Illustration by Jacek Yurka

SFI's cities, scaling, and sustainability research is creating an interdisciplinary approach and quantitative synthesis of organizational and dynamical aspects of human social organizations, with an emphasis on cities.

We integrate different disciplinary perspectives as we search for similar indicators for urban population size — scaling analysis — and other variables that characterize whole urban systems.

An important focus of this research area is to develop theoretical insights about cities that can inform quantitative analyses of their long-term sustainability in terms of the interplay between innovation, resource appropriation, and consumption and the makeup of their social and economic activity.

This project brings together urban planners, economists, sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, and complex systems theorists with the aim of generating an integrated and quantitative understanding of cities. Outstanding areas of research include: identifying general scaling patterns in urban infrastructure and dynamics around the world; quantifying resource distribution networks in cities and their interplay with the city's socioeconomic fabric; exploring issues of temporal acceleration and spatial density, and creating a rigorous framework for understanding the long-term dynamics of urban systems.