How to approach urban complexity, diversity and uncertainty when involving stakeholders into the planning process

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Complexity, diversity and uncertainty are three key attributes of contemporary cities which mark their recent evolution and strongly condition the task of urban planners and public officials (Fernández Güell et al., 2016; Fernández Güell, 2006; Camagni, 2003). The first common feature of all large and medium-sized cities is the high level of complexity of the operational processes that take place within the city and in its hinterland. Complex systems such as the climate and the economy are characterized by being spontaneously self-organizing and adaptive to changes that happen in their context (Holland, 1995; Stacey, 1995). Just as well, it is widely accepted that cities are one of the best examples of complex systems (Portugali et al., 2012; Allen, 1997). As a rule, complex cities experience unpredictable non-linear dynamics and they are capable of self-transformation in order to adapt to changing contexts. Therefore, urban problems are multidimensional and complex since they emerge in an intricate dynamic network of relationships from societal, economic, environmental and political issues. The operational complexity of cities has been a recurrent handicap for urban planners because it complicates urban analysis and policy making. In the past, planners have tried to deal with complexity with either sophisticated mathematical models or just plain narratives, in both cases without much success. Despite its challenges to analysts, the phenomenon of urban complexity should not be obviated or simplified in excess; on the contrary, it should be conceptually understood as much as possible. The understanding of complexity can facilitate a more informed and evolutionary vision of cities than the standard reductionist and static approaches of many planning processes.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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