Invited Talk: The Smartification of Urban Design

International Conference on Smart Cities: Potentials, Prospects and Discontents

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The Smartification of Urban Design

Prospection is an important feature of urban design cognition: urban designers propose various types of plans for the near and far future. In doing so, they make use of various future-oriented cognitions, like simulation, prediction, intention and planning. This process of prospection evolves out of the interaction of these future-oriented internal representations and various external representations, ranging from sketches and drawings to digital simulation models. The talk will focus on how new digital tools support this process of prospection. It will highlight the pros and cons of these new tools, and contrast them with traditional design tools. The smartification of urban design is discussed in the light of how these traditional tools and simulation models can be combined to support the process of prospection in urban design.

Postdoctoral research fellow @UTS Sydney!

From November 1st, 2017, I’ll be joining the School of Architecture at the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building – University of Technology Sydney!

Ruiying Liu’s Writings About Complexity

Everyday reflections on complexity, cognition and the city. Publishing in student magazines in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Ruiying Liu has introduced some of her ideas:

Where this all started: stories of the people behind Complexity, Cognition and the City
The Origin of Complexity in Bnieuws, 50(04)
Read here:

How hand-drawn lines mediate the agency of urban design in the visual media: learning from Frits Palmboom
All About Lines—A Palmboom View, in Bnieuws, 50(06) 
Read here:

Discovering the source behind metaphors and analogies of urban designers in the faculty
Analogues and the Source Blood of Design: Mindspotting of urbanism designers, in Atlantis, 27. 3

The Dutch planning concept, the Green Heart: its role in cognitive and societal processes
From Legacy to Legacy in Bnieuws, 50(07)
Read here:

A metaphorical-thinking perspective on Chinese Fengshui
The Elusive Wind and Water in Bnieuws, 50(02)
Read here:

How to break out of the Cartesian space and codification when mapping places
Warped Geographies: 3 Drawings, with Leo van den Burg, in Atlantis, 27.1

Reflecting on design education and a tribute to Christopher Alexander
Design is Not a Tree in Bnieuws, 50(02)
Read here:

A Complexity-Cognitive View on Urban Design

Stolk, E. H., & Portugali, J. (2016). A complexity-cognitive view on scale in urban design. In J. Portugali & E. H. Stolk (Eds.), Complexity, Cognition, Urban Planning and Design (pp. 217-236). Heidelberg: Springer.

Urban designers ‘design across scales’, moving between streetscapes, neighborhoods and entire cities or regions. In contrast to product design, focusing on relatively small-scale objects, urban design objects are relatively big compared to the human body. In the domain of design cognition, design is commonly understood as small scale design. In the paper ‘A Complexity-Cognitive View on Urban Design’, we explore the relations between the scale of the design object, the design medium and the design process. First, we present five ’embodied levels of scale’, which describe the relation between the scale of the body and the design object. Second, we show that large scale design objects are complex in nature, compared to small simple design objects. Third, we show how with scale, the psychological distance increases. This has implications for both the design medium and the design process. An example from the domain of urban design is given to illustrate this view.

Embodied levels of scale: a the manipulable object space—objects rotatable by our body; b the non manipulable object space—objects we need to move around to get a full impression; c environmental space—which can be explored completely in time; d environmental space/geographic space—which cannot be explored completely because of its scale; and e geographic space, which is not explored at all. Additionally, the grey zone represents the panoramic space or isovist space, visually linking different types of spaces and scales.

Graduates, first half of 2016

In the first half of 2016, 4 of my MSc-students graduated. More information can be found in the repository of the TU Delft.

  • Hariyono, Wahyu (2016) Entrepôt: Opportunity in Airport-Driven Urban Development. Repository.
  • Hu, Xiangyu (2016) Towards a restorative and liveable urban environment. Repository.
  • Huls, Sebastiaan (2016) The dike ribbon of Dordrecht. Repository.
  • Vries, Onno de (2016) Densification of Amsterdam. Repository.

