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Open AccessArticle

Addressing Urban Sprawl from the Complexity Sciences

1
Urban and Regional Planning Community (CEAT), School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
2
Laboratory of Geographic Information Systems (LASIG), School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Urban Sci. 2019, 3(2), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci3020060
Received: 24 April 2019 / Revised: 15 May 2019 / Accepted: 29 May 2019 / Published: 1 June 2019
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Abstract

Urban sprawl is nowadays a pervasive topic that is subject of a contentious debate among planners and researchers, who still fail to reach consensual solutions. This paper reviews controversies of the sprawl debate and argues that they owe to a failure of the employed methods to appraise its complexity, especially the notion that urban form emerges from multiple overlapping interactions between households, firms and governmental bodies. To address such issues, this review focuses on recent approaches to study urban spatial dynamics from the perspective of the complexity sciences. Firstly, spatial metrics from landscape ecology provide means of quantifying urban sprawl in terms of increasing fragmentation and diversity of land use patches. Secondly, cellular automata and agent-based models suggest that the prevalence of urban sprawl and fragmentation at the urban fringe emerge from negative spatial interaction between residential agents, which seem accentuated as the agent’s preferences become more heterogeneous. Then, the review turns to practical applications that employ such models to spatially inform urban planning and assess future scenarios. A concluding discussion summarizes potential contributions to the debate on urban sprawl as well as some epistemological implications. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban sprawl; complexity; land use change; landscape metrics; fractals; cellular automata; agent-based models; urban planning urban sprawl; complexity; land use change; landscape metrics; fractals; cellular automata; agent-based models; urban planning
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Bosch, M.; Chenal, J.; Joost, S. Addressing Urban Sprawl from the Complexity Sciences. Urban Sci. 2019, 3, 60.

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