Cities are among the most complex structures created by human societies, and unlike other complex man-made objects, like computers for example, we do not pretend to understand them fully. Furthermore, cities in Europe, as in most parts of the world, are currently undergoing rapid and profound changes which affect the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people. These changes should be managed to preserve or enhance the quality of life, and to ensure economic and environmental sustainability.
Effective planning and management requires both data on current conditions and an ability to foresee the likely consequences of proposed projects and policies. The European Commission Joint Research Centre has as one of its objectives to enhance the value of Earth observation data by stimulating user oriented data services. In this context, the MURBANDY and MOLAND projects are aimed specifically at enhancing the use of remotely sensed data for urban planning by implementing the following component projects:
- building a data base of land use change over approximately the last 40 years for a representative sample of European cities and urbanised regions,
- developing a number of urban environmental indicators related to sustainability, and
- developing a generic model of urban dynamics that will support the realistic exploration of urban futures under a variety of planning and policy scenarios --or a scenario of no planning.
All three components make use of a recent extension to the CORINE land use/land cover database which significantly extends the number of urban land use classes and thus enables a much more detailed study of urban areas. The work carried out by RIKS is aimed at this third component, the development of a generic model of urban land use dynamics based on the theory of Constrained Cellular Automata and implemented in Geonamica.
The goal of developing a generic model --one that will be applicable to essentially any European city-- implies the rather strong assumption that at some level cities are fundamentally similar, evolving by the same processes. Especially in the European context, where cities grow out of, and express, a wide variety of cultural, economic, and historical contexts, this seems a bold hypothesis. However, the fractal analysis of land use patterns provides evidence in its favour, and suggests that the substantial differences among cities are largely due to city-specific boundary conditions. In particular, we hypothesise that it is such city-specific factors as local topography, the geometry of the transport network, and local planning regulations (which themselves represent a particular local intervention in what might otherwise be a generic process of urban development) determine the observed differences among cities. The project in effect constitutes a test of this hypothesis.
The project involved a collaboration between the Research Institute for Knowledge Systems bv (RIKS), the European Union Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, and ERA-Maptec Ltd in Dublin, Ireland. The main task of RIKS in both MURBANDY and MOLAND concerned the development and application of an integrated Cellular Automata land-use model capable of visualising, exploring and assessing the effects of spatial development scenarios in European cities and urbanized regions.
Moreover, RIKS spend considerable time and effort in developing a software environment in which the models can be run in a user-friendly manner. In fact the models are available as part of a Decision Support System aimed at spatial planners and policy makers. In this DSS, the models are complemented with a set of tools enabling the pre- and post-processing of respectively the inputs for and the outputs of the models.
The work carried out in Moland and MURBANDY led to models applied and calibrated for Dublin: the metropolitan area proper for the MURBANDY model, and the Greater Dublin Metropolitan region, including Dublin county and its 8 neighbouring counties for the Moland model.
More information about MOLAND can be found through the official MOLAND web site of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. It is also possible to contact Hedwig van Delden about this project.