Interaction rituals and co-presence – linking humans to humans in space syntax theory
Paper in proceedings, 2015

There are two fundamental theoretical links necessary to make for a robust foundation of space syntax methodology. The first concerns the link between humans and their environment, where space syntax has contributed to the development of what can be called a cognitive geometry for the analysis of spatial form. The second is the link between humans and humans, that is, the generation of social processes, where space syntax has highlighted the idea of co-presence as critical in such processes. However, these issues are far from exhausted in space syntax theory or even always convincingly argued. It is therefore the aim of this paper to further contribute to the second of these issues and in a parallel paper to contribute to the first. The ability of spatial configuration to support critical relations between humans and humans is essential to space syntax theory where it already in the early texts of space syntax theory is argued that space, far from simply constituting a background to society is a social material in itself (Hillier & Hanson 1984). More specifically this is argued with reference to Durkheim’s theory about different forms of social solidarity (Durkheim 1984). Further attempts to link space syntax methodology to sociological theory has been made (e.g. Hanson 2000; Hillier & Vaughan 2007). However, these attempts have also been criticized from within sociology, notwithstanding strong recognition of the potential contribution of space syntax (e.g. Liebst 2014). This paper aims to contribute to a more robust theory on how spatial configuration supports the link between humans and humans, that is, social phenomena, based on earlier arguments by Liebst, that also can be accepted from within sociology, which, it will be argued, is essential for the further development of the field. First, in supporting a stronger understanding of space syntax itself as not being sociological theory proper, but rather a theory and, not least, a methodology in what Durkheim called social morphology. Second, open for stronger rapport between space syntax with the social sciences in general and sociology in particular by presenting a socio-spatial foundation based on established sociological theory. This theoretical contribution will be based on the central sociological micro-tradition from Emile Durkheim’s later work on rituals (2001), over Ervin Goffman’s micro-spatial analysis of interaction rituals (e.g. 1963), to Randall Collins attempts to form a broad general sociology based on the micro- scale study of interaction ritual chains (2004). A similar contribution, however with different emphasises, can be found in Legeby (2013). It will be argued that this tradition presents a most appropriate sociological framework for space syntax claims to sociological relevance that is highly recognised within sociology in itself.


Space syntax theory

interaction ritual



Lars Marcus

Chalmers, Architecture

Karimi, K., et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 10th International Space Syntax Symposium, UCL, London, UK, 13-17 July 2015

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

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