Measuring the Complexity of Urban Form and Design

Cite as:¬†Boeing, G. 2017. “Measuring the Complexity of Urban Form and Design.” Manuscript under review. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2958923

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Complex systems have become a popular lens for conceptualizing cities, and complexity has substantial implications for urban performance and resilience. This paper develops a typology of methods and measures for assessing the complexity of the built form at the scale of urban design. It extends quantitative methods from urban planning, network science, ecosystems studies, fractal geometry, and information theory to the physical urban form and the analysis of qualitative human experience. Metrics at multiple scales are scattered throughout these bodies of literature and have useful applications in analyzing the complexity that both evolves and results from local planning and design processes. The typology developed here applies to empirical research of multiple neighborhood types and design standards and it includes temporal, visual, spatial, fractal, and network-analytic measures of the urban form.