Suburban Navigation Structural Coherence and Visual Appearance in Urban Design
Doctoral thesis, 2003
This thesis is written within the field of architecture and urban design. Its main subject is the morphology of housing estate suburbs that were built in Sweden from the 1940s to the 1970s. With the issue of environmental legibility as point of departure, structural and visual properties of urban settings are studied. The transformation of relationships between the basic urban elements streets, buildings, and open space during the investigated period is illuminated, as well as changes in spatial configuration. While the ideals for urban growth were the same during the period, the gradual changes of principles for layouts of urban elements led in the end to fundamentally different conditions for urban life. The thesis argues that these morphological transformations among other things resulted in a loss of legibility. Orientation is more difficult in the latter areas of the period, where patterns of buildings are not coherent with patterns of movement networks.
The thesis is based on three empirical studies: the first one a historical account of the morphological transformations with examples mainly from Göteborg; the second one a space syntax study, which highlights the particular spatial and functional conditions in the housing estate areas; and the third one a study where cognitive maps are used to compare points of reference for orientation in three urban typologies.
In a wider sense, the central theme of the thesis is connected to general urban qualities, understood as spatial potentials for encounters and exchange. The findings of the thesis can be used in architectural and urban design to address issues of urban qualities in suburban settings, and thus to improve spatial conditions for everyday life there.