Addressing disciplinary, and academic and practitioner divides in thinking on the city: The case of the ekistics model in the development of planning theory and urban studies

Susan Ball, Department of English, University of Paris

This paper starts by introducing the ekistics model of human
settlements in terms of its interdisciplinary approach to thinking
on the city, and its advocating research as the link between the
academic and practitioner divide. By means of a literature review
of scientific journals, the ekistics model is shown to be weakly
positioned in the development of planning theory and practice.
The paper goes on to address the extent to which the broader
field of urban studies has drawn on a number of the underlying
principles of the ekistics model. It is argued that while land use
planning practice has been restricted in its ability to adopt the
progressive aspects of the ekistic model, the integrated approach
advocated by Doxiadis’ science of human settlements resonates
with the work of scholars in the diverse disciplines comprising
the field of urban studies, and finds echos in approaches used in
a sample of current urban development projects.
Ekistics model, planning theory, urban studies, interdisciplinarity,

While opinions vary as to the nature and impact of
‘interdisciplinary’ and ‘policy relevant’ research over the last
twenty to thirty years, there is no doubt that the concepts have
been important concerns of national and international research
funding agencies. As a result, researchers from different
disciplines have been brought together in teams addressing an
entire problem or subject, not least amongst which has been the
city and particularly the sustainable city (Shemlev and Shemlev,
2009). C.A.Doxiadis was ahead of this recent move towards
interdisciplinarity and applied thinking on cities. This is reflected
in the uncertainty which surrounds Doxiadis’ own disciplinary
belongings, with his being described as either an architect or a
rational planner. While any attempt by a discipline to claim
Doxiadis for itself would be futile, the impact of his work on any
one discpline can provide insites into the way in which that
discipline has developed its thinking on the city, which may in
turn help to inform future thinking and practice relevant to cities
and urban development. In this paper, the imapct of Doxiadis’
ekistic model on land use planning theory and urban studies is
After a brief introdution to the interdiscilinary nature of the
ekistics model, the results of a literature review of scholarly
journals published since 1968 (i.e. the year in which Ekistics: An
Introduction to the Science of Human Settlements was published) is
outlined. This acts as the basis of a consideration of the general
absence of explicit references to the ekistics model in planning
theory in the 1970s. I will argue that the ekistics model has had
more of an implicit influence in urban studies, particularly over
the last 20 years. This leads on to the last section, which argues
that, although there is evidence of key elements of the ekistics
approach in the research methodology being advocated by
certain strategic authorities concerned with the future
development and planning of cities, urban scholars still face a
number of challenges in helping to ensure that theoretically-
informed research is translated into policy.

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