Town Planning Review

Model cities

Town Planning Review (2007), 78, (2), 125–151.

Abstract

The term 'model' is now central to our thinking about how we understand and design cities. We suggest a variety of ways in which we use 'models', linking these ideas to Abercrombie's exposition of Town and Country Planning which represented the state of the art fifty years ago. Here we focus on using models as physical representations of the city, tracing the development of symbolic models where the focus is on simulating how function generates form, to iconic models where the focus is on representing the geometry of form in both two and three dimensions. Our quest is to show how digital representation enables us to merge and manipulate form into function and vice versa, linking traditional architectural representation to patterns of land use and movement. Mathematics holds the key to simulation of many kinds and computers now enable us to move effortlessly from the material world of atoms to the ethereal world of bits and back. These new tools also provide us with powerful ways of showing how the real is able to morph into the ideal and vice versa. We argue that this digital world which parallels the material, now gives us unprecedented power to understand and explore cities in ways that Abercrombie could only speculate upon, and we conclude by anticipating how we might respond to the new challenges posed by unlimited access to these virtual worlds.

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Author details

Batty, Michael