43rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Peripheries, Centres, and Spatial Development in the New Europe", 27th - 30th August 2003, Jyväskylä, Finland
Spatial analysis and evolution simulation of such complex and dynamic systems as modern urban areas could greatly benefit from the synergy of methods and techniques that constitute the core of the fields of Information Technology and Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, if during the decision making process, a consistent methodology is applied and assisted by a user-friendly interface, premium and pragmatic solution strategies can be tested and evaluated. In such a framework, this paper presents both a prototype Decision Support System and a consorting spatio-temporal methodology, for modelling urban growth. Its main focus is on the analysis of current trends, the detection of the factors that mostly affect the evolution process and the examination of user-defined hypotheses regarding future states of the problem environment. According to the approach, a neural network model is formulated for a specific time intervals and each different group of spatial units, mainly based to the degree of their contiguity and spatial interaction. At this stage, fuzzy logic provides a precise image of spatial entities, further exploited in a twofold way. First, for the analysis and interpretation of up-to-date urban evolution and second, for the formulation of a robust spatial simulation model. It should be stressed, however, that the neural network model is not solely used to define future urban images, but also to evaluate the degree of influence that each variable as a significant of problem parameter, contributes to the final result. Thus, the formulation and the analysis of alternative planning scenarios are assisted. Both the proposed methodological framework and the prototype Decision Support System are utilized during the study of Attica, Greece's principal prefecture and the definition of a twenty-year forecast. The variables considered and projected refer to population data derived from the 1961-1991 censuses and building uses aggregated in ten different categories. The final results are visualised through thematic maps in a GIS environment. Finally, the performance of the methodology is evaluated as well as directions for further improvements and enhancements are outlined. Keywords: Computational geography, Spatial modelling, Neural network models, Fuzzy logic.