Controlled Environments

Cities have always experimented with controlled environments designed to sustain and enhance human life. New technologies, urbanisation, and a changing climate are altering how we interact with nature in cities. There is strategic interest in creating artificial environments that enhance urban atmospheres and ecologies.

The theme examines whether controlled environments create new system-wide infrastructural responses designed to maintain and improve urban ecologies.

Research Questions

–    Is the capacity to create controlled urban ecologies a key international economic, social and security priority?
–    How, and where, are new processes of environmental and atmospheric enclosure developing across different domains of urban life?
–    What forms of knowledge, technologies and practices support the production of controlled urban environments?
–    What tensions are associated with controlled environments designed to insulate urban spaces from atmospheric and ecological turbulences?

The team

Director: Simon Marvin

UI members: Andy Lockhart | Aidan While

Associates: Jonathan Rutherford | Emma critchley | Donald McNeill | Nick Taylor-Buck


Papers and reports



Research projects



Estimated value in billions of global market for smart urban systems by 2020


The surface area of the Earth given over to greenhouses or some form of plastic cover is increasing by 20% every year.


Number of people who voluntarily wear an electronic tracking device such as a smartphone


The indoor biome of Manhattan is almost three times as large, in terms of its floor space, as is the geographical area of the island itself