Category Archives: Space Syntax

Reflecting ourselves in the city

What can the form of cities tell us about the structure of the human brain? And what can the structure of the brain tell us about the form of the city? These are questions that I’d like to address in this talk. In summary, I believe we can learn a good deal about the interaction between the mind and the urban places in which the global majority of people now live. After all, the city is the largest intentional product of the human species. We’ve had them for millennia and, in them, we’ve manifested our societies, created our industries and developed our cultures. They are the product of our imaginations, the places where we take decisions – and they are the inspiration for new thought. The link, I want to suggest, is not just contextual though. It’s much deeper than that.

Now my role as an architect and urban planner is to design cities, not to probe and dissect brains in the manner of earlier speakers. But that’s not to say that I’m not professionally curious. Far from it because, when architects and urban planners think about the future – where to place new facilities like schools and hospitals, how to connect them with streets, parks and public spaces, and how to make any and all of this look beautiful – when we do any of this we are anticipating human behaviour: how people will flow, where they will want to stop, sit, read a book, interact with friends and colleagues. And in anticipating human behaviour we are attempting to simulate the thought processes, the decision sequences, the navigational pathways and, in general, the instincts of other human brains.

 

Beyond placemaking: 7 dimensions of “Place Performance”

Notes from a talk at the Bartlett Real Estate Institute, University College London, 24th April 2019.

Placemaking is the art and science of planning and designing spaces for human activity, however that is done: ‬

– by a single hand (usually not a good approach) or by multiple hands (usually a good approach)

– by academics, professionals and non-professionals. ‬‬

‪But beyond placemaking is “place working”, or “place functioning”, or “place performance”: when the planning, design and construction work is finished and the place becomes operational. When it fills with the mysterious liquid called human behaviour. ‬‬‬

And key to which is human transaction: the everyday social and economic exchanges that take place between people – these transactions not only sustain lives but bring about inventions that shape cultures.

Place Performance has many dimensions. Here are seven that I have seen work in practice:

1. Create transactions between people, using places as “Transaction machines”. The first function of a place is to create the conditions for human interaction and transaction.

2. Reduce traffic speed and make it easier for people to be in places. Alongside its health and safety benefits, a 30km/h speed limit is a key method to enhance Place Performance.

3. Avoid fragmentation and the risk of over separation between people, created by well-intended but divisive environmentalism. If not, places will be built where there is little everyday human transaction.

4. Enhance functionality so that, as with single use plastics, we avoid the creation of single use places. This has two parts: first, that there should be more than one activity happening in any place and second, that any place should be adaptable to new uses.

5. Build people-centred main streets as the lowest common denominator of place. The people-centred main street has not been part of urban planning practice in recent history and needs to be reinstated in planning policies as well as in the toolkit of designers.

6. Plan grids because, if effective human transaction is the goal, then the continuously connected grid of streets is the fundamental input mechanism. In so doing, plan integrated cities of continuously connected neighbourhoods, bound together by people-centred main streets.

7. Develop a science of place so that the Placemaking industries are provided with better tools to a) understand the value of place and b) create the policies & plans that will deliver Place Performance. The more we study places – their street networks and their use patterns – the more we understand their value. Connected layouts generally create higher property values. Knowing this means that policies and plans can be presented in terms of how effectively their human performance will deliver a return on investment.

Until there is an established science of Place, the Placemaking industries are acting like Galileo in 1610, trying to understand the detailed surface of the Moon with little better than his eyesight.

We need a new science of space exploration – focused this time on place.

Transport & housing: tools, standards, principles

Notes for presentation at Transport & Housing conference:

https://www.transportxtra.com/tx-events/?id=2400

To understand where we are & where we need to go, we first need to understand where we come from. And where we come from is a relationship with the car that has fragmented cities & damaged lives.

Transport & housing

Big problems:

– obesity

– mental health

– social unrest.

The irony. The paradox.

We have never been as connected.

We have never been as spatially segregated.

We need to integrate planning (too diagrammatic) and architecture (too specific).

We need urbanism.

We need to integrate spatial planning and transport planning.

