THE THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS OF A THEORY OF SPATIAL CAPITAL
Paper i proceeding, 2017
The world is witnesses unprecedented urbanization bringing extreme challenges to contemporary practices in urban planning and design. Global knowledge production has in response ‘turned urban’ leading to a tremendous out-put of new knowledge about cities world-wide from a broad range of fields. At the same time, it is increasingly recognised that what is lacking for a change of our cities into greater sustainability is not so much more knowledge about different urban systems as knowledge about how to change the trajectories of these systems – there typically is an implementation deficit in current research and knowledge on cities.
A typical character of contemporary research on cities, apart from the tremendous quantitative increase, is also its diversification into an extraordinary range of fields. Today Urban Geography, Urban Sociology, Urban Economics and Urban Ecology, which used to represent the periphery of their respective disciplines, are increasingly coming to constitute their core. Naturally this also builds barriers between disciplines, not so much due to disciplinary chauvinism as the simple fact that expertise in this academic range is near impossible to achieve. However, an alternative approach may be to look for what is common for all these fields rather than what is particular and when speaking of cities there is one such entity necessary for any discipline that want to call itself urban to address and that is space.
It has in space syntax research earlier been argued that space may constitute a “common language”, whereby we may jointly understand social, economic and environmental systems in cities (Hillier 1999). This paper presents an extension of that ambition by presenting the outline of a theory of spatial form where it is argued how spatial form can be directly related to social, economic and ecological urban systems. To accomplish this, it also briefly refers to a model of urban spatial form that extends established space syntax models (Marcus et al. 2017), which primarily deals with distance variables, to also include variables of density and differentiation. The paper ends by arguing that due to the fact that spatial form to a large degree conditions the performance of more or less any urban system, it constitutes a form of capital that represents a tremendous value.