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MASSIVE SMALL - The Operating System for Smart Urbanism

BOSTON-perspective by trevor.patt, on Flickr

‘MASSIVE SMALL: The Operating System for Smart Urbanism’ shows why we haven’t had much success. It shows how we can learn from self-organising systems that we can find in traditional cities, in nature and in the Web, to develop a new and evolving paradigm. It also shows how new thinking has been applied in recent initiatives. Further, it explores how our behaviours in planning, design and delivery will need to change to meet our new challenges.

This book spells out our emerging theory, Smart Urbanism – a new paradigm that is evolving as we continue to work on it. Like every good theory, it has its own theorem that states:

“The emergence of true urban life, and therefore a flourishing society and a healthy local economy, is inversely proportional to the bigness of the solution.”

Smart Urbanism is an operating programme for delivering massive small change and, by definition, allowing the necessary complexity in the design of our towns and cities. It could be termed emergent urbanism or open source urbanism (or even sustainable, collaborative or generative urbanism) and certainly has the qualities of all. It comes from two agendas: firstly, the needs of the ‘Resilient City’ that looks to wider social, economic and environmental issues that good urban design can address and, secondly, the ‘Talented City’ where the need to foster innovation, facilitate enterprise and build social capital demand a more responsive urban fabric that is both resilient, accommodating of change and that we can programme over time. As such, it looks to put in place a new top-down discipline that is more ‘open’ to bottom-up responses from a multiple range of actors. It also looks to limit choice but still allow infinite possibilities. It is therefore, by its nature, freedom within constraints.

Smart Urbanism moves away from the tired, old ‘place making’ agenda to that of ‘condition making’ - a new approach to planning, designing and delivering sustainable urbanism and social innovation in our districts, neighbourhoods and quarters. Quite simply, it applies the ‘theorem’ with new ‘thinking’ using the ‘tools’ to fix the ‘broken’. In doing so, it builds a new language to open up collaboration with a wider audience – the language of ‘Simple Rules, Networks, Fields, Defaults’ and ‘Catalysts.’

MASSIVE SMALL is how urban design must change in this new world.


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