chapter  17
20 Pages

Agents and Agency, Learning, and Emergence in the Built Environment: A Theoretical Excursion

ByKarl Kropf

The city is often cited as the supreme human creation, the most complex product of a deliberate, intentional act of planning. Yet, the language used to describe cities often suggests that they grow and change autonomously, without clearly identifiable human intentions. For example, on the Web site “thisbigcity,” an article begins as follows: “How Amsterdam’s Urban Form Created the Ideal Cycling City. Before the bicycle arrived in Amsterdam in the 19th century, the city had undergone six centuries of development, inadvertently creating a compact urban environment ideal for bicycle use” (Peach 2011; my emphasis). Who is doing the creating? The city in all its complexity seems to be neither entirely intentional nor entirely emergent but both at the same time. Such a view is at once intuitively satisfying and awkwardly contradictory.