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SPACESYNTAX  2004

SPACESYNTAX 2004

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Subject:

Re: Configurational Analysis: application to 'real

From:

Alan Penn <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 22 Jul 2004 15:13:24 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (169 lines)

My responses to Tom are in the text:

> 
> I appreciate your patience with me getting stuck on measurements
> when you are talking about the design process, but your last post had
> a sentence that really worried me -
> 
> "Axial lines represent linearity (stringiness' in Bill's original
> definition)
> of bits of space."
> 
> Is this a metaphysical statement?  Surely you are not postulating
> linearity in the aether?  I am concerned that vague and untestable
> definitions play into the hands of those who think Space Syntax is
just
> numerology with pretty diagrams.

Straight-ness is mathematical not metaphysical. The point that might
seem difficult is the exact role of the representation map in syntax.
The point is that the representation is an abstraction or reduction of
the many properties of the real world to focus on just a few at a time.
In the axial case we look at first just the plan rather than the full 3d
architectural volume, and then at linear extension - long thin bits of
space. The axial map reduces a 3 dimensional world to a representation
in terms of long thin bits of space in plan and how they are connected
to each other. Conversely, the convex map looks at short-fat
(2-dimensionally convex) pieces of space and how they are connected to
each other.

Forgive me for using very everyday language here, but the principle of
the thing is simple. A representation map abstracts certain properties
of the complex real world geometry of space into a simplified form of
representation which lends itself to being measured in relatively simple
ways. The map of connected axial lines can be represented as a graph,
and that in turn allows one to measure simple graph properties -
connectivity, mean depth etc. 

Now the real nub of the issue is that a measure of a representation is
only of interest (in terms of the social-space structure mapping) if it
is found to relate to something social (at least possibly social in
principle). The axial map (and measures of mean depth) are of interest
because they regularly correlates with observed movement flows, and so
with co-presence, likelihood of meeting etc. In this sense the axial map
(and any other representation) is not an assumption to be justified, but
a hypothesis to be tested alongside others. There are many other
representations - convex, planar node maps, segmental - and many other
measures of these maps, metric distance etc. etc. They have all been
tried, and are often re-tried to 'explain' different social or
behavioural patterns.  

> 
> In contrast to this, you say that SS is about mapping between social
> forms and spatial structures, which I'm sure is right.  But how?
There
> seem to be plenty of methods of measuring spatial structures, and
> plenty of analysis of social forms, but where are the mappings
> between the two?  What human affordance  does each method
> measure?
> 
> Certainly, at the higher level, you have the correlation between
natural
> movement and axial integration, but what are the social-to-spatial
> structure mappings that account for this?   As you say, we always have
> to be careful about causal theories.  We have to be careful to get
them
> right, and test them to show that they work.  What else does research
> mean?

You see - it is not this way round. The social spatial mappings don't
account for the axial movement correlation. The axial movement
correlation may suggest a social spatial mapping. This all gets quite
tricky to think through of course since we are dealing with emergent
systems. For example, the vast majority of urban forms are characterised
by long thin bits of open space (call them streets if you like). But
there are no physical reasons why this has to be the case, and there are
plenty of counter examples in the record of urban forms that are not
made up in this way - Teotihuacán, Brasilia, the Chacoan settlements. It
just seems that linearly organised open space has proved to be a
successful strategy. So in this sense axiality may seem to have emerged
from a social process.
> 
> I don't have a 'formal' understanding of design, but I know what I do.
I
> agree with Adipat, we don't need to try to 'derive' whole social
systems
> from spatial layouts, nor are we looking for pre-set solutions.   We
> know very well that there is no question of a 'design machine,' even
if
> anyone wanted it.  (imagine a designer who wanted to be replaced by
> a machine!).

Phew! I'm pleased we agree!

> 
> What we need are comprehensible ideas about how space affects the
> way people use it.  In my experience, real design happens in a way
> unobservable to the observer, as the architect performs mental
> juggling with  ideas about spaces-with-activities and critical
> constraints to find the 'core problems' which set 'The Idea' for the
> design.

I agree completely. Just as an aside: we are currently doing some work
developing an augmented reality system for the 'designer's round table'
you all sit there with a silly headset on that displays a 3-d image of a
computer model of your design on the table in front of you. There are
cameras on the headset that track your head position and so keep the
image stable on the table as you move around. The cameras track your
hands and so let you manipulate the design. We recently ran an
experiment with pairs of people and asked them to collaborate in design
- first with real physical blocks on a table - no headset; then with the
headset, but with the space inhabited by our simulation agents with
vision - a little crowd of 'inhabitants' that move according to what
they can see, and that know they cant walk through solid blocks; finally
back out to the physical model again. 

We found some very interesting things. In the first stage the two people
collaborated in what I would call pattern making. They made blocks
symmetric on plan and played with formal patterns. When they were using
the headset with the simulations they collaborated in a quite different
way and focussed on the behaviour of the 'inhabitants', trying to
channel them in specific ways, and they ceased worrying about geometric
patterns on plan. What was interesting was that when they went back to
the physical model they spoke about factors affecting movement patters,
"where is the tube station", in a way they hadn’t previously. 

The point I'm trying to make is that representations and analysis, and
simulation, can all affect the things a designer 'sees' in the patterns
they are playing with in a design. In this sense exposure to space
syntax analysis and the results of the research, and the theories these
give rise to should all feed into design. To follow a previous line of
this discussion, popularising the results of the research are very
important because of this, but ultimately we need designers to
internalise the dynamics of these kind of emergent system so that they
think with them as they design, and that probably can only happen
through working with the analysis over a longer time period. 

Alan
> 
> Regards, Tom
> 
> On Tue, 20 Jul 2004 18:11:35 +0100, Alan Penn
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> >That is not quite what I am trying to say. Axial lines - and all the
> >other 'syntax representation maps' - are just that: a representation
of
> >some aspects of the morphology of open space. Axial lines
> represent
> >linearity ('stringiness' in Bill's original definition) of bits of
> >space. But space syntax is more than just axial lines; it is about
the
> >mapping between social forms and spatial structures, and social
> forms
> >are about relations between people. Thus the key theories are about
> >effects of spatial morphology on co-presence between people. The
> fact
> >that flow rates of people correlate with measures of axial maps has
> >consequences for co-presence. You are more likely to bump into
> people on
> >more integrated axial lines than on less integrated one (other things
> >being equal), hence it is possible for spatial morphology to have
> social
> >consequences. This is all very easy to say, but Adipat's original
> >question was about how do you ACTUALLY USE syntax in design.
> This to my
> >mind is a more difficult question to answer since relatively little
is
> >formally understood about how people design at all in the first
place.

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