Space Syntax

Academy of Urbanism

We need to integrate the Catapults: that is happening – from Future Cities and Transport to Connected Places

But…

Need:

Principles

1. Slow urban movement

– 20mph national limit.

2. Continuously connected urbanism

– agree the foreground grid.

3. Large urbanism

– public transport

– innovation.

4. protected villages – possibly a premium for non-essential residential or a subsidy for protected employment.

Standards

If we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

Processes

– design at the heart of them: value of design industry. Need to recognise this and should want to be part of it.

Need design training: double diamond – bold/analytic, imaginative/decisive.

Summary

We have:

Policies & principles.

We need:

Tools, standards, principles.

In order to achieve:

Integrated practice.

Cities from scratch – Astana Economic Forum

Good afternoon. I’m delighted to be a member of this panel today.

Let me start by describing my organisation’s approach to the creation of cities from scratch.

Space Syntax is an international urban planning and design studio and has been involved in plans for new cities and new city extensions throughout the world, including here in Kazakhstan.

Our approach is built on three key ingredients: Continue reading Cities from scratch – Astana Economic Forum

The return of the impossible – Astana Economic Forum

Good afternoon. It’s an honour and a pleasure to be here in Astana today with this distinguished panel.

In speaking about the cities of the future I’d like to speak about three technologies that I think are not only exciting but are also capable of genuinely addressing the “Global Challenges” theme of this Forum.

The first is a mobility technology. The second is a physical transaction technology. The third is a digital technology.

As an architect involved in the design of everything from new buildings and public spaces to entirely new cities, these are three technologies that I’m particularly invested in. Continue reading The return of the impossible – Astana Economic Forum

Kevin Lynch Memorial Lecture

Slide 1      

Good evening. It’s a great honour to have been asked to give this evening’s Kevin Lynch Memorial Lecture, and a special honour to be doing so on behalf of Bill Hillier, who is unable to join us. Bill sends his best wishes to the Urban Design Group.

Slide 2      

First, I can’t do justice in the time available to the breadth and depth of Bill’s genius. And I use the word genius carefully. I believe, as do many others, that he is a genius.

I may only this evening touch on concepts that each deserve a more lengthy explanation and discussion. And, likewise, on the hundreds of urban planning and building design projects that Bill and Space Syntax have helped create over the past four decades.

But what I hope I will do is paint a picture of Bill’s achievement – albeit a personal one.

I want to talk especially about the future directions that his work is taking. The future is important because Bill is not obviously sentimental. He is far more likely to want to talk about something he is currently working on, or something he doesn’t yet understand, than to dwell on the past. He hasn’t ever, to my knowledge, sought prizes. He’s enjoyed them when they’ve appeared, but he hasn’t gone after them.

And, I suspect like anyone receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, he has wondered why it was being given so soon, before his lifetime is fully achieved. When I spoke with him last weekend he explained that what he’d really like to be talking about is what he’s currently working on. But, as is often the case with emerging theory, he’s not sure he’s right about it yet. In other words there’s always more to be done.

But Bill was keen to shape this evening’s presentation. So let’s begin with some words from him: Continue reading Kevin Lynch Memorial Lecture

Intelligent mobility: risks & rewards

第一页   技术就是答案
Slide 1       Technology is the answer

Slide01

1966年,塞德里克·普莱斯说,我喜欢一开始就对新技术进行一点质疑。当然,“技术就是答案”。他也强调:“不过问题是什么?”。
I’d like to begin with a little scepticism about new technology. Of course “Technology is the answer“, said Cedric Price in 1966. He also said, “But what is the question?”

这些问题就是我们试图去获得无人驾驶技术。
What are the questions that we are trying to answer in the pursuit of autonomous vehicle technologies?

我认为仅仅从驾驶员的角度去谈论智慧出行,并不充分。 我喜欢从整个城市的角度去考虑收益。如果我们过度关注车辆而不是城市,那么风险也是需要考虑的。
I don’t think it’s enough to talk about intelligent mobility from the perspective of the driver alone. I’d like us to think about its benefits for cities as a whole. And the risks too, if we focus too much on the vehicle and not enough on what’s around it: the city. Continue reading Intelligent mobility: risks & rewards