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Paperback | $40.00 Text | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780262524797 | 592 pp. | 8 x 9 in | 181 illus.| August 2007

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Essential Info

Cities and Complexity

Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models, and Fractals


As urban planning moves from a centralized, top-down approach to a decentralized, bottom-up perspective, our conception of urban systems is changing. In Cities and Complexity, Michael Batty offers a comprehensive view of urban dynamics in the context of complexity theory, presenting models that demonstrate how complexity theory can embrace a myriad of processes and elements that combine into organic wholes. He argues that bottom-up processes -- in which the outcomes are always uncertain -- can combine with new forms of geometry associated with fractal patterns and chaotic dynamics to provide theories that are applicable to highly complex systems such as cities.

Batty begins with models based on cellular automata (CA), simulating urban dynamics through the local actions of automata. He then introduces agent-based models (ABM), in which agents are mobile and move between locations. These models relate to many scales, from the scale of the street to patterns and structure at the scale of the urban region. Finally, Batty develops applications of all these models to specific urban situations, discussing concepts of criticality, threshold, surprise, novelty, and phase transition in the context of spatial developments. Every theory and model presented in the book is developed through examples that range from the simplified and hypothetical to the actual. Deploying extensive visual, mathematical, and textual material, Cities and Complexity will be read both by urban researchers and by complexity theorists with an interest in new kinds of computational models.

Sample chapters and examples from the book, and other related material, can be found at

About the Author

Michael Batty is Bartlett Professor of Planning and Director of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London.


"Michael Batty provides a powerful new way of thinking about cities in terms of cells and agents, demonstrating how highly organized spatial patterns can emerge from surprisingly simple rules and processes. His many beautiful, meticulously developed examples provide fascinating insights into the evolution of urban forms, and will serve as wonderful starting points for further research."
William J. Mitchell, Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences, MIT

"Batty is a master at presenting challenging material in 'gentle though rigorous' ways, judiciously combining text, graphics, and notation, and moving from easy-to-grasp toy problems to real examples."
Helen Couclelis, Professor, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Cities and Complexity unites into an integrated whole pathbreaking methods in urban research centered on ideas of nonlinear dynamic emergence and self-organization. This book will be an ideal text for advanced students of urban systems and an invaluable guide for their instructors, as well as for practitioners who seek to simulate alternative futures."
Brian J. L. Berry, Lloyd Viel Berkner Regental Professor and Dean of the School of Social Science, University of Texas at Dallas

"In this book Batty clearly demonstrates that decentralized, local spatial processes can produce complex patterns of urban dynamics that are both visually arresting and scientifically compelling. The novelty of the book is that it blends cellular automata and agent-based models, making it of interest to anyone concerned with spatial social science—geographers, economists, environmental scientists, urban sociologists, international relations scholars, planners, and policy specialists. More broadly, the book will be a definitive addition to the emerging field of computational social science."
Robert L. Axtell, Center on Social and Economic Dynamics, The Brookings Institution