Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Social Sustainability and Alexander’s Living Structure Through a New Kind of City Science

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Abstract:  The disputed endorsement of inherited visceral and universal aesthetic preferences justifies the scientific validity of Alexander’s living structure. Apart from implying a resource-efficient way to promote well-being through urban design, the premise favors a collective approach to human self-perception and social justice. To better understand the contributions of Alexander, this article explores current knowledge about visceral and universal aesthetic preferences for living structure and if and how the new kind of city science, a mathematical model describing living structure, can be used for further testing. It also elaborates on the social impact of living structure, including its premise, and the potential of the new kind of city science to support social sustainability. A literature synthesis on living structure, the new kind of city science, and the premise showed a positive link between well-being and exposure to living structure. Limitations in research design nevertheless precluded conclusions about the associated visceral and universal aesthetic preferences. The new kind of city science was found appropriate for further research by holistically representing living structure. Moreover, like the hypothesized biological origin, social learning and sociocultural transmission were found to theoretically support the premise of universality and a collective approach to human identity and social justice, with further societal implications. For the concept of living structure to support social sustainability, it must be coupled with the promotion of empowerment and community mobilization. Hence, the operationalization of the new kind of city science should align with Alexander’s call for bottom-up approaches.

Keywords:  Christopher Alexander; living structure; new kind of city science; social sustainability; urban design; urban planning



© Tarina Levin, Stefan Sjöberg, Bin Jiang, Stephan Barthel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.