PhD Thesis

Pattern formation in urbanism

Caliskan, O. (2013). Pattern Formation in Urbanism. A critical reflection on Urban Morphology, Planning and Design. Delft University of Technology.

This thesis is all about urban patterns, what we see through the windows of the plane with an admiration of their relief-like scenery covering the land surface. In a sense, the spatial pattern within our cities is the biggest collectively produced artifact of human beings. It is both the originator and the result of human activity. It is not only a product, but also the process itself.

In this regard, the research problematizes the notion of formation, rather than the form. Implying both the process of being structured and the internal arrangement of a product, formation is the main emphasis of the inquiry on urban patterns. With the double connotation of the term, the research is an attempt to reveal the main components of the form-logic (morphology), control (planning) and the creation (design) of collective urban patterns. On this basis, the author aims to construct a stronger theoretical link between urban morphology, planning and design, which indeed needs to be improved for their own disciplinary performance. While suggesting a comprehensive view, the research also aims to provide a critical insight on the issue by reflecting on the current state of art in the theory and practice.

In that framework, the research firstly constructs a conceptual baseline by revisiting the fundamental categories of urban morphology, the basic types of collective urban form, and the mainstream approaches in urbanism. By this means, the multi-dimensional nature of the phenomenon, urban pattern formation is exposed. Based upon the conceptual framework defined in the introductory chapter, the research focuses on morphology, and tends to provide the baselines of the main approaches, analytical methods and the basic indicators in urban morphology. Then, the issue is re-examined in terms of planning as the other factor of urban pattern formation. Being a broad category, planning, in this context, is discussed through its major function of design control. To comprehend the regulative role of design control in the production of urban (morphological) coherence, the research conducts a comparative plan analysis of the cases of the planned residential developments in the UK, the Netherlands and Turkey. The international perspective constructed on planning is applied to the issue of design as well. Accordingly, in the consequent part, the research delineates the process of urban design by means of a comprehensive and a focussed analysis conducted on the actual projects by the fifteen designers from the three countries. In the light of the critical review made on the existing models in the literature and an alternative theoretical framework, the author ultimately suggests an updated view on design thinking in urbanism. Finally, the research provides future perspective on morphological design and planning through reviewing the emerging design methods and techniques. For this purpose, the method of parametric design is discussed with reference to ‘generative urbanism’ as the mainstream approach in urbanism. From that perspective, the actual use of the algorithmic models in urban design is critically evaluated in the context of a master planning application in Istanbul, Turkey. Relating all the intermediate conclusions of the previous discussions, a possible coalescence between morphology, planning and design, and its principles are argued in the conclusion through addressing the critical aspects of the central issue, pattern formation in urbanism.