Vincent Cousin graduated in civil engineering from Ecole Polytechnique and from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in France. He started his career in designing concrete offshore platforms for the North Sea and then became project engineer and project manager for site construction works in industrial and pipeline works in UK, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Malaysia during some 20 years. He then moved to the position of innovation director in one the major French civil engineering and services group for 8 years. He was responsible for coordinating innovation and environment policies of the group. For the last twelve years, he worked as a consultant in innovation management for European building contractors and research institutions. He is presently, for the last 6 years, industrial advisor for the French competitiveness cluster Advancity. He is also member of the board of Mediaconstruct which is the French chapter of Building Smart International, member of the Innovation group of the FNTP (National French Civil Engineering Contractors Federation) and of the Consulting Board of the Civil Engineering Research.

Urban design and system engineering: risks and opportunities

One could say that culture or human civilisation started with cities: populations adopted spontaneously organisation and processes, developed technologies to build cities where basically exchanging goods, practices and ideas and offering protection were the ground for economic and social development. During this historical process, and particularly in recent years, the urban fabrics, already marked by the complexity of all human organisations, became more and more technically complex. Mankind recently developed, beyond Cartesian thinking, specific disciplines to approach the more technically complex systems that were to be designed and manufactured such as airplanes, spacecraft etc. The new paradigm, that any elements of a system can't be designed properly if someone loses the link to the system itself and even to the exterior of the system, looks particularly relevant in the field of urban design. Indeed the more advanced technologies have been introduced in urban systems in a sectorial approach losing then the necessary transverse approaches and generating unwanted side effects. Therefore systems engineering and architectures looks very promising but unlike industrial systems one shall not forget that urban systems exist whether designed or not as highly dynamic systems operated by existing or future populations.

Evolutions are taking places even in their boundaries (cities consume lands of adjacent territories) and in their functions (a shipbuilding port may evolve into a new technological centre of production). Two key principles should then be ensured by stakeholders wishing to develop new tools adapting industrial systems design to urban systems design: the first is to organise the accessibility for all stakeholders, the urban political governance and the urban technicians of course but also for the populations, residents or not and the second being to develop observation systems to monitor progress and provide understanding tools of the evolving complexities to help stakeholder adjusting their policies. A third one should be added, more technical, but is mainly the necessary technological conclusion of the first two : the toolbox needed must be open i.e. interoperable in between all sub-systems and solutions, and ever evolving as cities are not build for a certain duration but possibly for eternity!