Urban Emergence

The concept of 'emergence', in science refers to the way complex systems and patterns arise among groups without planned organization. Emergence is now being applied in interesting ways to study urban areas that evolved spontaneously.

Read Time: 1 minute

March 24, 2009, 1:00 PM PDT

By Tim Halbur


The lasting relevance of Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities lies not in its description of life on the block, but on the scientific prescriptions of its final chapter. Jacobs was a pioneer of a new scientific paradigm, emergence and complexity science, which in the last decade has produced two scientific treatises of enormous consequences: A New Kind of Science by mathematician and computer scientist Stephen Wolfram, and The Nature of Order by architect and physicist Christopher Alexander. This new science helps explain why the modernist designed city is less sustainable than the spontaneously evolved city.

Thanks to Mathieu Helie

Monday, March 23, 2009 in Emergent Urbanism

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Aerial view of MBTA commuter rail station in Concord, Massachusetts among green trees

Massachusetts Zoning Reform Law Reaches First Deadline

Cities and towns had until January 31 to submit their draft plans for rezoning areas near transit stations to comply with a new state law.

February 1, 2023 - Streetsblog Mass

Green alley under construction

Green Alleys: A New Paradigm for Stormwater Management

Rather than shuttling stormwater away from the city and into the ocean as quickly as possible, Los Angeles is now—slowly—moving toward a ‘city-as-sponge’ approach that would capture and reclaim more water to recharge crucial reservoirs.

February 2, 2023 - Curbed

Covered pergolas for outdoor dining line the curb on Ballard Avenue, Seattle

Seattle Historic District Could Remove Street Dining

Despite the popularity of Ballard Avenue’s outdoor dining pergolas, some district board members argue the patios don’t match the district’s historic character.

February 7 - The Urbanist

Rendering of landscaped street with street trees and pedestrian sidewalk

South L.A. Complete Streets Project Back on Track

First proposed in 2015, the Broadway-Manchester redesign would add bike infrastructure, pedestrian improvements, trees, and other amenities.

February 7 - Urbanize LA

Spanish-style State Street commercial buildings in downtown Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara Expands ADU Program to Boost Housing

The city hopes that permitting larger ADUs and making adaptive reuse easier will help it meet its state-mandated goal of building over 8,000 new housing units by 2031.

February 7 - Noozhawk

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.