Category Archives: Sustainability

UK Spatial Infrastructure Model

Slide1

This is a model of the spatial infrastructure of Great Britain (and will soon include Northern Ireland to become a model of the United Kingdom). It allows us to zoom in and out on cities, towns and villages as well as the connections between them. It also lets us understand the hierarchy of connections at different scales – which routes are more important at a local, pedestrian scale and which are more important at a cross-country, car scale. More important routes are coloured red, then orange and green to less well connected routes in blue.

The colours are created by a computer program that calculates how likely it is that any route will be travelled along by people going from anywhere to anywhere else. The program tries many different kinds of journeys: longer ones right across the UK to shorter ones within local neighbourhoods. By doing so it simulates the real nature of movement in the UK: some is longer-distance and some shorter.

Origins of the model
My colleagues and I at Space Syntax have developed this model because we passionately believe that the practice of planning needs support through more effective, science-based tools. This particular tool allows us to simultaneously think about local as well as global journeys between places. It lets us analyse pedestrian, cycle and car journeys at the same time and within a single modelling framework. There is no other model that does so. Our plan is for the model to be disseminated into urban planning practice so that practitioners can use it in a hands-on way first, to understand how places are currently working and then to plan change. By using the model, people can clearly see the impact of the proposed change.

We are dissatisfied with the current situation in the delivery of urban infrastructure in the United Kingdom which is led predominantly by transport modelling that prioritises the car. This approach has created car-dependent development that isolates people who either can’t drive, don’t have access to a car or prefer not to drive. Our argument is that you get what you are given and what people have been given by the spatial planning industry is based on models that only assess car journeys. We haven’t had cycling models; we haven’t had pedestrian models. It’s no surprise then that we have poor pedestrian infrastructure and poor cycle infrastructure. We have housing estates cut off from shopping centres.

Using this model we can now think about providing infrastructure that works for all modes of movement. Our experience shows that this leads to more sustainable places that deliver financial returns and create social conviviality.

Spatial Layout as Critical Infrastructure

Stub…notes for an upcoming conference talk

Key issue to be addressed:

- Urban-Rural development

- Urban Regeneration

- Smart Cities.

When a network of streets is laid out, planners and designers build in an enormous amount of “embedded potential”:

  • the pattern of movement
  • land use potential
  • safety
  • land value
  • social interaction
  • public health
  • carbon emissions.

The design of the street network has a fundamental and measurable influence on each of the above.

Later changes – to land use pattern or to the local design of streets (eg road widening or narrowing, adding cycle lanes or public transport) – can enhance or even diminish these potentials, but such later changes always occur around a benchmark that is set by spatial configuration decisions.

Buildings come and go – are built and demolished – but the spatial network, once laid out, is harder to adjust.

Exceptional new connections – such as bridges – can be built to connect disconnected networks but grids are resilient to change. Therefore, putting the wrong grid into an urban development can be a pathological move, setting the socio-economic potential of places for generations to come.

How do we know this?

The evidence-base: post-war housing estates; UK New Towns. Places that go wrong within a generation, if that – sometimes within a few years. Car-dominant transport planning. Land use zoning.

Risk of failed UK models.

In finding a balance between the tension of urban and rural development, Chinese towns and cities should learn from China first:

- mixed use planning: marginal separation by linear integration.

- mixed mode planning: roads, streets, lanes, canals: Jiading.

- mixed character planning.

What are the Spatial Layout requirements?

The historic Chinese grid: rectilinear hierarchy.

Pervasive centrality.

A smart street-grid.

To be developed…

Spatial Planning and the Future of Cities

How might cities be planned in the future?

This is not only a question of how they might look but also, and more importantly, about how they might be laid out as patterns of buildings and spatial connections.

Laying out a city means answering two key questions: “what goes where?” and the “how does it all connect together?” The answers to these questions have fundamental implications for the social, economic and environmental performance of urban places. And the jury is out as to which is the best way to do so: to use spatial planning to create place.

The global urban risk is that architects and planners have created, and continue to create, highly unsustainable city layouts – car dependent, socially divisive, congested and life-suppressing. And, it would seem, the more technologically advanced cities have become, the less efficiently they have worked.

By contrast, the street-based, continuously connected grid – the kind of layout that the slow, incremental evolution of cities produced before the intervention of modernism – has largely fallen out of fashion.

