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The New Science of Cities Hardcover – November 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


A brilliant synthesis of how concepts from complexity science change our understanding of cities. Scaling, fractals, and simulation models are clearly explained and used to demonstrate how flows and networks shape cities and how they can be better predicted and managed for improving urban planning and design. A great book for an emerging urban science.

(Denise Pumain, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, Institut Universitaire de France)

As Michael Batty reminds us with fascinating historical excursus, the idea of developing a 'science of cities' is not new. However, today's explosion of measurements in the urban field -- the so-called big data phenomenon -- is opening up possibilities that were unthinkable just a few years ago. New research territories are looming, to which this book is a compelling and perfectly timed guide.

(Carlo Ratti, Director, SENSEable City Lab, MIT)

Michael Batty has followed a career that has made him the prime interpreter of urban modeling in all its forms. Now his remarkable work has become the foundation of a new science of urban flows and networks that uses big data and sharp theory as tools to dig deep into how and what cities are, and how they can be designed in better ways. This is the book that sets the benchmark that all others will have to follow.

(Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick)

Overall, The New Science of Cities is an ambitious and laudable undertaking, one that Batty admits cannot be comprehensive, but which, even so, may well be seen as a milestone.

(New Scientist)

About the Author

Michael Batty is Bartlett Professor of Planning at University College London, where he is Chairman of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), and Visiting Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University. He is the coauthor of Fractal Cities: A Geometry of Form and Function and the author of Cities and Complexity: Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models, and Fractals (MIT Press).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (November 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262019523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262019521
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Sutter on December 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you're a student or expert in spatial analysis -- say, a reader of Environment and Planning B, a journal that this book's author (MJB) has edited for many years -- it's very possible you'll find this book a masterful survey and extension of the professional literature.

If, however, you're a general reader interested to learn new and stimulating facts about properties that the world's cities have in common, you'll almost certainly be disappointed. There's very little empirical discussion of cities in this book, and a great deal of math (mostly matrix algebra, with a bit of graph theory thrown in). A more descriptive title for this book might be something like "Mathematical modeling of cities and the planning process." You should also be advised that this new "science" is essentially economics. There isn't any biology or ecology involved, or anything about how the built environment affects the local weather (as it sure does here in Tokyo); and even the bit of physics the book contains is sometimes off-kilter.

I came to the book as one of those general readers, albeit with a fairly high tolerance for math-heavy exposition. I found the book frustrating on several levels, as I'll describe below. Nonetheless, I admire the author's attempts to synthesize his field, and also the modesty with which he makes claims for this purported new "science." Throughout the book he is scrupulous to point out the limitations and the tentative or even metaphorical nature of many of the techniques he describes. For these reasons, as well the book's possibly being intended for an expert-only readership (notwithstanding the MIT Press's marketing that roped me in), I give the book close to a 4-star rating despite my own issues with it.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alex Kafka on June 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I fully agree with the detailed review provided earlier by A.J. Sutter, including the potentially misleading title and marketing, the lack of readability posed by the prose style and communication through mathematics, the impossibility to interpret the b/w illustrations in the book without downloading the colour web versions (i.e. dark red that represents high connectivity is the same shade of grey as dark blue that represents low connectivity), the neoclassical economics bias, etc.

Most problematic I found however that the book attempts to advance a 'science of cities' without paying much attention to real cities. The mathematical formulae proposed are only applied to simplistic diagrams with limited resemblance to their real-world models, and there is no discussion of how the results of the analysis relate to actual urban environments. Thus for example when analysing networks in fig.7.3-7.4 the conversion of streets into axial lines around London's Regent Street misses about a third of the connections and glosses over the problem of converting a curved street into linear axial lines, fig.7.5 calls a square grid "Manhattan grid", while fig.7.9-7.13 show a map of Melbourne CBD that omits dozens of streets but includes several connections between the rail and street network that do not actually exist. In none of these examples is there comprehensive discussion of what the results of the analysis could mean, and there is no comparison with data about real flows. This is consistent with the absence in the list of references of much of the relevant urban sociology, environmental psychology and urban design studies literature.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has a promising title and I was excited to get my hardback copy. I have been studying and publishing urban economics papers for quite a bit now. Unfortunately, the book disappoints on many levels. To sum up the issues, one could say that it feels like an educated conversation at tea time. The ideas are far reaching and broad, intellectually stimulating perhaps. But they lack a thorough and clear discussion. Basic mathematics is introduced and then left on the side (See "Ebb and Flow"), not to be used later in the book. The author moves from one city to the next in the same sentence. We're left with the impression that either (i) the book goes through too fast through all examples, or (ii) that the "new" "science" of cities is not quite at the level of rigor that we expect of a science.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harvy Vivas on April 9, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have not been able to read the book MODERN SPATIAL ECONOMETRICS IN PRACTICE that I bought. The book has serious problems of format and graphics and equations cannot visualize themselves and they get cut.
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful By romulo krafta on November 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book wraps up all the progress made in the urban science for the last 10 or 15 years, and certainly will illuminate the next ones.
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