Complexity: Performance, Self-Adapting Systems and Emergence

Imagine a city planning, design, and regulatory approach which encourages creativity and experimentation – “the good you can’t think of” – by framing the problem to be solved, rather than prescribing the pre-mediated solution embodied in master plans and regulation, leading to the application of performance and scenario planning rather pre-mediated solutions to city planning, and design, and regulations. The other significant characteristic of a performance approach is that there are always multiple “right” answers because there is always more than one way to respond to a problem or program. In a performance paradigm, time plays a role. For example, a “good” one day might be a “bad” thing the next day and vice versa. An example of the role time plays in shaping our perceptions could be the Eiffel Tower. Originally panned by Paris’ artistic and intellectual community, the Eiffel Tower ultimately becomes the structure most revered by Parisians and an icon of the city. 

Finally the potential to devolve control made possible by information technology helps to loosen the tight reins of over-determined systems of control and exclusion into a number of under-determined systems of democratic inclusion that harnesses responsible individual action and creativity, and sustains the creation of social capital and democratic value.

 (excerpted from “Just-in-Time Planning: New York + Houston” (Michael Kwartler, FAIA), Architectural Design, London, 2005 full version available below)

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