Beyond Smart Cities: Understanding Urban Complexity and its Role for Infrastructure

Today's rapid urbanisation, together with growing concerns over energy supply and climate change, makes it increasingly important to build efficient and resilient urban infrastructures. However, conventional planning approaches are becoming questionable, as they typically rely on "best practice" or simulation-based methods that are not able to cope with the increasing complexity of urban systems.

This talk will show how the combination of complexity science with new types of user-generated data (eg, mobile phone records, social media data) opens up a promising avenue towards a much-needed, deeper understanding of the bottom-up organisation of cities. It will then discuss why these new insights are key for a more people-centric design of urban infrastructures that enhance the fundamental functioning of cities. To that end, the talk will present several ongoing research projects at the ETH Future Cities Laboratory, with applications to urban mobility, buildings and energy infrastructures.



Markus Schlapfer is a principal investigator at the ETH Future Cities Laboratory, ETH-Singapore Centre, where he leads the Urban Complexity group. He also holds an appointment as adjunct assistant professor at the Nanyang Technological Unviersity (Singapore), within the School of Computer Science and Engineering. He received his PhD from ETH Zurich (Switzerland) at the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering and conducted postdoctoral fellowships at the Santa Fe Institute and at MIT (USA). His main research goals are the derivation of qualitative, predictive models for the organisation of cities and its interplay with urban infrastructure networks. He grounds his research on the increasing availability of large scale data on human activities and applies methods from complexity science to gain systemic understanding of urban systems.

Date & time

1–2pm 3 Jun 2019


Room:R214, Ian Ross Seminar Room, Building 31


Markus Schlapfer


02 6125 6881

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