Complexity for Urbanism seminar, with Prof Sharon Wohl (PART I)

Complexity for Urbanism seminar, with Prof Sharon Wohl (PART I)

This two-part Seminar offers an introduction to principles of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) and their relevance for the built environment. Complex Adaptive System theory is the approach used to explain a vast array of systems that involve interacting agents – ants in a colony, cells in an organism, or birds in a flock. These systems are special in that members can enter into ‘emergent’ relationships of coordinated, structured activity with one another, in the absence of top-down control. While ubiquitous in nature, we are only now beginning to understand the mechanisms that govern such systems, and how these might be instrumentalized to achieve desired ends.

Today, many urbanists and spatial planners are working to unpack how insights from CAS might help us understand ways that cities and their components might self-organize into resilient, adaptive infrastructures: ones tuned to local conditions. This two-part seminar will introduce students to the practical, conceptual, and philosophical underpinnings of such approaches.

Seminar One: May 31 (12:30 – 13:45): Towards a Differential Mindset –

Topology, Affordance & Virtual Degrees of Freedom

Seminar Two: June 14 (12:30 – 13:45):  Towards an Evolutionary View –

Information, Feedback & Adaptation

Dr. Sharon Wohl is an Associate Professor in Architecture at Iowa State University, where she also serves as the program’s Undergraduate Coordinator. She received her PhD in Spatial Planning and Strategy from Delft Technical University. She is currently a visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies – a complexity research institute affiliated with the University of Amsterdam. Her research considers how principles of complex adaptive systems can be operationalized within the built environment through physical enactments of complex processes. Dr. Wohl’s research has been published in a variety of journals, including Planning Theory, Progress in Human Geography and Space and Culture.  Prior to joining Iowa