Planning rules for a self-planned city

Nurit Alfasi*, Juval Portugali

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Planning theory, laws, and systems are essentially procedural in that they focus on the process of planning and decision-making but do not deal with the substance of the decisions nor their impact on cities. They emphasize the role of the many (f)actors that shape the built environment rather than the resultant properties of the built environment itself. This is true both for the rational comprehensive theory of the 1960s and the 1990s postmodern theory of communicative planning theory. In this article we claim that current planning weaknesses, on the one hand, and viewing cities as complex self-organizing systems, on the other, require re-linking planning theory, law, and administration to the substantive qualitative relations between the various urban elements. We then introduce, first, an example for theorizing such an 'Urban Code' that turns the spatial relations into a planning rule and, second, a suggestion for a planning system that is responsive to these qualitative relations and is capable of updating them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-182
Number of pages19
JournalPlanning Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Complexity
  • Planning democracy
  • Planning theory
  • Urban code


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