Planning for Urban Panarchy or Panarchy in Urban planning?

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Modern cities are open complex and inter-dependent systems that include home and office buildings, water, power and communication infrastructures, utilities, transportation and, last but not least, people. Open complex systems have permeable, shifting boundaries and exibit a set of properties which include non-linearity, inter-connectivity, uncertain/unpredictable behaviour, self-organization and emergence (Cilliers, 2005). Complex adaptive systems are complex systems which demonstrate the ability to learn from, adapt to and co-evolve with its environment over time (Holland, 1995). This apparent "macro-coherence" characterizes the emergent behaviour, which arises from micro-level interactions between the sistem's basic individual entities (Mitleton-Kelly, 2003). A city can be perceived as panarchic system sensus Gunderson and Holling (2002) - an hierarchical nested set of adaptive cycles on different space and time scales with distinct connections between levels and implicit emergent behaviours. The panarchy four phases model has been used to explain the characteristics and dynamics of many different types of Human related (sub)systems: socio-ecological (Gunderson, 2010; Petrosillo et al., 2010; Garmestani et al., 2009 ); economic (Simmie and Martin, 2010; Munasinghe, 2002; Holling, 2001); cultural/historical (Widlok et al., 2012; Zimmermann, 2012; McAllister et al., 2006). Only recently urban systems have been specifically addressed as scale-dependent and analyzed from the perspective of panarchy theory (Eason and Garmestani, 2012; Garcia et al., 2011) instead of the dominant "predictable city" theory as summarized by Bettencourt and West (2010).

Does this change of the urban system's paradigm - from complicated to complex and adaptive - require a different approach to urban planning? If so, how different and in which aspects? Considering de Roo arguments (2012) on spatial planning in a non-linear world and Alexander et al. (2012) perspectives on social-planning ordering, we proceed to analyze the pros and cons of different planning alternatives - from self-organized to strict teleocratic (sensus Moroni, 2010) - in light of panarchy theory.

In our perspective, urban planning in itself can be perceived has a complex system, involving individual players, informal and formal organizations (Buitelaar et al., 2011) and different types of institutions with diverse cultures (Steinhauer, 2011), all hierarchically interconnected in time and space. Several questions that have been echoing in the urban planning literature - like "flexibility versus certainty" (e.g. Tasan-Kok, 2008), "individual liberty versus moral action in the public realm" (Alexander et al., 2012), governance and planning cultures - global versus local specific (eg. Friedmann, 2005, Sanyal, 2005), regulatory competence (eg. Tasic, 2009) - can benefit from a panarchic approach to the subject of city planning. We discuss the advantages of using the concept of panarchy as a metaphor to reflect upon the process of urban planning and the trade-off between conceptual vagueness and precision.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event11th AESOP Thematic Group Meeting on Complexity & Planning: Self-organization and spatial planning: in-depth analysis - Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal
Duration: 2 May 20133 May 2013


Conference11th AESOP Thematic Group Meeting on Complexity & Planning


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