The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 98


1 September 2005

Imagining the Recursive City: Explorations in Urban Simulacra

Cities are microcosms of societies, worlds within worlds, which repeat themselves at different spatial scales and over different time horizons. In this essay, we argue that such recursion is taken to an entirely new level in the digital age where we can represent cities numerically, embed them within computers, scale and distort their representations so that we can embed them within one another, even believing them to be 'computers' in their own right.

We begin with the conundrum of recursion, showing how its occurrence in cities through spatial similarity at different scales, leads to worlds within worlds. We illustrate these ideas with a large-scale digital representation of the core of a world city, London, showing how we can generate different realizations of the city for different purposes. We embed these representations within one another, building virtual worlds, moving from the material to the digital and back again, using the digital model to represent the material world in different ways, and finally printing - fabricating the model. Our message is that digital representation opens a cornucopia of possibilities in representation and communication through a variety of devices which in turn can be embedded in the city, Escher-like, and which indeed are rapidly becoming the city.

This working paper is available as a PDF. The file size is 1047KB.

Authors: Michael Batty, Andrew Hudson-Smith

Publication Date: 1/9/2005

Download working paper No. 98.