections and Correlations: The Science of Networks
      (pp. 79-114)

      The implication that flows and networks are opposite sides of the same coin, that one cannot exist without the other, needs to be finessed, for they imply rather different perspectives on how we might represent and simulate connections and interactions within cities. In short, each have a very distinctive structure. In the last chapter, we assumed that flows could exist between any two locations, whereas this is rarely the case with networks, largely because their spatial patterning in cities implies some kind of embeddedness in physical space. While the structure of flows depends largely on how they constitute activity at...


    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 115-118)

      In presenting our science, I am acutely aware that I will never know the background knowledge about cities that readers already have and that they will use to make sense of the ideas and methods already introduced. This is made all the more problematic because we are not only abstracting from the casual knowledge of cities that every city dweller has, but providing a particularly focused, formal perspective on how we should approach an understanding of cities. This treatment thus draws from many sources. In one sense, even the most general reader might find something of interest about cities here,...

    • 4 The Growth of Cities: Rank, Size, and Clocks
      (pp. 119-150)

      Settled agriculture emerged from mankind ’ s beginnings as hunter-gatherers some 8,000 years before the common era (BCE), but there is controversy about when the first cities were actually established. Many assume that settled agriculture provided a surplus of wealth above basic subsistence and provided the spark for a division of labor that led to more urban pursuits, and in turn to various social and technological innovations (Bairoch, 1988). Others such as Jacobs (1969), however, have argued that cities are intrinsic to mankind and that they date back to before the agrarian revolution, or at least were coterminous with it,...

    • 5 Hierarchies and Networks
      (pp. 151-178)

      Hierarchy is implicit in the very term “city.” Cities grow from hamlets and villages into small towns, and thence into larger forms such as a “metropolis” or “megalopolis”; world cities are called a “gigalopolis.” In one sense, all urban agglomerations are referred to generically as cities, but this sequence of city size from the smallest identifiable urban units to the largest contains an implicit hierarchy in which there are many more smaller cities than larger ones. This is enshrined as central place theory, which was first developed by Christaller (1933/1966), extended into a formal economic logic by Losch (1940/1954), widely...

    • 6 Urban Structure as Space Syntax
      (pp. 179-210)

      In the approach to cities we adopt here, physical form is all-important. From form we infer processes that create the structures we see in cities, thus enabling us to build models of these processes, that in turn will simulate forms. Form and function are thus central to our concern, and in terms of our perspective here, cities conceived as locations, which in turn are functions of interactions, are the structures we explore throughout this book. Terms such as form, function, structure, process, and dynamics are not closely defined, but as Piaget’s (1971) opening quote implies, we must be clear about...

    • 7 Distance in Complex Networks
      (pp. 211-244)

      In the development of network science, Euclidean distance and spatial embedding have been somewhat neglected, largely because the properties of networks are not as clear-cut when constraints imposed by physical space need to be observed. Moreover, in social networks, geometric distance is rather too simple a characterization of the main functional relationships such networks seek to represent. Thus, together with the difficulties of meeting the criterion of planarity, which is a major constraint, many social relations are not easily understandable or even observable with respect to distance, spatial extent, and physical influence. Yet as Tobler (1970) argues in the quote...

    • 8 Fractal Growth and Form
      (pp. 245-270)

      It has been nearly one hundred years since D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson published his seminal book advancing a science of form, albeit for the biological world, but with strong implications for how the social world might grasp a parallel challenge. His reticence about his understanding at the time has turned out to be rather prescient, for it has taken the last century to push us to the point where we have the sense of a theory of cities that enables us to trace the mechanisms of how cities evolve and grow from the bottom up. In the last half-century, the focus...

    • 9 Urban Simulation
      (pp. 271-300)

      Simulation is a generic activity that has been introduced implicitly throughout this book. The notion of representing cities as formal mathematical functions, logical sets of relations, and digital descriptions is core to our science of cities, and in previous chapters, although we have hinted at various models that tie many functions of how cities evolve and are linked together, we have not yet introduced large-scale simulation, which enables this science to be tested in empirical and practical contexts. Nevertheless, from the time when digital computers were invented over half a century ago, the idea of simulating large-scale, extensive systems such...


    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 301-304)

      In part III, we will shift rather dramatically from understanding cities to their design. We use the same tools, however, to extend our science. We conceive of design as embedded in networks of relationships between those who have a stake in a problem, and the process of generating new designs as one of communicating and resolving conflicts between different views of the future. Many approaches to a science of cities do not consider their design, with the assumption that cities and their planning are quite separable from one another, science simply informing design in a somewhat passive manner. There is...

    • 10 Hierarchical Design
      (pp. 305-338)

      The tools we have so far introduced have largely been focused on developing a science of cities analytically, but as we will see, these same tools can be fashioned to generate an understanding of cities synthetically. In this sense, analysis involves deconstructing the city into its component parts and interactions, in contrast to synthesis, which is putting the city back together again. Analysis tends to be top down while synthesis is bottom up, but there is a twist to this argument, in that deconstruction tends to focus on extant forms, construction on new forms, deconstruction on analysis and science, construction...

    • 11 Markovian Design Machines
      (pp. 339-364)

      Our approach to design outlined in the previous chapter depends on identifying the structure of the problem with respect to the network of factors that influence its solution. Such a network contains within it the strength of relationships between the parts of the problem, and in general, their resolution with respect to any solution cannot be accomplished in one step. As we illustrated in the previous chapter, the process of reconciling competing or conflicting factors, which was likened to a process where designers have conflicting solutions in mind, can be envisaged as one of averaging in which the structure of...

    • 12 A Theory for Collective Action
      (pp. 365-410)

      Our science of cities, which we began to elaborate in the first two parts of this book, focused our perspective on the city as an artifact, as a product rather than a process. But we very quickly reached the point where form gave way to function as urban processes began to dominate our models of how elements of the city relate to one another and how these elements provide the dynamics of change that drives the way cities evolve. The same change in focus has been apparent in the study of planning, in contrast to the study of cities, where...

    • 13 Urban Development as Exchange
      (pp. 411-432)

      At the heart of the theory of collective action outlined in the last chapter lies the idea of exchange: the notion that for a system to be in equilibrium, its agents must adjust their demands to the supplies controlled by other agents, or vice versa. In fact, the most likely condition in a perfect market is that both demand and supply adjust to the point where a balance occurs and all agents are satisfied that no further improvement in their conditions can take place. Price, of course, is the signature of this balance, and the process of adjustment that must...

    • 14 Plan Design as Committee Decision Making
      (pp. 433-456)

      One very clear reason why Giddens’ (1976) observations on the relevance of using systems theory for representing and understanding group interaction patterns and consequently networks resonate with our ideas here is that such patterns tend to be well-defined. Traffic, migration, trade, even information flows across networks can, in principle, be measured with some accuracy. Networks exist as physical artifacts or wireless transmission, at least with respect to the movement of physical materials, populations, and digital information, and these are entirely detectable given appropriate access. Many social networks are harder to observe, for they may only be implicit in social interaction,...

  11. Conclusions: A Future Science
    (pp. 457-460)

    The canvas that we have attempted to lay out is a mere beginning. As we have argued throughout, it would be presumptuous to think of this effort as the only science of cities, for the city and its planning admits many viewpoints. As we have begun to recognize its complexity, we have become ever more aware that both its understanding and design need to be based on a synthesis of many different and often conflicting perspectives. Indeed, the models in part III were all based on the idea that city plans are vehicles that resolve conflict, continuing to generate a...

  12. References
    (pp. 461-478)
  13. Author Index
    (pp. 479-484)
  14. Subject Index
    (pp. 485-496)