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:

19th meeting: Social disruption and urban complexity

Published at: 13 October 2020

The 19th meeting of the Thematic Group on Planning & Complexity aspires to reflect on whether and how Covid-19 will transform cities and their planning.
prof Richard Sennett and prof Helen Couclelis will be keynote speakers. The program will also include a book presentation on the Handbook on Planning & Complexity, traditional paper presentations and speed talks. 

When: 27th of November, 2020
Where: Online, 14:00 - 18:30 hrs
How to join: register here

18th meeting: Games for Cities

Published at: 11 October 2019

Games for Cities: Building synergies between games, complexity, simulation, planning and design
7-8 November, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal. 

The 18th meeting of our Thematic Group aspires to provide platform where interdisciplinary crossovers among policy-making, games, urban design, simulation, analytical models and other digital technologies can harness urban complexity by interlocking theory and practice in planning.

The diversity in city games is growing and presenters will:

  • showcase how games can promote future cities,
  • analyse critical conditions for successful application of games
  • evaluate how games can provide grip on the intrinsic complex nature of cities.

Prof. Juval Portugali, amongst others know from his books on Complexity, Cognition and Cities, will deliver a keynote speech. A second keynote will be delivered by Dr. Ekim Tan, the founder of Play the City and expert of serious game for urban development. 

The full program can be downloaded HERE (print-friendly version). 

Non-presenting participants can still sign up: Registation

Free for all AESOP members participants (Lunch at own expenses).
General public - 35 Euros (Lunch at own expenses).

17th meeting: Emerging Patterns in the Built Environment: Analytical Tools & Responsive Governance

Published at: 11 June 2018

Our 17th meeting will be held from 7-9 of November, 2018 at Ben-Gurion University and Tel-Aviv University, Isreal. The event is hosted by our dedicated colleagues Prof. Nurit Alfasi and Prof. Itzhak Benenson.

The theme for this meeting will be 'Emerging Patterns in the Built Environment: Analytical Tools & Responsive Governance'. On Wed. 7th and Thus. 8th of November we will stay in Beershaba and the final day of the conference takes place in Tel Aviv.  

Prof. Ehud Meron, amongst others know from the book 'Nonlinear Physics of Ecosystes', will deliver a keynote speech. 

You are invited to joint this meeting and to submit an abstract. Abstract should be between the 500-800 words and can be send to Deadline for submission is 15th of July 2018

Do not hestitate to distribute this call for abstracts in your network. 

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

This conference explored 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.

For three days we discussed various perspectives on complexity, analysed dynamic city processes and advanced our thinking on adaptive approaches to urban and regional planning. 

Absolutely amazing to have together the brightests minds in this emerging field, included key note speakers prof. Michael Batty, prof, Juval Portugali, prof. Jean Hillier and prof. Gert de Roo. 

All presentations are now available online

Our special thanks goes to the Province of Groningen, who hosted the event in a fantastic way, and the Municipality of Groningen, which delivered two inspiring workshops! Also a big thanks to the organzing team: Stefan Verweij, Ines Portugal, Koen Bandsma and Ward Rauws

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.

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