Topology Catastrophe: Catastrophe Narrativization of Urban Morphologies

  • Matt Demers
Part of the Nexus Network Journal book series (NNJ, volume 12,3)


This paper applies Rene Thom’s catastrophe theory morphologies to the historical narrativization of urban environments. The confluence of narrative and topology could yield a qualitative yet stable spatial representation of the dynamic development of the human environment. Catastrophe Theory seeks such a qualitative and stable representation of discontinuous or chaotic behavior. Here the descriptions of catastrophe theory are applied to urban forms as a series of “narrative spatial operators” that affectively change the narrative space of urban histories or narratives of urban formation. Each operator is understood to be a combinatorial set of several of Rene Thom’s elemental catastrophe morphologies, elemental relations found in communicative materials and used as building blocks of meaning. What is sought is the application of these elemental blocks to the city as an evolving environment. Such an application could possibly be developed into a method for explaining archetypal moments in the development of human settlements, an ontology and epistemology of development that is dynamic like the city itself, yet simple and easily accessed. This topological narrativization is briefly deployed to examine certain aspects in the development of the city of Chandigarh, India.


equilibrium equilibria mappings transformations morphology topology Rene Thom spatial operators catastrophe theory urban design Chandigarh 


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Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books, Turin 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matt Demers
    • 1
  1. 1.GainesvilleUSA

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