This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Emergent Design in Landscape Architecture: The Application of the Theory of Emergence to the Craft of Creating Public Urban Spaces




Biesecker, Matthew

Type of Degree



Landscape Architecture


As scientific philosophies and theories have evolved, so has their application to the craft of landscape architecture. The theory of emergence, which was developed in the 1970s, is currently finding applications in the design disciplines. Because the built environment is now largely considered an emergent phenomenon, emergence might be used to obtain design goals using behaviors found in the urban realm. This thesis examines how the theory of emergence can be applied to a design methodology used to create a public urban space. The ultimate goal of creating an emergent design methodology would be to create an urban network that functions at a higher organized complexity than it did prior. It is hypothesized that if a higher organized complexity is generated, an even higher level of organized complexity will emerge because of the original increase in organized complexity. The strategy for researching this thesis is divided into two major sections: (1) determining the definition and sub-theory of emergence that is most appropriate for the application to the design methodology for creating public urban spaces, and (2) constructing a repeatable design methodology for creating a public urban space based on the application of the selected definition and sub-theory to a design test. The success of this examination is based on its ability to generate conceptual design methodologies and prompt further examination in the application of the theory of emergence to other sub-fields in landscape architecture. If an emergent design methodology can be created the inhabitant’s desires can be reflected in the design of public urban spaces in a more direct manner than most current spaces.