An analytical approach to urban form
Book chapter, 2018
The focus of space-morphology, a specific branch in urban morphology, is to ‘uncover the fundamental characteristics of urban geometries’ (Moudon in Ordering space: types in architecture and design. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, p. 289–311, 1992) and ‘enrich the description of built form in ways that express aspects of performance and function’ (Peponis in Investigative modeling and spatial analysis: a commentary of directions. p. 2, 2014). Two research directions are important when discussing space-morphology, both developed in the UK during the 1970s. First, the work at the Centre of Land Use and Built Form at Cambridge University directed by Leslie Martin and Lionel March and their seminal work ‘the grid as generator’ (Martin and March in Urban space and structures. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1972). Recently, this direction received renewed attention with publications such as ‘Streets & Patterns’ by Marshall (Urban Des Int 17:257–271, 2005) and ‘Space, density and urban form’ by Berghauser Pont and Haupt (Spacematrix: space, density and urban form. NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, 2010). Second, the Unit for Architectural Studies at University College London, directed by Bill Hillier, that developed in what we today know as the Space Syntax laboratory. Besides the description of these two directions in what we call space-morphology, this chapter will discuss how these two directions can be combined and how this can benefit the other schools of urban morphology, not least when it comes to identifying typologies. Typologies, being specific combinations of spatial properties, perform and function in specific ways and can be an effective way to inform urban design and planning practice when they intervene in cities and change these types or add new ones. Such an evidence-based approach puts new demands on the education of architects, urban planners and designers.