The Idea of Urban Fractals

by Matt Ball on May 4, 2008

I heard the term “urban fractal” at the Ecocity World Summit and was very intrigued. I got some sense of the meaning of the term within a few sessions at the event, but I just turned to the Ecocity Builders site to get a better sense. This website is full of the writings of Richard Register, the founder and co-convener of this year’s event.

Register describes hearing the term from Paul Downton at the International Ecopolis Development Forum in Ningbo, China in October, 2007.

“A fractal, as many of you will know from “chaos theory,” is part of a whole system that holds within it all the essentials and patterns of the larger system. In ecocity theory one can think of the traditional village, integral neighborhoods and projects that embody all the major systems of a city, including the basic arrangement of relationship of parts as an urban fractal. Thus, a traditional village with plaza, housing, shops, government offices, schools, open spaces, places of worship, entertainment, sports, elements of nature celebrated and so on is a fractal of an ecocity.”

The idea of creating an urban fractal is similar to Jaime Lerner’s idea of urban acupuncture. By revitalizing a pocket neighborhood with all the amenities that provide for vibrant neighborhood interaction, we can help address larger city problems of urban blight and abandoned buildings.

Read more about urban fractals here.

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