From form to process: Re-conceptualizing Lynch in light of complexity theory

Abstract

New Urbanism’s disposition towards urban design emphasizes creating places that, in part, derive structure and meaning from ‘imageable’ components. These components resonate with the formal categories articulated by Kevin Lynch. That is to say, New Urbanist projects emphasize defined streets (edges) neighborhood coherence (districts) civic buildings (landmarks) connective public open spaces (nodes) and gridiron street networks (paths). Lynch, however, deemed that such urban features arose from dynamic processes, whereas New Urbanists pre-designate formal features without full consideration of their functional dynamics. In order to better situate this notion of ‘functional dynamics’, this paper argues that urban settings can be considered as examples of complex adaptive systems (CAS). The paper re-purposes Lynch’s formal categories to discuss CAS dynamics in urban settings, with processes rather than forms providing the essential mechanisms with which to achieve the conviviality NU projects aspire to.

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Source: google street view.

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Correspondence to Sharon Wohl.

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Wohl, S. From form to process: Re-conceptualizing Lynch in light of complexity theory. Urban Des Int 22, 303–317 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41289-017-0048-6

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Keywords

  • complexity
  • Lynch
  • New Urbanism
  • affordances
  • emergence