A smart system approach for urban engineering

Marianna Cavada*, Chris Rogers, Ruth Dalton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Past and current systems evolved supposedly to provide organised solutions to resolve specific problems, yet when these problems are viewed through lenses shaped by their sectoral constraints; it becomes evident that a monolithic view can also be part of the problem. For example, to design a transport initiative only viewed through a transport lens, rather than systemically and holistically (combining social, environmental, economic and governance lenses), risks not only inefficiency, but ineffectiveness. To avoid the adverse consequences of a sectoral approach to problem definition and design, in this paper we propose a holistic engineering (‘ingenious’) view for urban solutions to understand the multiple implications of design options now and in the future. The aim is to provide a systems approach to overcome sectoral silos between professionals who are involved in the creation of the urban assemblage (Cavada et al., 2021). The methodology is founded on an understanding of the urban context in terms of its smartness: through the societal, environmental, economic, and governance impact assessment of the proposed solution(s) (Cavada et al., 2019). We use a case study to demonstrate the methodology for assessing the likely impacts and opportunities presented for a proposed urban solution to illustrate our systemic approach. We thereby show that understanding the engineering system in its urban context validates the hypothesis that ‘interdisciplinarity’ is essential in urban solutions, combining as it does both ‘soft’ and ‘hard engineering’. It is equally essential in informing policy and decision- making in the urban context, and thus city governance structures can benefit from using the smart methodology. We propose that urban interventions need a design approach which exemplifies how urban engineering provides benefits for everyone, which in turn means developing the ability to co-curate policy with communities of practitioners, policy officers, academics, and the wider public.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAMPS Proceedings Series 25 Urban Assemblage
Subtitle of host publication The City as Architecture, Media, AI and Big Data
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherAMPS - Architecture_Media_Politics_Society
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021


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