The architecture of behaviour

I am delighted to have been invited to this important conference on Italian tourism, to share my experience as an architect, working on the design of tourist destinations in the United Kingdom and overseas. I hope to show how this experience might be relevant in planning and designing the relaunch of Italian tourism. 

Of course, 150 years ago, at the beginning of the new Italian nation, Italy was the ultimate destination for the British, for whom a “Grand Tour” that did not include Italy would have been unthinkable. Today, Italy’s brand value remains high. But times have changed – the UK has become a prime global destination and, like Italy, has recognised the need to retain its appeal by exploiting the historic and contemporary cultural assets that help to define the national identity.

One of the three projects covered in my presentation is the renaissance of the most important public space in England, Trafalgar Square. From there, we move to the English seaside to look at the regeneration of the once booming tourist destination of Margate. Then, we travel overseas to the Middle East and the replanning of an entire city, Jeddah.

In taking this tour, the focus is not on buildings but on people, who are the basic building blocks of societies, cultures and of economies. My aim is to show that there is a great deal to be learned by studying the behaviour of people and designing with the “architecture of behaviour” in mind.

The tour will show that the experience from practice is that Space Syntax technology offers three key benefits:

–  first, a creative benefit – the technology helps planners and designers create better ideas.

–  second, the evidence-base approach allows the impact of proposed ideas to be measured in advance so that plans can be amended and refined to make sure they will work when they are built.

–  third, the process provides support to decision-takers, giving them greater confidence in supporting or, as may be the case, opposing proposed plans.

I hope the presentation demonstrates how tourism strategies can be informed by technology that focuses on people, their behaviour and the social and economic outcomes of that behaviour.

Space Syntax techniques allow existing patterns of tourist behaviour to be recorded and analysed. From this, the predictive ability of the technology allows future patterns of movement and public space use to be forecast in a more robust way than has ever been possible.

The challenge of this conference was to define “the new urban beauty”. In my opinion, the architecture of behaviour is one of its cornerstones.

Introduction to a talk given to the Destinazione Italia conference, Turin, Italy, 30th January 2009 

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