Planning and Complexity

The members of the thematic group meet every half year. Together they explore linkages between spatial planning, non-linearity and the science of complexity, processes of adaptivity, mechanisms of self-organization, transformation towards a resilient society, transition managemant and many more issues. Out of various events (Vienna, Reading, Cardiff, Mexico City, Cambridge, Stuttgart, Milano, Tessalonici, Stockholm,  Istanbul, Groningen, Bamberg) publications have emerged:

16th meeting: Adaptive Planning for Spatial Transformation

Published at: 7 July 2017

Searching for Effective Strategies in a Context of Change, Interdependency and Uncertainty
May 23th-25th, 2018, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Conference program is available online
Registration deadline: 15th of april, 2018

This conference explores how interactions between the complexity sciences and the discipline of planning can result in effective strategies for urban planning in a world of change.
Cities and urban regions worldwide face a series of pressures and challenges, such as global warming, migration flows, technological innovations, processes of globalization and geopolitical shifts. A crucial question for spatial planners and governance experts is what strategies are effective in supporting cities and regions in remaining vital places under this context of change.

How to boost quality of life, reduce social inequalities, support urban developments and transformations, and balance environmental sustainability and economic development in a fuzzy, dynamic world dominated by both foreseen and unforeseen changes?

Highlights of the conference

  • Four keynote speakers: Prof. dr. Michael Batty, Prof. dr. Jean Hillier, Prof. dr. Juval Portugali and Prof.dr. Gert de Roo.
  • A half-day workshop with spatial planners of the province of Groningen
  • Interactive sessions and paper discussions involving 27 presenters!

15th meeting: Crossing over with Complexity: Co-evolution in Planning

Published at: 19 June 2016

Inspiring 2017 meeting at Ghent University!
April 12th-14th, 2017, city of Ghent, Belgium

Spatial planners and governance experts find inspiration in the Complexity Sciences for understanding the increasingly fuzzy and dynamic world in which they operate. During this meeting we explored in what way complexity enables planners to act in co-evolution with this ever-evolving world.

With co-evolution we refer to the continuous reconfiguration of actor-networks and/or systems as a consequence of continuous interactions between multiple actor-networks and/or systems. As became clear during the meeting, such co-evolutionary processes may involve spatio-functional configurations, actor-coalitions as well as institutional arrangements. Participants presented their ideas on strenthening the ability of planners to act in co-evolution with a multitude of domains and milieus as well as the opportunities to generate productive co-evolution between planning theory and practice.

A special contribution was made by keynote speaker prof. Robert Geyer. He gave a very enthousiastic and interdisciplinary talk on the potentials of the Complexity Sciences for organizational leaderschip and public management. Our sincere thanks goes to the  Department of Mobility and Spatial Planning (AMRP) at Ghent University, Belgium, and in particular to Dr. Beitske Boonstra and Dr. Barbara Tempels for organizing this interactive and inspiring event.

14th meeting: Taking Stock of Complexity Sciences: Evidence of Progress in Urban Planning?

Published at: 6 July 2015

During the 11th and 12th of February 2016 the University of Bamberg hosted the 14th thematic group meeting. At this workshop presenters discussed the recent progress and gaps in the planning & complexity debate, in particular on research methods, complexity-friendly governance arrangements, translating complexity to practice, and information technology and planning.

A special contribution was made by keynote speaker Dr. Andreas Duit, critically discussing the concept of resilience as part of complexity theory. From this discussion he identified several key steps for the further development of complexity thinking in governance and spatial planning. Our sincere thanks goes to the Chair for the Governance of Innovative and Complex Technological Systems, at the University of Bamberg, Germany for organizing this interactive and inspiring event.

Here you can find the programme and all presentations.

13th meeting: Complexity and digitalization of cities – Challenges for urban planning and design

Published at: 27 June 2014

During the 15th & 16th of January 2015, the 13th meeting of AESOP's thematic group on Complexity and Planning was held in Tampere. The event was hosted by the School of Architecture of the Tampere University of Technology. The participants discussed the challenges and opportunities of the digitalization of cities and explore how complex theories can offer a source of inspiration for enhancing our understanding of this digitalization process and its effects on architecture, planning and governance.

Prof. Itzhak Benenson gave an intriguing keynote on the consequences of big data and we were pleased to have him with us. A special word of gratitude goes to School of Architecture of the TUT and in particular Jenni Partanen for organizing this interactive and inspiring event.

Please click to view the programme and all presentations.

12th meeting - Confronting Urban Planning and Design with Complexity: Methods for Inevitable Transformation

Published at: 13 August 2013

During the 16th & 17th of January 2014, AESOP's thematic group on Complexity and Planning held its 12th meeting in Manchester. The event was hosted by the Manchester School of Architecture and focused on exploring more closely the potentials and parallels between processes of Spatial Planning and Urbanism/Design. In particular, how the complexity sciences can create and enhance this discourse through an examination of processes of inevitable transformation.

A special word of gratitude goes to Manchester School of Architecture and in particular Ulysses Sengupta for an incredibly warm and well organized event.

Please click read more  for all presentations, and videos of the keynote speech of prof. Micheal Weinstock and the Round Table discussion with him and Prof. Michael Batty and Prof. Gert de Roo.

11th meeting: Self-organization and spatial planning: in-depth analysis

Published at: 10 January 2013

The 2nd and 3rd of May 2013 the University of Aveiro, Portugal, hosted the 11th meeting AESOP's thematic group on Complexity & Planning. A committed group of planners and urban designers from Europe and North-America had an intense dialogue on the relation between the concept of self-organization and planning. How to understand this concept in a socio-spatial context? To what extent can processes of self-organization be identified in spatial systems and networks? And what are the possible insights gained for planning theory and practice?

A special word of gratitude goes to Paulo Silva for organizing the event.


- Video recordings are published online.

10th meeting: 16-17 Nov. 2012: Complexity and the Collaborative Rationale to Planning

Published at: 20 March 2012

16th and 17thof November the 10th meeting of the Thematic Group on Complexity and Planning was held in Groningen, The Netherlands. The theme of the event was ‘Complexity and the collaborative reationale to planning’. A keynote presentation was given by prof Judith Innes, Berkeley University, US. The event was hosted by the Department of Spatial Planning & Environment, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen.

All video recordings of the paper presentations as well as the powerpoint files are now avaliable.


Milan, 22 - 23 February 2008

Published at: 23 February 2008

VIIth AESOP WORKSHOP Thematic Group on Planning and Complexity
Milan, 22 - 23 February 2008 Politecnico di Milano - Dipartimento di Architettura...

The aim of the group is to contribute to the creation and maintenance of a network of lecturers and researchers, who are willing to explore and debate new developments influencing both planning theory and practice in the light of non-linearity, resilience, adaptivity, complexity, complexity thinking and complex adaptice systems.

Coordinated by: Dr. Ward Rauws