Measuring Urbanity

International Seminar

Measuring Urbanity:
Densities, networks and urban fabrics

May 11th, 2012
FAUTL - Faculty of Architecture, Technical University of Lisbon

Seminar allows 0,5 ECTS credits.

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The objective measurement of urban form is a matter of rising interest but of little consensus and certain ambiguity.

The attempts to understand and control the urban development through the indexation of the physical properties and the performance of urban form to measurable variables are as old as the history of urbanism as a science.

But the subject is a controversial issue and criticisms emerge about the accuracy of quantitative methods and commensurate parameters to support an understanding and assessment of the urban environment for anything but statistical purposes.

Despite the reservations, measuring-based approaches have gained in the last decades an overwhelming relevance for the urban science as a whole, and for urban design and planning regulation in particular.

Three main factors may explain this general tendency: (1) the rising of urbanization as an extensive phenomenon (with all the consequences and costs in terms of sustainable development and economic growth) and the need for instruments able to ascertain this “non-canonical” urban space; (2) the emergence of new governance processes and the challenge of achieving innovative tools to endorse participative policies and support the construction of platforms for agreement between actors and urban agents; (3) at last, the technological advent of computational and data systems such as GIS, remote sensing (RS), imaging and other computer based analytical methods, which offer measurement processes with an impressive agility and wider possibilities.

In this context, the objective of the seminar is to re-center the debate of measuring urban form on the contemporary issues of designing, planning and regulating the extensive city. The intention is to discuss the importance of combined qualitative-quantitative approaches on the generation of new insights on the contemporary urban environment and planning strategies.

A framework of four panels will support a multilevel platform for discussion:

  1. Density & Urban Fabrics will center on the prominent role of density on urban form’s measuring methods and on the articulation between urban fabrics and density-related variables.

  2. Topology & Networks will focus on topology based city analysis considering the structuring role of networks on contemporary urban space.

  3. Governance & Regulation will address the subject of urban policies and the way measuring tools may give valuable contribution to regulation systems and governance processes.

  4. Parametric Tools & Design will address the role of parametric and rule based design in the development of design support measuring methods and tools as a way of interweaving analysis, design exploration and evaluation in the urban design process.