WIT Press

Scale-linking design for systemic health: sustainable communities and cities in context


Free (open access)


Volume 2 (2007), Issue 1



Page Range

57 - 72

Paper DOI



WIT Press


D.C. Wahl


The design of sustainable communities and cities requires conceptual frameworks for contextualization and transdisciplinary integration. The theory of complex dynamic systems provides a holistic, explanatory framework offering a participatory perspective that recognizes the fundamental interconnectedness, interdependence, and unpredictability of biological, social, economic, and ecological systems. Building on the tradition of urban planning within a regional context, to conceive the sustainable city as an emergent property of appropriate interactions and relationships within a complex, holarchically structured whole, takes contextualization further. Increased awareness of nature and culture as an interconnected complex dynamic system, and sensitivity to material and immaterial (psychological) aspects, leads to more sustainable solutions based on transdisciplinary integration. Worldviews and value systems, and ecological literacy play an important role in the creation of sustainable lifestyles, communities, cities and societies. This article suggests that complexity theory, combined with aspects of integral theory and integral ecology, when applied through design as a transdisciplinary integrator, can provide a framework and a methodology that links spatial and temporal scales across all scales of design from product design, architecture, construction ecology, community design, industrial ecology, to urban and bioregional planning. Ultimately, a sustainable city emerges from the interactions among sustainable communities of ecologically and socially literate citizens who live sustainable lifestyles.


complexity, emergence, salutogenic design, scale-linking design, scales of design, sustainable cities, sustainable communities