The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis

Dr Elsa Arcaute

Dr Elsa Arcaute

Lecturer in Spatial Modelling and Complexity

Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st May 2011

Research summary

My research focuses on modelling and analysing urban systems from the perspective of complexity sciences. My main branches of research are urban scaling laws, hierarchies in urban systems, defining city boundaries, and the analysis of urban processes using percolation theory and networks. 

I am particularly interested in understanding how urban attributes are characterised by the size of cities, and in identifying common patterns across different urban systems. This problem embraces a more fundamental one, which is the definition of a city. In this respect, we have created thousands of definitions by varying parameters concerned with the morphological and the functional aspects of cities. These serve as a laboratory to explore the sensitivity of models to city definitions, which are created from bottom-up. 

On the other hand, applying networks and percolation theory to the urban infrastructure, we have uncovered hierarchical structures that have historical and socio-economical roots, and these are of relevance to the current regional inter-connectivity and its economic development.


University of Cambridge
PhD, Theoretical Physics | 2006


Elsa Arcaute is a physicist with a masters in Mathematics (part III of the Mathematical Tripos) and a PhD in Theoretical Physics from the University of Cambridge, UK. Her doctoral research was on Clifford algebras applied to Penrose's twistors, and to multi-particle wave-functions. She moved to the field of Complex Systems while visiting Prof. Henrik Jensen at the Complexity and Networks group at Imperial College London. Later she joined the group as a postdoc where, working with Prof. Kim Christensen as part of a multidisciplinary project funded by the EPSRC, her research focused on self-regulation in social systems. The work was done alongside biologists who manipulated ant colonies, engineers who programmed robots, and social scientists who developed an intervention for the viability of an Irish eco-village.

Currently, she is a Lecturer In Spatial Modelling and Complexity at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). Previously she was part of an ERC (European Research Council) funded project lead by Prof. Michael Batty entitled MECHANICITY: Morphology, Energy and Climate cHANge In the CITY.