Category Archives: Landscape

Building a Smart City modelling team

Integrated Urban Model

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Cities planning their future are increasingly turning to the production of Integrated Urban Models. These are tools that bring together various datasets on different asoects of urban performance, from the behaviour of people to the flows of energy, water and other utilities. The aim is to better predict the future of cities by better understanding how they are currently working.

This is a nascent but rapidly developing field in which knowledge is emerging and evolving at a pace. Given the complexity of cities it is a good idea to involve many specialists in different subjects, led by an Urban Modelling Advisory Panel (UrbanMAP).  I suggest the UrbanMAP, like any good team, is made up of 11 people, comprising:

1.    a transport technologist with expertise in walk/bike as well as road/transit

2.    an infrastructure engineer with utilities capacity expertise

3.    a real estate economist with expertise in locational analytics/spatial economics (housing & jobs)

4.    an environmental planning specialist with expertise in the analysis of on-land, on-water and in-air phenomena

5.    a construction expert

6.    a health expert

7.    an anthropologist with expertise in the technological analysis of human behaviour and cultural identity

8.    an architect/urban planner/designer with expertise in the creative use of technology

9.    a social media technologist with expertise in semantic analysis of online content

10.    a data integration specialist with expertise in statistical/correlational analysis and predictive analytics

11.    a visualisation specialist with expertise in both 2D and 3D representation.

The group should meet regularly, evolving the vision of the model and the brief for its creation by other consultants.

It should be chaired – or captained – like any good team, by a creative all-rounder: the architect at No.8, whose role is to resolve complexity through elegant and resource-efficient means.

Space Syntax has created an Integrated Urban Model structure to take clients and stakeholders on the “data journey”. We engage stakeholders throughout the process of gathering, visualising and analysing data feeds, then forming ideas and measuring the impact of these. Our experience is that people then develop greater confidence in, and ownership of, the actions that ultimately follow.

Case study
Darwin City Centre Masterplan

Space Syntax City Projects Walk

On Tuesday afternoon, 3rd September, I led a walking tour of built projects by Space Syntax.Space Syntax City Projects Walk

Trafalgar Square

Royal Festval Hall

Tate Modern

One New Change

New Bloomberg Headquarters (under construction)

Willis Building

30 St Mary Axe

Heron Plaza (under construction)

Liverpool Street Station retail concourse

Broadgate, Exchange Square

Barbican Arts Centre Continue reading

Integrated Urban Modelling – Space Syntax’s approach

I’ve written before about the benefits of using science-based models in the planning and design process. I’ve raised concerns about the frequent lack of objective analysis in urban and building projects, and the risks this creates in decision-taking. Basing important decisions on gut instinct and experience, then willing on success with little more than hype, just isn’t good enough.

Integrated Urban Model

Here is a diagram that summarises Space Syntax’s approach to urban modelling. It’s a staged process: collecting datasets; analysing them to identify relationships between urban form and urban performance; drawing out key issues and developing creative ideas – all the time using the model to test proposals. The approach is transparent and communicative – helping stakeholders participate in the process and, most importantly, helping people take decisions that lead to actions and changed behaviours.

It’s more than a pipedream – we’ve been using the model on projects for over 25 years, evolving it through continuous application. And we’ll continue to do so, adapting to the ever richer data context that digital urbanism provides.

And always remembering that the ultimate objective is the creation of behaviour change to the benefit of human wealth, health and education.

Download the presentation

A short film about Space Syntax

Tim Stonor, Managing Director, Space Syntax
“The population of the world is increasing and, as it increases, more and more of us are living in cities. As cities have grown in the 20th century they have often grown to disconnect people.

Space Syntax has discovered that many of these problems in cities – disconnection, lack of contact between people, lack of access to jobs – come down to the way in which the city is planned as a layout of space.”

Ronan Faherty, Commercial Director, Land Securities
“As a developer, the most important thing for us is understanding the consumer and anything that assesses the consumer and helps us understand them provides real value. When you’re putting down a new property into an existing space we want to understand where consumers are coming from and then how they should engage with the property: where we should put escalation and movement and flows. Continue reading

Approaching large scale urban design schemes

On Friday I gave a presentation at a Design Council CABE event, “Inside Design Review”. My talk, “Approaching large scale urban design schemes“, sets out a framework for thinking about the complexity of major urban development proposals.

The end of ages for transport planning and the birth of an era of transaction planning

There is so much interest, from so many different interests, in the future of urban living. This suggests that, whatever else, people suspect that things will change. I’m sure this is right – technology, resource scarcity, population growth, energy shortage and climate change: all are factors that will provoke change. The question is, will these changing “inputs” affect the shape and form of the “output” ie the look and feel of the city?

