1st Edition

Planning within Complex Urban Systems

By Shih-Kung Lai Copyright 2021
    320 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    318 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Imagine living in a city where people could move freely and buildings could be replaced at minimal cost. Reality cannot be further from such. Despite this imperfect world in which we live, urban planning has become integral and critical especially in the face of rapid urbanization in many developing and developed countries. This book introduces the axiomatic/experimental approach to urban planning and addresses the criticism of the lack of a theoretical foundation in urban planning.

    With the rise of the complexity movement, the book is timely in its depiction of cities as complex systems and explains why planning from within is useful in the face of urban complexity. It also includes policy implications for the Chinese cities in the context of axiomatic/experimental planning theory.

    1. Introduction 2. Basic Concepts 3. Urban Complexity within Cities 4. Urban Complexity across Cities 5. Planning Behavior 6. Planning Effects 7. Applications 8. Synthesis. Epilogue. Notes. Index.


    Shih-Kung Lai received his PhD in regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990 and taught at the Department of Real Estate and Built Environment at National Taipei University, Taiwan for 25 years. He is now affiliated with the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University, Shanghai, China and serves as the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Urban Management. His research interests include urban complexity and planning behavior.

    This book offers a great intellectual contribution to two strands of literature: urban planning theory and urban complexity theory. The author has made an original effort to merge these two perspectives, based on modern insights into the dynamic interconnectivity among actors in the ever changing urban space. This book – a remarkable landmark in urban planning science – is a delight to read.’ ─ Peter Nijkamp, Open University, Heerlen, The Netherlands

    "There is little doubt that cities are complex systems but so is the process of planning. What Shih-Kung Lai manages to do in this book is weave the themes of complexity in cities and complexity in planning into one another. Using simple algebras, he develops methods and experiments to build an all-encompassing approach to how we should plan our cities. Important reading for all those concerned with how we go about exploring our urban future."Michael Batty, CASA, University College London

    "The book has made a strong case for the importance of reviving planning theory to understand the interactions between planning and complex urban systems. Planners are passionate about using their knowledge and skills to help the creation, development, and transformation of cities for improved quality of life, better environments, and a sustainable future. They assume the noble responsibility of being the guardians of present and future generations… Lai proposes a way to develop planning theory that helps to explore the natural order of complex urban systems and to make plans with the order. I highly recommend this book for readers who are committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Planning within Complex Urban Systems."Journal of Urban Affairs, February 2022, Volume 44, Issue 2

    "Important scholarship in recent decades has helped reformulate our understanding of cities as the emergent phenomena of complex urban systems. In this book, Professor Shih-Kung Lai takes on the challenge of formulating a framework for planning within that context. His central thesis is that "planning and urban complexity are inseparable: they co-evolve". He sets about this task systematically, showing that distinct types of order emerge either way – from planning interventions or from natural bottom-up processes. The challenge for planners, he argues, is to frame their plans so that both types of order may be reconciled harmoniously." ─ Eric Heikkila, Professor, USC Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, USA

    "Building on the Illinois School of thinking about plans, in this book Shih-Kung Lai demonstrates through deductive logic and human/machine experiments why planning within complex urban systems is a phenomenon that is worth exploring. In particular, he is able to synthesize his work on urban complexity and planning behavior during the past 35 years into a coherent framework that convincingly depicts the relationship among complexity theory, urban complexity, the four I’s, the logic of making plans, planning behavior, and plans. A must-read for academic and practicing planners who are interested in a behavioral approach to planning within complex urban systems."Gerrit-Jan Knaap, Executive Director and Professor, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland

    "This is an incredible book. It argues that traditional urban science is so inadequate due its selective and top down approach that it should be replaced by this book’s comprehensive, complexity-acknowledging, molecular and bottom-up approach. Such a claim is debateable, but it certainly prompts deeper thinking about the epistemology of urban planning. 

    Another plus is Shih-Kung Lai’s vast knowledge of the methods and related fields that have surrounded urban planning over the last seventy odd years – graph theory, symbolic algebra, cellular automata, decision science, game theory, artificial intelligence and entropy modelling to name but a few. It means that this book can also function as an anthology of urban management methods, all of which have been comprehensively referenced."─ Ray Wyatt, University of Melbourne, for Journal of Urban Management, March 2022