In Architecture and Urbanism the idea of scale is used in different ways and areas. Among them, the most common is related to cartography: a map is a representation of a territory’s reality where its order of size is given by a scale factor.
A scale factor is a number, which multiplies a certain quantity. In other words it is a constant of proportionality that entails a dynamic relation between the different scales and the subject of study.
The scope and implications of scale have been studied by many disciplines. In physics, scale is used to choose categories, variables and parameters to describe the phenomena used to design some of the smallest human artefacts (De Jong, 2008). In order to understand the structures of the smallest artefacts up to the universe, it is essential to first understand the idea of scale and, furthermore, the idea of scale articulation.
However, what other notions of scaling are there? How do they relate to the theory and practice of Urbanism?
Building upon these questions, the Urbanism Week 2014 is devoted to deepen the understanding of different notions of scale and their relationship with Urbanism. The goal of the Urbanism Week is to take the audience on a journey through the meaning of scale. Therefore, the structure of the week responds thematically to different notions of scaling as follows: Mathematical, Geographical, Political, Physical Scaling and Scale Articulation. Each day of the week, we will explore an idea of scale borrowed from another discipline and investigate how it can provide new insights for Urbanism.
The opening day will introduce the idea of scale in its most crucial aspects. In the domain of Mathematical scaling, the order of size is given by a geometrical relation (scale factor). This determines a certain set of rules and principles, which will help us understand the nature of the object and how it relates to other objects. However, scale is not only a matter of size: it implies different levels of complexity and interaction.
Following this, Geographical scaling will address how intervening in processes within a system has a cause/effect relation that transcends different scales and systems. The multiple scales of these interactions will be investigated, together with the levels of complexity that form the urban realm.
Scale in Urbanism acquires meaning only in relation to humans and their activities: how they use, perceive, govern, plan and design space. Political scaling is tied to the governance structure of a territory. It elaborates on the levels of decision-making within political structures, focusing on the debate around devolution.
Within the notion of Physical scaling the topic will explore the physical characteristics of our environments in relation to planning and design. For example, the validity of the human scale in contemporary theory and practice and the role of scale articulation within the design process.
The Urbanism Week will conclude with a reflexive debate on how these concepts come together and can be articulated within the disciplines that deal with the built environment.