Emergence in Urban Environments: Agent-based Simulation of Environment Reconfiguration
Online version of the Dissertation Thesis Emergence in Urban Environments: Agent-based Simulation of Environment Reconfiguration.
The paradigm of emergence that we are dealing with within the framework of several
scientific disciplines (e.g. artificial intelligence, cybernetics, evolutionary biology, systems theory,
cognitive sciences and others), also appears in architectural and urban context as an essence of design
processes and methods of production or development of architectural and urban forms. This concept
can be applied in observations and simulations of the unpredictable behaviour of the urban
environment as well as validation of its characteristics in various simulated environmental scenarios
and conditions by means of using information technology. It is a spontaneous creation of an organized
whole out of a disordered collection of interacting parts. This phenomenon is very well legible in the
field of architecture and urbanism as so called “bottom-up” concept of environmental development,
where city urban structure emerges from low-level rules and negotiations between local participants to
a higher-level sophisticated environment. This bottom-up strategy of city urban development should
promote better understanding of inhabitants' needs or demands in our dynamic post-digital era in
comparison with standard long-term urban planning (top-down strategy). This phenomenon with its
own characteristics based on nonlinearity and uncertainty can be examined from different perspectives
and points of view. One of them is the qualitative description in the context of architecture and urban
design, which is currently an object of the interest of scientific research with certain deficiency that
architects and urban planners are still trying to complement in collaboration with other professions.
One of the area is dealing with computer based models and sophisticated simulation techniques in
order to obtain better understanding of this phenomenon within artificial behaviour of the city and
exploring its dynamic properties that can lead to certain predictions in its further growth or thickening.
Typical formal simplified techniques and methods for modelling emergent behaviour are using
appropriate agent-based models, fractals or cellular automata.
A city as a complex phenomenon and an entirety of events (according to object-oriented
ontology a city is defined as an object with relations or an assemblage), its communication flows
(information and data telecommunication networks and their access points), energy, goods and
materials distribution and movement of users themselves and their spatial interactions with the
environment nowadays no doubt has been creating new conditions and demands on the city's spatial
organization, infrastructure, its growth and its thickening. Urban space today is an aggregate of
complex dynamic processesthat contribute to its configuration and mutually influence each other.
Thus, urban environment shows emergent qualities and contains multi-layer scenarios of its own
development and reconfiguration in time. This stratification is impossible to be comprehended by a
linear model of a single predicted concept (top-down strategy). Architects and urban planners may,
however, cover these specifics by a prediction of space development with a multi-layer result that
would take into account the requirements of users at the lower level (bottom-up strategy).
Architects can use simulation models of cities as analytical tools for their designs and
decisions in order to make relevant and proper qualitative description of behaviour of internal
components of urban environment. Such a model would be acceptable to serve as a platform for better
understanding of wider characteristics of a city as a living dynamic system in terms of its internal
alignment, relationships, hierarchy and connections between its particular constituent parts which
participate in the city as a complex whole.
The aim of this particular research is therefore a spatial simulation of city environment
developmentwhich would simulate its growth and reconfiguration based on demands and requirements
on a lower level and its qualitative description. This spatial simulation would serve as a decisionmaking
tool for architects when applying various spatial scenarios of environment configurations and
thereby it would create a basis for spatial planning decisions in subsequent stages of zoning
proceedings, mainly in the early design stages. The core of the interest of this research is definition of
the spatial alignment of the urban pattern based on bottom-up requirements. In particular, this
embodies approach walkable distances in the places of interests in the selected urban environment, the
stand-off distances between the urban elements, and the definition of appropriate graininess of the
urban fabric and its density. In that manner it is possible to specify an equable spread of urban
activities and volumes in the structure and therefore define a relevant diversity of the environment
with different measure of the densities of the spatial alignment. As such, the observer is allowed
tosimulate the spatial relations and explore its qualitative potentials in already existing environment,
eventually define its inadequacies.
Emergent behaviour of structures in geometry can be visualised by using advanced scripting
techniques in the field of agent-oriented systems and iterative protocols, in this case in the Processing
language taking into account spatial demands and rules in the lower-level. We can encompass more
complex structural and spatial configuration of the urban environment and better understand its
behaviour by visualising these spatial relations and rules. The final result of this research shall be a
simulation geometrical model of spatial environment reconfiguration that could be serviceable also in
the internet environment. This result implemented in a software tool can also serve as a design
platform of urban structure based on simple rules of a lower level that would, however, consequently
simulate the complex urban entirety.
The dissertation thesis contains also computational strategic base in terms of emergence
phenomenon simulation models in order to define its significance for architectural and urban design
within the framework of contemporary post-digital architectural discourse. The thesis summarizes
selected philosophical and theoretical approaches of emergence as well.