Our cities face enormous challenges. Simple` reductionist explanations are no longer adequate. There is no simplistic, one-way plan that can be mechanically applied to guarantee success in any eventuality. A new paradigm, appropriate for the new order is required.
We argue that the metaphors of complex adaptive systems can meet the demands of city development in a global context.
Cities, as any other ecological system are open, dissipative and highly complex systems, with innumerable sub-systems: economic, transport, social and educational, to name a few. Ecological systems have certain carrying capacities and so do cities, but these can be modified over time as the city changes in response to internal pressures and external stimuli. The complexity and unpredictability of the effects of climate change on social-ecological, economic systems makes it necessary to abandon the perception of a global steady state. Instead, managing complex coevolving systems for sustainability requires the ability to cope with, adapt to and shape without losing options for future development. It requires resilience – the capacity to buffer perturbations, self organize, learn and adapt. It requires adaptability –the capacity to change in spatial and architectural design: ability of a system to adjust to climate change to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with consequences (adaptivity), enabling minor shifts in how systems function or spaces are used (flexibility), allowing changes in use of space, buildings, infrastructure (convertibility), facilitating additions or deletions (expandability).