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.
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.
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.
Space Syntax is keen to play a role in initiatives that embed the Space Syntax approach in everyday urban practice. The watchword is “dissemination”. Our aim is to create a professional landscape that uses Space Syntax as an everyday approach to the planning, designing and general governance of places.
Here are some of my thoughts about the potential structure of an urban design course, which are largely about using this as an opportunity to break down many of the barriers that conventionally get in the way of good urban design:
1. combine art and science: especially the importance of a science-informed approach to urban design, which is often missing
2. combine creative and analytic/disciplines: bring together designers and analysts in an intellectual cocktail
3. combine design, planning, infrastructure engineering, finance, governance, legals
4. put the human being at the heart of it all Continue reading
This morning’s announcement by the UK government about the preferred route of the proposed ‘High Speed 2’ rail line north of Birmingham raises, quite rightly, the issue of economic impact and its geographic spread. Will the line draw commerce north, or make it even easier to pull southwards towards London’s greater critical mass?
One way in to the problem is to ask: who will take these trains, or rather: where will they have come from when they get on and where will they be going once they get off? In other words, to consider the total passenger journey.
History tells us through the footprint of human settlement worldwide that economic production is greatest in urban centres. The planet’s continued growth towards cities, despite all recent developments in mobile and online communications, suggests the trend is here to stay. HS2 should bear this urban imperative in mind. Continue reading
Yesterday’s launch by think tank Policy Exchange of a report calling for the removal of inner-city high rise estates and their replacement with streets is a welcome contribution to discussions about the design of future cities. The report, authored by Create Streets, concludes that high rise estates are unsafe, antisocial and economically substandard. By proposing to replace estates with streets, the authors claim they are responding to residents’ concerns. They also say that well designed streets can provide just as much housing as sprawling estates.
The argument for street-based living appears to be straightforward: people like streets and they deliver economically. Yet it isn’t as simple as this and the report quite rightly references research by Savills, Space Syntax and the Brookings Institute that shows the importance of street layout. There are better, well-connected, well used streets and less good, disconnected, poorly used streets. Continue reading
Old Street Roundabout is a heady intersection of urban movement flows: on foot, on cycles and in vehicles, including the Tube. But it is currently a mess, out of place within the surrounding network of generally convivial streets. In order to appreciate the severely negative condition of the place you only have to walk to Old Street Roundabout from a few hundred metres in any direction to witness the sudden, dramatic degradation of public space, the increase in traffic speeds and the disappearance of pedestrians into subways.
Yet, as a nexus of movement, the Old Street junction has the urban design foundations – the DNA of urbanism – to be a great public space, serving the local area as well as acting as a global emblem of Tech City. Not a valley, glen or vale but a truly urban object: a forum, a plaza, a piazza, a market place a square: Old Street Square. Or even, in keeping with the open source/open access aspirations of many in the technology community: Old Street Commons. For this to happen, the public realm of the Old Street junction needs to be overhauled. Radically. Continue reading
On 15th November 2012, UK Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, visited the Space Syntax London studio.
Spatial layout influences
Spatial layout benefits
- building & campus performance
- active travel
- access to healthcare
- building & campus performance
3. Social cohesion
- the spatial network creates the social network
- property theft
- personal attack
5. Environmental performance
6. Educational achievement
- access to education
- building & campus performance
7. Cultural identity
Is defined by:
4. Land use
These are each measurable commodities/parameters. They are the building blocks of human behaviour and, ultimately, cultural identity.
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.
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
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
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
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 following images of Berlin have been prepared by Anna Rose and Christian Schwander at Space Syntax Limited as part of a wider study of the city. They show the pattern of “spatial integration” in Berlin at three key periods in history: 1940, 1989 and 2011. The colours read like a temperature scale, with highest levels of integration in red, orange then yellow, and lower levels of integration in green, blue then dark blue. Spatial integration measures the degree to which an urban street is connected into the overall street network. Connectedness is a key influence on the social, economic and environmental performance of urban places. The effects of the post-war division are clear, with the once integrated centre becoming disconnected until Reunification after 1989.
Notes for a lecture to be given at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 23rd March 2011
With notable exceptions, the current use of technology in planning and, especially, urban design/architecture practice is medieval. More visual than analytic. More about the “Wow!” than the “Why?”, the “Which?” or the “Will it?” Example of animation in traffic models – “Our clients like to see them move!”
Urban imperative – rapid scaling up of urban centres – provokes need for new thinking.
We need to look more at how places work than how they look.
We need to bring academic research into practice and for academia to be better led by the needs of practice.
We need to think about online social networks as well as “real-world” physical/spatial networks. Indeed real world is as much online as physical/spatial.
We need to share our data. The future will be made by great partnerships, not great individuals. It has arguably ever thus been.
Open source makes commercial as well as ethical sense as the route to collaboration.
Space Syntax as the case study. Continue reading
Community prosperity means social, economic and environmental prosperity. Each of these dimensions is strongly influenced by the physical design of the places where people live. Physical design influences human behaviour, which in turn influences community prosperity. The most important aspect of physical design is connectedness. Connectedness can be measured scientifically. Its effects on societal wealth have been identified by UK scientific research over the last forty years.
Yesterday evening, Ed Parham gave a talk at the Graduate School of Design on Space Syntax’s work redesigning unplanned settlements in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Despite the really awful weather, which turned Cambridge into a pedestrian sludge, there was a full house.
Ed showed how Jeddah’s unplanned settlements share a common spatial property of being locally walkable but globally disconnected from the bigger movement structure of the city. This supresses the economic potential of these places. To counter this, the Space Syntax team has developed Area Action Plans for dozens of unplanned settlements, identifying opportunities to bridge between the local and global movement networks with new streets lined with commercial activity. These streets allow the unplanned settlements to trade outwards in new ways.
The big question raised by this work is: to what degree should unplanned settlements be reintegrated into the spatial fabric of the city? To a degree, the spatial distinction of these places creates a cultural identity for the inhabitants, with certain social benefits. The risk of reintegration is that this identity will be diluted or even lost by the new flow of movement, social identity and capital through the unplanned areas.
Ed described how, in fact, a spatial hierarchy can be created that leaves much of the original spatial fabric intact, especially the fine-grained, more residential and more spatially segregated fabric that helps to structure the cultural identity of the unplanned settlements. The long audience discussion that followed Ed’s talk showed how relevant the challenge of urban connectivity is to urban practice.
Monday, 14th February 2011 at 6pm
Stubbins Room, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
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)
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
Harvard Graduate School of Design, 18th January 2011, 6:30pm
With the world population of slum dwellers set to increase to 2 billion over the next 30 years, the need to provide adequate living conditions for the urban poor is recognised as a major challenge. Political and economic pressure to implement improvements quickly, often means that the contribution slums make to the wider city is not recognised as part of the solution.
Using the case study of his work in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Ed Parham of Space Syntax will explain how advanced techniques of spatial analysis have been used to identify a core spatial problem at the heart of the slum condition. These techniques have been used further to develop solutions in the form of individual area profiles, city-wide prioritisation strategies, settlement-specific needs-based improvement strategies, and to help generate detailed area action plans. Based on in-depth knowledge of the role and importance of spatial networks in cities, these solutions can be implemented incrementally and flexibly with the long-term aim of reintegrating the unplanned settlements, and their residents, through the minimum disruption.