Cities as Organisms: Scaling and Networks in Urban, Social, and Biological Systems

Date: 19. 2. 2015 - 20. 2. 2015
Venue: University of Maribor, Slovenia
Účastníci: Haluzík, Radan
In his City in History (1961), American sociologist Lewis Mumford draws the image of city as a (social) organism when he writes of “village cells … turned into complex structures, organized on axiate principle, with differentiated tissues and specialized organisms, and with one part, the central nervous system, thinking for and directing the whole.”

There are many examples of comparing the complexity of cities to that of living organisms. In architectural and city theory, terms like “organic architecture” or “urban ecosystem” etc. are ubiquitous; on the other hand, e.g. “architecture of cells” or “bauplan of animal bodies” became standard concepts in biology. However, it would be interesting to verify if these examples represent just vague metaphors or if they reflect a deeper similarity between the systems. Is there a more profound, quantifiable connection between form and functioning of biological and urban systems?

We have relatively good exact knowledge about both of them. Mathematical methods in studying the living forms in biology are well established, and many research attempts have been made to gain quantitative understanding of functioning and (social) organization of cities and the dynamics of urban systems in general. However, do we know enough about real relationships between urban, social and biological systems?

Here, more concrete questions are open for further investigation. What is the biological analogy of the city (individual – species – ecosystem)? Are there any counterparts of biological species in city systems? What is the meaning and the role of energy and information in both living and urban systems? What is the difference between biological and urban transportation networks? What are the fundamental constraints that govern flows of energy and material, and are they similar for all these systems? And ultimately, is there a possibility of a universal theory that would bring into coherence the form, size and energy distribution in all these (urban, social or biological) complex systems together?

This interdisciplinary workshop will cover a range of different aspects and properties of complex systems, in particular network organization and scaling phenomena in urban, social, and biological systems. The main purpose of it is to bring together researchers from different fields in order to exchange their experience and share their views. We will discuss the universality of the methods applied to complex networks in different fields of research, and discus possibilities for cross-fields cooperation in some future interdisciplinary investigations. The workshop will be organized with a limited number of participants (up to 20). This will enable better personal engagement in discussions on concrete problems, and herewith increase chances for future cooperation.

Main focus: cities, organisms, scaling, networks

Organizers: University of Maribor, Maribor and Center for Theoretical Study, Prague

Organizing Committee: Dean Korošak, Marko Marhl, Cyril Říha, David Storch


Anthony Vanky MIT

Jordan Okie Arizona State University

Marcus Hamilton S anta Fe Institute

Kousuke Yakubo Hokkaido University

Etienne Roux University of Bordeaux

Radovan Haluzík Center for Theoretical Study

Cyril říha Center for Theoretical Study

David Storch Center for Theoretical Study

Marjan Slak Rupnik University of Maribor & Medical University of Vienna

Tanja Simonič Korošak TSK Landscape Design Studio

Uroš Lobnik University of Maribor

Peter Šenk University of Maribor

Matjaž Gerl City of Maribor/Smart City Maribor Project

Matjaž Perc University of Maribor

Marko Marhl University of Maribor

Dean Korošak University of Maribor