- Integrated Bottom Up and Top Down Governance of Cities – A Systems Approach    click here to open paper content473 kb
by    Walloth, Christian | christian.walloth@stud.uni-due.de   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
In order to understand and influence fast changing urban systems it is necessary to integrate bottom up and top down approaches.
Problem – “Nothing endures but change” (Heraclitus of Ephesus, ca. 535 BC - 475 BC). We're living in an age of growing global economic interdependencies and increasing environmental pressures. Dynamic processes continuously reshape the fabrics of cities worldwide – be it emerging cities in Asia or cities of Central and Eastern Europe in transition. Economies dictate the speed of urban transformation and environmental changes require urban adaptation. Is the viability of our cities threatened under such circumstances?

Can urban systems cope with the speed of change in this world? In fact, G. West and L. Bettancourt figured out that “cities almost never die, while companies are extremely ephemeral” (Lehrer 2010). So why is it that economies, with relatively short-living companies being major actors therein, seem to drive long-living cities in front of them?

Complication – Our current urban planning methods look unfit for these challenges. Why is it that cities survive over centuries or even millennia, while our most modern planning methods still seem to be inapt to cope with the fast changes of urban and worldwide conditions?

Dynamic processes in cities worldwide call for new planning approaches, based on a comprehensive understanding of our cities. Such must attempt to shed light on how our cities react on external factors (e.g., climate change, macroeconomic crises), internal forces (e.g.social dynamics, urban economics), and intended interventions of urban development.

Solution – I suggest to understand our cities as top down and bottom up systems. In this contribution I will therefore explore the relation between relatively faster (e.g., economic, individuals or group based) and relatively slower (e.g., environmental, political) systems of the urban fabric. The main argument is that understanding the city as a system of faster and slower subsystems, which frame and trigger change within each other, can be a tremendous and ground breaking, paradigm changing help for understanding, developing, and finally governing our cities in a fast changing world. I will argue that such an integrated top down and bottom up systems approach is a possible solution to “planning in a (hyper)dynamic urban context”.


Lehrer, J.: A physicist turns the city into an equation. New York Times, 2010
urban systems, complexity, bottom up, top down, relations
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