New book: Complexity, Cognition, Urban Planning and Design


This book, which resulted from an intensive discourse between experts from several disciplines – complexity theorists, cognitive scientists, philosophers, urban planners and urban designers, as well as a zoologist and a physiologist – addresses various issues regarding cities. It is a first step in responding to the challenge of generating just such a discourse, based on a dilemma identified in the CTC (Complexity Theories of Cities) domain. The latter has demonstrated that cities exhibit the properties of natural, organic complex systems: they are open, complex and bottom-up, have fractal structures and are often chaotic. CTC have further shown that many of the mathematical formalisms and models developed to study material and organic complex systems also apply to cities. The dilemma in the current state of CTC is that cities differ from natural complex systems in that they are hybrid complex systems composed, on the one hand, of artifacts such as buildings, roads and bridges, and of natural human agents on the other. This raises a plethora of new questions on the difference between the natural and the artificial, the cognitive origin of human action and behavior, and the role of planning and designing cities. The answers to these questions cannot come from a single discipline; they must instead emerge from a discourse between experts from several disciplines engaged in CTC.

Graduates, 2015

In the the year 2015, 9 of my MSc-students graduated. More information can be found in the repository of the TU Delft.

  • Aragone, Andrea (2015) Migrated Space Contrasts. Repository.
  • Gaasbeek Janzen, Judit (2015) A design in the light of the relation between climate change adaptation and recreational development in the IJsselmeer region. Repository.
  • Gupta, Reshu (2015) Beyond the edge: Complexity Approach to Urban Fringes. Repository.
  • Kant, Joppe (2015) Een stad om in te verblijven: Het verbeteren van de verblijfskwaliteit van de binnenstad van Rotterdam. Repository.
  • Kong, Pui-Yi (2015) Common Ground: Briding the polarities in the Ringzone area of Amsterdam. Repository.
  • Koster, Bob (2015) Identifying Lost Space. Repository.
  • Rodenburg, Ruben (2015). Ruimtelijk sturen: Onderzoek naar de visuele representatie van de statische en dynamische waarneming van ruimtevormen. Repository.
  • Sun, Wenwen (2015) Design as a Mediating Instrument. Repository.
  • Zimmerman, Dries (2015) A world of acquaintances: How spatial patterns on various scales can form an integrated strategy to facilitate collective efficacy in Beverwaard. Repository.

Complex-cognitieve aanpak helpt stedenbouwkundigen

Wetenschappelijk expliciet maken van stedenbouwkundige keuzes is lastig, maar promovendus Egbert Stolk, Urbanism, probeerde het toch. Hij bedacht een conceptueel model dat de dynamiek van het ontwerpproces koppelt aan dat van de leefomgeving. Daarmee staat de ontwerper steviger in zijn schoenen.

Lees verder op de website van de Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.

PhD thesis: A complexity-cognitive approach to urban design

2016-08-05 at 13.00 On October 19th at 15:00 2015 I successfully defended my PhD thesis in the Senaatszaal of the Auditorium at Delft University of Technology.

  • The thesis (in Dutch) can be downloaded here.
  • An English summery can be found here.

Graduates, 2014

In the the year 2014, 8 of my MSc-students graduated. More information can be found in the repository of the TU Delft.

  • Dekkers, Arjan (2014) Cauliflower Revisited: The regeneration of cauliflower neighbourhoods using an environment-behaviour approach. Repository.
  • Haaren, Warner van (2014) The private house & the collective home: In search of privacy in dwelling. Repository.
  • Koomen, Iren (2014) Street Smart: A Social Learning Perspective on the Restructuring of Oud-Charlois. Repository.
  • Korst, Laurien (2014) Mare; de Reisgids – een verkenning van verhaal en verbeelding, beweging en beleving in de zoektocht naar een verhalende stedebouw. Casus Katwijk aan Zee. Repository.Lugten, Martijn (2014) Re Sil(i)ence. Design patterns for an aircraft noise abating spatial environment. Repository.
  • Oudenaarden, Sarah (2014) Framed Space vs. Free Space – degrees of freedom in urbanism. A design study for Hirzbrunnen South, Basel, Switserland. Repository.
  • Slabbers, Thomas (2014) Herinrichting Haagse Binnenstad. Repository.
  • Somoza, Susane (2014) My immigrant neighbour. Social interaction and public spaces in multicultural neighbourhoods. Repository.