My argument in this piece is that the continuously connected grid is the only form of urban layout that can deliver sufficient social, economic and environmental value. The only kind of grid that is truly sustainable. Continue reading

Smart City Planning & Design Principles

Smart Cities are smart in two ways. First, they harness technologies to improve the way that urban places are led and managed. Second, they create better outcomes for the people that use them. This two-pronged approach applies to all aspects of Smart Cities.

When it comes to the planning and design of Smart Cities, technology can improve:

1. the performance of the places that are produced by planning and design (the outcomes)

2. the processes involved in creating plans and designs (the inputs).

A Smart City approach should direct the capabilities of urban planners and designers to:

1. facilitate effective human transaction in new and existing places

2. provide access to places of transaction, both physical and digital: on-land and on-line

3. support the mobility required to access these places of transaction by providing networks of connectivity for all modes of transport, both physical (walking cycling rolling driving) and digital

4. take an outcomes-oriented (ie transactions & emissions) approach first and foremost, aware of the inputs required (ie materials, energy & mobility) to achieve these desired objectives

5. provide effective analytic and forecasting tools aimed at social economic and environmental impacts.

UrbanRural: one system, many tensions

Notes from a meeting with the Beijing Institute of Agriculture and Forestry at Space Syntax London, 18th September 2013.

Common themes
Production
The rural landscape is a place of production. So is the city: production of goods and production of ideas.

Protection
Protection of natural assets in the rural landscape. Protection of historic buildings in the city. Avoidance of pollution in both. Protection of water courses – natural and artificial in both.

Waste
Avoidance of waste in both urban and rural settings. The rural landscape as the wastebasket of the urban landscape. Tension.

Movement
Conflicts in the rural landscape between local movement (agricultural productivity) and urban-rural movement (commuting). Tension. 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

Darwin CBD – Workshop 1 – Transcript of Tim Stonor’s presentation

Given by audio link to Darwin CBD Masterplan Workshop 1 on 21st August 2013.
Download the presentation, including voiceover

“Good afternoon, everybody.

My name is Tim Stonor. I’m the Managing Director of Space Syntax and unfortunately I’m not able to join you for the workshop today. But my colleague Eime Tobari is with you and will be able to address any questions you may have at the end of this presentation. I did though have the pleasure of being in Darwin a couple of months ago and had the chance then to meet colleagues and discuss some of the issues facing the future of the city.

Today, I want to give you a presentation about the Spatial System of the city – it’s route network, its streets, its pedestrian pathways – and how these can work to improve the movement of people across the city; the bringing together of people in space to trade socially and economically. And I want to show you the work that Space Syntax has done to date in analysing the strength currently of spatial connections in the city and then analysing some opportunities for future growth.

But I want to start by looking at some issues that face all cities worldwide, and especially the issue of the private car and its place alongside other modes of transport, namely public transport and walking. Many cities worldwide have got the balance wrong and they have over-provided for private transport and under-provided for those other modes to their cost. Continue reading

Smart Cities World Expo – speaking notes

Spatial layout influences
Human behaviour:

1. Movement

2. Awareness

3. Interaction

4. Transaction.

Spatial layout benefits
1. Economy
- productivity
- innovation
- building & campus performance

2. Health
- active travel
- access to healthcare
- building & campus performance

3. Social cohesion
- the spatial network creates the social network

4. Safety
- property theft
- personal attack

5. Environmental performance

6. Educational achievement
- access to education
- building & campus performance

7. Cultural identity

Spatial layout
Is defined by:

1. Location

2. Linkage

3. Layout

4. Land use

5. Landscape

These are each measurable commodities/parameters. They are the building blocks of human behaviour and, ultimately, cultural identity.

Our proposal
To put spatial analysis at the heart of city systems integration. As the common ground. As the core code of the urban operating system.

A smart city
Is one which:

1. recognises the fundamental role of Spatial Layout Design

2. embraces a technology-driven approach to Spatial Layout Analysis

3. embeds Spatial Layout Analysis in the Planning and Management of the city

4. evaluates investment decisions using Spatial Layout Analysis.

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

Life by a thousand connections

Background
The everyday actions of architects and urban planners influence the everyday physical activity of people by creating the networks of streets and public spaces through which people move. Similarly, inside buildings, the layout of space influences the degree to which people move around.

