About Michael Batty

I chair CASA at UCL which I set up in 1995. I am Bartlett Professor In UCL.

A City is Not a Tree: 50th Anniversary Edition


A really nice idea. Michael Mehaffy has put together a superb collection of comments on Chris Alexander’s famous 1965 paper “A City is Not a Tree”. The comments which are presented in slightly longer papers and shorter contributions are from those (like me) who were and continue to be much influenced by his writings. I can’t reproduce the copy here but urge you to take a look at it somehow – click here for Amazon.com link – it is a very nicely presented paperback book. I quote from the blurb:

‘With new commentaries by leading urban scholars including Mike Batty, Luis Bettencourt, Howard Davis, and Bill Hillier. In 1965, the architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander published a landmark theoretical critique of modern urban design, and by extension, modern design in general. His critique was different from others of the day in that it was not based on a social or political argument, but on a structural analysis, rooted in then-emerging insights from the fields of mathematics and cognition. Here, published again on its fiftieth anniversary, is Alexander’s classic text, together with new interpretive commentaries and discussions by leading theorists and practitioners. This volume is destined to become an invaluable resource for a new generation of students and practitioners. “One of the classic references in the literature of the built environment and associated fields.”- Resource for Urban Design Information (rudi.net)”At a time of increasing concern over the adequacy of design methods, “A City is not a Tree” broke open and reoriented the debate.”- Charles Jencks and Karl Kropf “It pointed clearly to a change in the way we need to think about cities.” – Bill Hillier, Chairman of the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, University College London “Remains a landmark in our thinking about cities and design…It is a new beginning — for Alexander and for urbanism — to discover what the city really is.” – Luis Bettencourt, Santa Fe Institute’

Enjoy, and Read

A multilevel portrait of shrinking urban Russia

Shrinking Russia

A really nice article from Clementine Cottineau, one of our researchers, on how Russia is shrinking (Read in English or French, from Espace Populations SociétésTechniques that we may be able to apply in our new Digital Economies research project to shrinking Britain, in parts. She says and I quote from the abstract: “The demographic shrinkage of Russia, as measured by harmonised data at different geographical scales, appears unique in comparison with any other example in time and around the world. Using multivariate and multilevel statistical analysis, we show that shrinkage in cities is associated with different urban functions, and that these functions are distributed unevenly in the Russian territory. This sophisticated description of urban and regional attributes of shrinkage allows to gain insights on the probable consequences of different demographic policies in tomorrow’s Russia.”

Enjoy click here or above to get the article online

The Circular Economy


The new book from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation contains a series of articles on cities and the built environment that relates to renewability and regeneration in terms of energy, information and new ways of conserving both physical and human resources. I have a chapter here on cities where I examine how we might think about circularity of resources use within the city arguing that we need to generate a renewable infrastructure with respect to how we move between places in the city. To break the non renewable cycle generating ever more urban growth we need to generate a balanced city structure in which our movement patterns are supported and sustained by resources that are self-generated. This probably means a shift from non renewable fuels but ti does not necessarily mean the end of urban growth for it the system is sustainable, then cities can begin to grow in a balanced way. Besides changing our use of energy we may substitute it with information and that probably means autonomous vehicles that use much less energy (but still some) but focus on how best to move using information as a key resource. Anyway what I walk about is rather speculative but it is all part of our new concern for the fact that new urban forms will emerge as we move towards a circylkar economy, with the age-old link between form and functions – which is breaking anyway in the information age – becoming significant in very different ways from the past.

There are lost of other interesting articles in this book and let me list them

  • Circular business opportunities for the built environment—Ellen Franconi, Brett Bridgeland
  • The renewable energy transition—Insights from Germany’s Energiewende-Patrick Graichen and Markus Steigenberger
  • Towards a regenerative food system — Martin Stuchtey and Morten Rossé
  • Ecosystems as a unifying model for cities and industry— Michael Pawlyn
  • The circular economy of soil— L. Hunter Lovins
  • Remanufacturing and the circular economy—Nabil Nasr
  • Selling access over ownership—Ken Webster
  • Broader lessons from self-organising traffic lights in city transport systems— Dirk Helbing and Stefan Lämmer
  • Challenges and capabilities for scaling up circular economy business models—a change management perspective— Markus Zils, Phil Hawkins and Peter Hopkinson
  • Cities as flows in a circular economy— Michael Batty
  • Circularity indicators— Chris Tuppen