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Place Syntax: Geographic accessibility with axial lines in GIS
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Architecture, Urban Design. (Spatial Analysis and Design (SAD))
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Architecture, Urban Design. (Spatial analysis and Design (SAD))
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Transport Science. (Transport and Location Analysis)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5290-6101
2005 (English)In: Proceedings, Fifth international space syntax symposium / [ed] van Nes, A., Delft: Techne Press, 2005, 131-144 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Since the beginning there has been a strong and pervasive emphasis within space syntax on description. In a not so often referred to text (Hillier et al 1984a) this is put quite straightforward: “For the architectural researcher, the question ought to be crystallised as his or her most pressing concern, since how can any investigation be truly systematic unless the architectural variable can be controlled?” It might sound self-evident to researchers within most disciplines but within architecture the subject of description is often treated without the necessary scientific care. From the beginning there has also been a strong conviction that architecture needs to be described and studied in its concrete manifestations, that is as architec­tural physical form rather than as architectural ideas, hence the residence of space syntax in architectural and urban morphology rather than architectural history and theory. It also seems likely that this development of form-studies within architectural research can contribute much to other disciplines.

One such discipline that could gain from architectural research of this kind is geography and transportation science with its wide range of subdisciplines, where the field of accessibility research is the one that comes closest to space syntax. As a matter of fact, from within this field space syntax is likely to be regarded as nothing else than a special case of accessibility, for example: “[…] space syntax which we consider a special case of accessibility within graphs” (Batty 2004a). In a simplistic sense the difference between space syntax and accessibility research in general has to do with scale, where accessibility research to the most part have been conducted on a comprehensive geographic level, while space syntax deal with a more detailed geometric or morphological level. But in a more specific and interesting sense the difference has to do with the epistemological foundations for either field, where space syntax, even though to a large part rooted in a mathematical para­digm just like accessibility research, also draws in an interesting way from an experiential and cognitive paradigm, something pointed out by Seamon (1994) and specifically discussed in recent papers by Hillier (2003a and b).

Against this background it seems most useful to try to use space syntax descriptions when bringing accessibility research to the more detailed scale of urban settings, foremost by bringing the experiential dimension to such studies. This has also been both suggested and done by Jiang et al (1999), where both the mathematical background and the actual development of a software extension Axwoman for the GIS ArcInfo using space syntax are presented. In our paper a similar route is taken leading to the development of a software extension called The Place Syntax Tool for the GIS Mapinfo, but where the emphasizes lie on the empirical testing of such a device rather than its mathematical theory.

Our tests we believe show results that open new possibilities for not only accessibility research in general but specifically space syntax as well. For accessibility research in that the descrip­tions developed within space syntax, such as the axial map, are shown to work better in predicting such things as pedestrian movement than conventional descriptions within spatial analysis. For space syntax in that the results show how similar predictions within space syntax can be improved with the possibility to load the axial map with geographical data. We fur­thermore believe that this marriage between accessibility and architectural research have episte­mological implications of great use for urban planning practice, in that it brings to such practice knowledge that rests on descriptions that take into account the experiential dimension, where knowledge traditionally within this field rests on rather abstract system-descriptions. Implicit in this we see nothing less than a possible displacement of power.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Delft: Techne Press, 2005. 131-144 p.
Keyword [en]
urban form, spatial analysis, space syntax, pedestrian movement, axial line, place syntax tool
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-53312ISBN: 90-8594-002-8OAI: diva2:469861
Fifth international space syntax symposium
QC 20120116Available from: 2012-01-16 Created: 2011-12-27 Last updated: 2012-01-16Bibliographically approved

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