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10/2016 – 03/2018



Against the background of rapid urbanization, humanity faces a ubiquitous challenge endangering population’s wellbeing and planet’s resources. From the spatial planning perspective of architecture and urban planning, strategies involved in the process of shaping and modifying our urban environments reached its limits as decision-making and form-finding processes still all too frequently follow intentional, organized and controlled strategies by overlooking self-organized and emergent characteristics of the urban phenomenon. Designing future cities that are intelligent, prosperous, sustainable and resilient, is increasingly being explored through technologies, data

analytics and visualization.


Already in the 1960s, Jane Jacobs and Christopher Alexander, amongst others, established the school of thought that cities as urban phenomena are based on complexity and connectivity. Despite, or rather because of, their complex and connected nature, latest research of Luis Bettencourt showed that cities exhibit underlying structures influencing their dynamics. However, questions remain open about how to evince the rules of action that impact on our urban environments.


Through recent introduction and continuous development of information and communication technologies a new paradigm of thinking in systems allowed to alter our comprehension about the urban phenomenon. The conforming intelligent infrastructure of computer technologies facilitated the handling of complex systems, from biological (Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela), to economic (David Conn, Manuel Gottlieb), to social (Niklas Luhmann), to natural and artificial systems. Simultaneously, network thinking describes cities as social networks embedded in space-time through infrastructure (Luis Bettencourt).



By incorporating models from Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) and Actor-Network Theory (ANT), this research project embodies the idea of recent debates about the urban future that cities are complex network systems of connectivity between people, activities and spaces. Due to its nature, a complex network system requires an examination of its whole with its interconnected parts. The greatest difficulties to any scientific approach to cities have resulted from their many interdependent facets, as social, cultural, economic, infrastructural, and spatial complex systems that exist in similar but changing forms over a huge range of scales. The concept of the urban network system is investigated based on the example of Berlin and its intrinsic urban pattern of appropriable courtyards by applying methodologies of theoretic instruments and empirical evidence.


This research study aims to develop a methodology of explorative observation within the urban phenomenon by, on one hand, integrating the urban resident as an everyday observer, and on the other hand, involving the scientific and somehow more distant viewer as an equally important source of knowledge.