The New Science of Cities by Michael Batty Reviewed
How can mathematical models help us understand contemporary cities? Is it possible to develop a ‘science’ of cities that involves laws and principles to describe and predict how urban change occurs over time and through space? Michael Batty’s book, The New Science of Cities, provides a comprehensive overview of how mathematical models have been developed and applied over the last century to analyse cities. Batty builds upon this overview by incorporating the latest ideas from complexity theory, systems theory, and computer modelling to visualise patterns of urban development. His overarching message is that modelling can provide a useful perspective on urban change and can help inform decision making to realise improved futures.
This book is the latest in a long line of influential work by Batty, notably Fractal Cities: A Geometry of Form and Function (Academic Press, 1994) and Cities and Complexity: Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models and Fractals (The MIT Press, 2005). Batty interprets cities as ‘sets of actions, interactions, and transactions’ (p. 115), a perspective that resonates with the current geographical discourse on relational and topological space. Moreover, the book provides new insights on how design and decision-making processes can be supplemented and enhanced by mathematical modelling and simulation tools. Batty writes that ‘when we step back and consider how cities function and how they might be made more liveable through their planning, we inevitably abstract by peeling back layer after layer of complexity until we alight upon what we might consider fundamental ideas and techniques that compose the foundations of our understanding’.
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