Space syntax is a science-based, human-focused approach that investigates relationships between spatial layout and a range of social, economic and environmental phenomena including patterns of movement, public space use, land use and crime distribution. Space syntax theory and technology were pioneered in the 1970s by Prof Bill Hillier and colleagues at University College London.
Built on quantitative analysis and geospatial computer technology, space syntax provides a set of evidence-based techniques for the analysis of spatial configurations of all kinds, especially where spatial configuration seems to be a significant aspect of human affairs, as it is in buildings and urban areas. Applied in both academic research and practice, space syntax theory and technology treats cities and buildings ‘space first’, that is as the network of spaces that people use and move through.
Key research findings
Research using the space syntax approach has shown:
– how movement patterns and flows in cities are powerfully shaped by the street network
– how this relation shapes the evolution of the local centres and sub-centres that makes cities liveable
– how patterns of security and insecurity are affected by spatial design
– how spatial segregation and social disadvantage are related in cities
– how buildings can create more interactive organisational cultures.
Research areas & practical applications
The space syntax approach was conceived to help architects simulate the likely effects of their designs on the people who occupied and moved around in them, be they buildings or urban settlements. It has since grown around the world in a variety of research areas and practical applications.
Space syntax theory and technology have been applied extensively in the fields of architecture, urban design, planning, transportation and interior design. The techniques have also been used for research in archaeology, criminology, information technology, urban and human geography, anthropology and cognitive science.
In practice, space syntax provides a set of planning and design principles as well as a toolkit for the generation and evaluation of ideas.
Introduction to Space Syntax presents an illustrated overview of space syntax theory and technology. It also provides examples of the use of space syntax in practice by Space Syntax Limited, the consulting company created by University College London. Such “live” projects raise fundamental research questions that are fed back from practice to university. The result is a process of knowledge exchange that stimulates innovation, facilitates practice and, ultimately, benefits our buildings and cities.
Professor Alan Penn, Dean at the Bartlett School, University College London, explains how the process works: