Morphogenesis: the invention of the urban block


Vinicius M. Netto [Urban Studies, UFF]

João Meirelles [Complex Systems, EPFL | École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne]


This research explores the relationship between space and social processes as a relationship between urban form and interaction – expressed as ‘mutual effects’ – proposing that, if we are to fully understand the effects of urban form on interactions, we should first attempt to understand urban form as an effect of interactions.

It examines elementary processes of city-making arising out of the material requirements of interactivity, such as the aggregation of buildings as a way of generalising the proximity of actors and intensifying co-presence, bodily mobility and interaction. This approach examines a series of hypotheses about how spatialities emerge and why they acquire recognisable morphogenetic structures that, from many possible paths, follow archetypal directions.


In an examination of prototypical formations and a hypothesis that urban formations are ways of intensifying mobility and interactivity, the invention of the urban block is investigated as a remarkable achievement in the material reproduction of emerging urban societies.figure-6-5

These ideas on the genesis of form in city-creation processes – including trial and error, randomness and necessity, knowledge and reflexivity, the changing requirements of interactivity, and the role of contingency, context and idiosyncrasy – are developed in Chapter 6 “Notes on the genesis of form” in The Social Fabric of Cities.


Back to Research