The precise mechanisms through which spatial patterns influence behaviour patterns are increasingly well understood by the academic community. Physical connections are key: well-located pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes, bridges over rivers and canals, simple and direct routes through housing areas and town centres. Well-located shops and public buildings are key: within walking and cycling distance. Good quality paving matters, as does good lighting.

Nevertheless, this scientific knowledge is not yet part of everyday practice. Some of these findings run counter to accepted planning practice, not least transport planning practice.

Nor is the connection between planning/design on one hand and physical civility/health on the other embedded in practice. The world of architectural and urban planning practice is heavily silo-ed. Health outcomes are not a priority for architects and planners. Continue reading

Quality Streetscapes Conference notes

My slides

This first part of this presentation introduces a new approach to valuing urban design – one which allows design decisions to be embedded in real estate valuation calculations. The approach connects design to the rateable value of retail, commercial and residential property offerings. It allows investment decisions to be related directly to design proposals, showing how Proposal A will generate more long term value than Proposal B. The tool is already being used in practice.

Part Two describes Space Syntax Limited’s plans to disseminate its science-based, human-focused approach to urban planning and design. Key to this is the creation of an Academy to provide training to professional and non-professional stakeholders. Continue reading

Future Cities_Cities of Transaction

Thinking about the future of cities is not a new challenge. From Christopher Wren’s plan for the post-fire rebuilding of London in 1666 to Ebenezer Howards’s Garden City concept, to Le Corbusier, to Bladerunner, human ingenuity has been tasked with anticipating the future.

A problem, if we care to admit it, is that these plans tend to fail. Look at what replaced Wren’s ideas: more of the same. Or, consider the legacy of post-war housing and the New Towns movement: social and spatial isolation. Car dependency. Traffic congestion.

Why should this be? Continue reading

Notes for AGI Conference talk: Measure, map, model, make

My slides

Great placemaking is a process combining art and science. There is a place for both and indeed a need for both. Two problems. First, urban planning is largely an analogue discipline. Too many diagrams and watercolours. Not enough science. And, when science is present, it is seen as an adjunct, not as a driver.

Space Syntax has harnessed a scientific technique and used it to drive a creative process. This scientific technique is geospatial. It is all about what goes where and how it is connected together. This should be of interest to this conference. Continue reading

AoU Landscape Urbanism notes & questions

These notes accompany a PowerPoint presentation Fragmented urbanism: the rise of Landscape Urbanism & the threat it poses to the continuously connected city

TS intro
This is a crucial moment for urbanism. In the UK, The Portas Review, highlighting the UK’s threatened high streets. Around the world, cities are growing faster than ever. But cities – as we knew them – are under threat.

First, from the car. Car-dependent urbanism is the principal form of urbanism on the planet. our cities have become so fragmented by road systems in the last century that it is now almost impossible not to be far dependent – not without a major demolition and reconnection programme.

Second, from designers, accepting of the car and intellectualising around this complicity.

The aim of this talk
I have been forming my own views about Landscape Urbanism and am looking to raise a discussion within the Academy of Urbanism and beyond. Do people agree with me? If so, how do we respond? If not, why not?

Summary of the Landscape Urbanism aesthetic
Parcels of grey wrapped by ribbons of green

Landscape Urbanism as anti-ecological
“If you have a culture that is fundamentally automobile-based, then an urban model that is anti-automobile is counterintuitive at best. There’s a strange precept these days that asserts that people will abandon their cars if we simply build cities that don’t accommodate them”.
Charles Waldheim

Notes
Island bio-geography.

Scale – JW.

Water.

Interim uses eg temporary food production. How can this be coded?

Layouts need to be walkable and workable.

Working with the grain of nature.

GRABS – green and blue spaces.

“It was good to find out about a new academic threat to good sense, and I very much agree with your doubts about the universal value of green space.

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.

EPSRC Innovate 11: Working with universities

London, 11th October 2011

Tim Stonor
Opportunities & barriers

Intro
Space Syntax Limited an SME working in the Creative Industries, specifically architecture and urban planning. A consulting company.

Engaging in projects from high value real estate developments in the City of London to the regeneration of slum settlements. Outside urban space & inside building space. Dealing with issues of movement & interaction and how these influence value: social, economic & environmental.

Specifically, engaging with the EPSRC in its key knowledge domains of:
Global uncertainties
Climate change
Energy
Continue reading

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.

20110628-054807.jpg

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