Towards analytical typologies of plot systems: quantitative profile of five European cities
Journal article, 2019
The importance of the plot (also referred to as ‘property’) as one of the fundamental elements of urban form is well recognized within the field of urban morphology. Despite the fact that it is often described as the basic element in the pattern of land divisions, which are essential as organizational frameworks for urban form, studies offering comprehensive descriptions and classifications of plot systems are quite scant. The aim of the paper is to introduce a classification of plot systems into typologies based on five European cities, in order to distinguish particular spatial differences and similarities in terms of their plot structure. The proposed typologies are developed using unsupervised k-means cluster analysis based on numeric attributes derived from central theories in urban morphology. The introduced typologies are essentially configurational, allowing collective systematic properties of plot systems to be captured. Numeric attributes include plot differentiation (or plot size), plot frontage and compactness ratio, corresponding to essential qualities of plot systems such as the capacity to carry differences in space, the ability to operate as interface between street and building and providing a framework for evolution of built form over time. All three attributes are translated into configurational measures in order to capture the context of the plot system, rather than the parameters of individual plots. The combination of these deductively defined variables with algorithmically defined classification methods results in seven plot types that can be used to scale up traditional urban morphological analysis to whole city regions and conduct substantial comparison of patterns within, but also between these regions. Further, it also makes it possible to describe commonly recognized plot patterns and discover new ones.