Again, the short answer is “yes”. But not in a sci-fi, megalopolis, flying cars kind of way. Nor in a “let’s all abandon the city and live in rural bliss, connected to each other by the Internet”.

The reality, if done well, will look and feel strikingly familiar. We will in the main, by necessity, live at density and travel on foot and by bike, making lots of small journeys and a few larger ones. Likewise we will, by necessity eat local, reduce, recycle, reuse. Cities will be incredibly green because we will, by necessity need to harvest rainwater, prevent runoff, shade streets.

The effects on social and economic productivity will be enormous. The quality of human interaction will be enhanced.

Having been through an era of evermore globally connected urbanism, with the consequently divisive effects of major traffic arteries on local communities and the throttling or urban centres by that 60s badge of honour, the ring road, we will move to an age of continuously connected, convivial, landscaped urbanism.

For me, this can be summed up as a change from “transport planning” to “transaction planning”. This will necessitate an end of ages for the traffic engineer and the birth of an era of sophisticated, humane urbanism.

The pull of the park

Gosforth Shopping Centre opened in 1979: an internalised world of covered shopping. The centre offered a pedestrian-only alternative to the busy traffic of Gosforth High Street, historically the retail backbone of the town. Although a few storefronts opened onto the High Street, the greater part of the High Street frontage was taken up by the doorless side of a supermarket (originally Presto and currently Sainsbury’s). The majority of units, including the supermarket, opened onto the internal mall.

Lest it be a distraction to the act of retail consumption, the centre turned its back on Gosforth Central Park, the main open space of the town. The blank wall of the centre can be seen beyond the trees in the view below.

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The effect of this long, unpunctured elevation was visually and functionally negative – it looked terrible and it blocked access between the park and the High Street, each in its own right a major destination in the town.

Unsurprisingly (for most people but not for the designers and investors in the original project) the shopping centre never lived up to the potential of its location. While Gosforth thrived, house prices rose and the general sense of affluence increased, the shopping centre remained as it had from the very beginning – lifeless and soulless. The world quite literally passed it by.

Continue reading

Exhibition – “Chile. Beyond landscape”

14th April-17th May 2011
National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest, Romania

Space Syntax Romania director Christian Beros has curated an exhibition of Chilean architecture.

“In the past 20 years, Chilean architecture has earned a place on the covers of some of the most prestigious journals, books and sites recognized by contemporary architecture. The projects presented are most often linked with the dramatic scenery on the shores of the Pacific rocky cliffs, deserts, ice fields of Patagonia, the extreme conditions of living and production “architectural” in such environments…

By contrast, we were interested in generational experiences and projects that create a new direction in Chile, going further than their predecessors, exploring new areas and interfaces between the architecture, arts and technology.”

Further details

The pace of change – is “online” a reflection of “urban”?

One of the challenges in achieving an integration of thinking between hackers and urbanists is the rate of change online. Will the massive experimentation currently underway on the internet continue at a pace, or settle down as norms are established and protocols emerge? Perhaps the same protocols that make it possible for people to live in cities. We sometimes call them “manners” or “cultural norms” and we know when they are being broken. Equally so, we call them street networks and we generally understand now to navigate them. We don’t all have to follow manners and streets but they offer a guide to behaviour and they make the difference between structured living and chaos.

How social networking protocols are established online will, in return, influence the social dynamic of future city living, perhaps as much as the efforts of planners and architects to structure social encounter by virtue of where we place things (buildings) and how we connect them together (streets, utilities and transport networks). This is because the people using online space and the people using urban space are the same people. Continue reading

From landscapes of extraction to creative industries of organic matter & waste

​​Monday, 14th February 2011 at 6pm
Stubbins Room, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Participants
Pablo Rey, Basurama
Manolo Mansylla, Trashpatch
Robin Nagle, anthropologist of material culture (waste)
Scientist doing research in biomaterials (Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering/ Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

Moderator
Richard Forman
 
Abstract 
Technology has no limits. Science has no limits. Human creativity and imagination have no limits. The limits are imposed by matter. Raw materials are being extracted from the remotest of geographies and we are beginning to exhaust the last reservoirs of available minerals in order to perpetuate a production system based on disposability and the consumption of wholes, not parts; of large, not small; of new, not old; of multiple, not the one that is needed. In order to extract such minerals, we often deplete forests, along with the cultures that inhabit them, or contaminate river basins. Science and technology can produce brilliant responses to our environmental problems, but unless they take into account the source of the materials they consume, the counter landscapes of extraction, those of waste and slums (people get displaced as we render their land useless through monoculture or extraction), will continue to grow; setting off our good intentions to move towards a more sustainable future. Continue reading