2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Jane Jacobs’ The Economy of Cities. It came a decade after her seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and heralded a new age in thinking about the city. The city would no longer be a question of design and planning in isolation. From the early 1970s onwards, it would be seen as a complex interdisciplinary phenomenon.
The first years of the 1970s saw the introduction of a whole series of notions that would mutually inform our reading of the metropolis: social justice and the city, sustainability, defensible space, and urban centres as sites of public health. It saw the emergence of concepts such as the global city, urban economics, the post-industrial society and the cultural city. From art, design and cultural perspectives, post-modernism would critique of the whole modernist project.
Five decades after complexity theory was first applied to our reading of the city, this conference revisits its consequences. It reconsiders the city as an adaptive, self-organising and unpredictable system of interconnecting interventions, forces and perspectives. It asks how these competing and mutually reinforcing factors came into play and how they operate today. It questions how the city has been, and continues to be, informed by the practices of multiple disciplines.