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From Cells to Cities


  • M Batty

    (National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, State University of New York, 301 Wilkeson Quad, Buffalo, NY 14261-0023, USA)

  • Y Xie

    (Department of Geography and Geology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197, USA)


Since mathematical models came to be applied to problems of architectural and urban form, new concepts based on predicting large-scale structure from local rules have emerged through insights originating in computation and biology. The clearest of these are computer models based on cellular automata (CA) and their recent generalization in evolutionary biology and artificial life. Here we show how such models can be used to simulate urban growth and form, thus linking our exposition to the longer tradition of ideas in studies of built form emanating from the ‘Cambridge School’. We first review developments of CA in general and then in urban systems in particular. We propose a general class of CA models for urban simulation and illustrate two simple applications, the first a simulation of the development of the historical ‘cell’ city of Savannah, Georgia, the second, a generic hypothetical application. We then show how this generic model can be used to simulate the growth dynamics of a suburban area of a mid-sized North American city, thus illustrating how this approach provides insights into the way microprocesses lead to aggregate development patterns.

Suggested Citation

  • M Batty & Y Xie, 1994. "From Cells to Cities," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 21(7), pages 31-48, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envirb:v:21:y:1994:i:7:p:s31-s48

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    Cited by:

    1. Eric J. Heikkila & Ti-yan Shen & Kai-zhong Yang, 2003. "Fuzzy Urban Sets: Theory and Application to Desakota Regions in China," Working Paper 8617, USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.
    2. repec:eee:ecomod:v:211:y:2008:i:1:p:169-181 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Noronha Vaz, E. de & Caetano, M. & Nijkamp, P., 2011. "A multi-level spatial urban pressure analysis of the Giza Pyramid Plateau in Egypt," Serie Research Memoranda 0043, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
    4. Giovanni A. Rabino & Lorenzo Papini & Silvana T. Lombardo & Antonio Colonna & Vittorio Di Stefano, 1998. "L.A.U.D.E: Learning Automata for Urban Development Exploration. The Case Study of Rome Urban System," ERSA conference papers ersa98p302, European Regional Science Association.
    5. repec:eee:ecomod:v:222:y:2011:i:5:p:1129-1138 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Yan Liu & Yongjiu Feng, 2016. "Simulating the Impact of Economic and Environmental Strategies on Future Urban Growth Scenarios in Ningbo, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(10), pages 1-16, October.
    7. Caroline Bayr & Miriam Steurer & Rose-Gerd Koboltschnig, 2013. "Scenario Planning for Cities using Cellular Automata Models: A Case Study," Graz Economics Papers 2013-06, University of Graz, Department of Economics.
    8. repec:eee:ecomod:v:210:y:2008:i:1:p:71-84 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:eee:ecomod:v:220:y:2009:i:24:p:3612-3620 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:10:p:1786-:d:113932 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. repec:eee:ecomod:v:201:y:2007:i:3:p:495-506 is not listed on IDEAS

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