Triggering Spontaneous Self-Regeneration in Cities: Towards a systemic approach to spatial design

Format: Papers, RSD10, Topic: Architecture & Planning, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Elena Porqueddu

The recent theory of planning and urban design highlights how healthy vibrant cities behave as complex adaptive systems that are subject to spontaneous cycles of regeneration and decline. Although such systems cannot be designed entirely top-down or controlled, they can be influenced. In this perspective, the present paper investigates the power of spatial design to intervene in site-specific adaptive cycles, in order to foster processes of spontaneous self-regeneration and prevent or invert emergent decline. Such a systemic approach to spatial design endeavours to frame the most appropriate type, position and scale of minimum interventions which can maintain the system between the extremes of uniformity and diversity, stability and dynamism, thus preserving its adaptive capacity. The two case studies presented here show how such an approach succeeds in (1) increasing the system’s ability to keep self-organizing in new better social-spatial configurations (which can neither be predicted, nor predetermined), (2) triggering cross-scale incremental positive effects which extend in time far beyond the scale of the project site, and (3) minimizing social and economic costs, an aspect which is particularly relevant at a time when economic resources are extremely limited.

Keywords: spatial design, complex adaptive systems, urban regeneration, self-organization, multi-scale thinking

Citation Data

Author(s): Elena Porqueddu
Title: Triggering Spontaneous Self-Regeneration in Cities: Towards a systemic approach to spatial design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 3 September 2021
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights