Systems Thinking and the City: New practices and connections

In a series of essays in the Architectural Review from 2011-2013 entitled ‘The Big ReThink’, Peter Buchanan acknowledges that we are now ‘in the throes of comprehensive systemic collapse, prompting a rethink of ‘almost everything’, including the design of the built environment. Profound cultural changes are necessary to inspire the urgent and radical transformations required ‘to reach true sustainability’ which will involve ‘rich connections’ to place, nature and community.

In systems thinking, effective and creative change can be considered through a synoptic approach that facilitates an understanding of whole systems and their component and interrelated parts. Donella Meadows notes that ‘Change comes first from stepping outside the limited information that can be seen from any single place in the system and getting an overview’, and that it is not possible to ‘navigate well in an interconnected, feedback-dominated world unless you take your eyes off short-term events and look for long-term behavior and structure; unless you are aware of false boundaries and bounded rationality’. Thinking outside the box, crossing disciplinary, political and physical borders are essential aspects of a systems thinking approach to change.

This conference session seeks papers from researchers examining new ways of doing things in the broad arena of the built environment that may effect change in social and/or ecological systems in the city. It is anticipated that the session will embrace cross-disciplinary research activities and connections including with planning, urban design, urban conservation and landscape urbanism. It is recognized that change does not always require entirely new ways of thinking, but rather the cross-fertilisation or adaptation of historical, established or emerging ideas and practices from a range of disciplines and sectors, often applied in a different context or for a new purpose.

Session chair: Philip Crowe, University College Dublinphilip.crowe.1[at]

Call for Papers