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High street changeability: The effect of urban form on demolition, modification and use change in two south London suburbs

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Adaptability and resilience are recognized as essential elements of urban sustainability, yet they remain elusive as propositions supported by empirical research. In the research presented here the affordance of change and continuity - here termed changeability - is investigated through a comparative historical study of two suburban centres in London - Surbiton and South Norwood - which have matured differently, despite many extrinsic similarities. Their development c.1880-2013 is examined through the analysis of digitized historical maps, building use and space syntax analysis of their street plans. Buildings on busy, but not necessarily the busiest, streets in small town centres are said to be the most changeable since they can accommodate a variety of non- domestic uses. Such streets tend to facilitate incremental building modifications and cyclical redevelopment on wide-fronted plots.
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Urban Morphology (2017) 21(1), 5–28 © International Seminar on Urban Form, 2017 ISSN 1027–4278
High street changeability: the effect of urban form on
demolition, modication and use change in two south London
suburbs
Ilkka Törmä
Heinäsarankaari 13, 00630 Helsinki, Finland. E- mail: ilkka.torma@iki.
Sam Grifths and Laura Vaughan
Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, Gower Street, London
WC1E 6BT, UK. E- mail: sam.grifths@ucl.ac.uk; l.vaughan@ucl.ac.uk
Revised version received 6 October2016
Abstract. Adaptability and resilience are recognized as essential elements
of urban sustainability, yet they remain elusive as propositions supported
by empirical research. In the research presented here the affordance of
change and continuity – here termed changeability – is investigated through
a comparative historical study of two suburban centres in London ‒ Surbiton
and South Norwood ‒ which have matured differently, despite many extrinsic
similarities. Their development c.1880–2013 is examined through the
analysis of digitized historical maps, building use and space syntax analysis
of their street plans. Buildings on busy, but not necessarily the busiest, streets
in small town centres are said to be the most changeable since they can
accommodate a variety of non- domestic uses. Such streets tend to facilitate
incremental building modications and cyclical redevelopment on wide-
fronted plots.
Keywords: change, adaptation, urban development, town centres, London
The research presented here examines how
urban form affects change and continu-
ity in small town centres. Susceptibility to
change is now recognized as an essential
element of urban and suburban architectural
sustainability (Grifths et al., 2008; Hillier,
2009; Penn et al., 2009; Schneider and Till,
2007). Yet these concepts remain elusive in
empirical research. Although recent work
by Davis (2013) on mixed commercial-
residential buildings and Holliss (2015) on
‘live- work’ spaces has made substantial
progress in relation to understanding build-
ing adaptability, equivalent work exploring
the typomorphological dynamics of build-
ing change as an urban scale phenomenon
is relatively uncommon. As a consequence,
this research is directed towards identifying
the mechanisms through which urban form
affects ‘changeability’ in town centres, rst by
examining earlier theories and research in the
eld, and secondly, through comparative case
studies of two town centres, South Norwood
and Surbiton, both in South London. The
empirical work, we argue, demonstrates how
the historical interplay of accessibility, block
structure and land use has inuenced build-
ing change. The analysis in turn informs the
6High street changeability
broader question of the interrelationship of
urban form, socio- economic change and the
resilience of small centres, and to explain why
the two centres, which are in many respects
rather similar Victorian railway suburbs, pre-
sent strikingly different patterns of building
change.
High streets have played a key role in the
historical development of both centres. Our
research suggests how the particular spatial-
morphological properties of suburban high
streets afford both change and continuity
in the use of buildings, incremental rede-
velopment, and the possibility of a socio-
economically diverse built environment.
Such diversity, it is argued, contributes to the
socio- economic resilience of the centres by
perpetuating a process of continuing morpho-
logical transition. This self- generative source
of sustainability is an essential, if often over-
looked, aspect of the long- term viability of
suburban centres.
It is furthermore proposed that a more
rened knowledge of morphogenetic pro-
cesses can help to shed light on the proper
role of contingency in urban planning, where
it is so often lacking, and lay the foundations
for the development of improved post- design
processes (Porta and Romice, 2010). There
is, however, currently little readily appli-
cable information that could help planning
and design practice to progress from imple-
menting merely stylistic patterns to the
deployment of patterns of the ‘contents, con-
texts and consequences of space’ (Garcia,
2009, p. 8). Contemporary computational
tools could enable this progression, if it were
easier to embed uncertainty and contingency
into them (Verebes, 2013). To tackle this
theoretical and methodological challenge
the phenomenon of spatial- morphological
change and resilience needs to be better con-
ceptualized systematically and in relation
to the complexity of historical built forms.
For this to happen, investigations of the
materiality of urban change are needed. As
Jacobs (1961, p. 174) noted, time is both the
‘constructive’ quality and an ‘indispensable’
factor in creating the complex social life of
cities.
Theoretical framework
Dening changeability
The concept of changeability is the capabil-
ity of a system to undergo transition over
time so that it remains t for purpose (Ross
et al., 2008; Schmidt et al., 2010). What makes
changeability challenging to deal with is the
need to develop a conceptual framework for
urban change in order to examine it analyti-
cally, not least because change and continuity
can work at different scales simultaneously
(Kropf, 2001).
What, one must ask, is change, in a town
centre? Changes to individual buildings are,
arguably, relatively unimportant if the over-
all mixture of building types, uses and people
remains in equilibrium and the centre retains
its character in relation to the larger urban con-
text. Individual changes (or the lack of them),
however, are relevant if their aggregate effect
alters the character of the centre. Depending
on whether a town centre is dened as the sum
of its parts – buildings and people, for exam-
ple – or through its position in a larger urban
system, the perception of change may be dif-
ferent. It is therefore necessary to acknowl-
edge both different units of change, as well as
understanding how they are interdependent:
namely, the extent to which they can change or
be changed by each other. Change can be both
‘formative’ (for example, steady renewal) or
‘transformative’ (Kropf, 2001, p. 31), when
the aggregation of incremental, lower- level
changes alters the whole perception of an
area, and citizens, businesses, developers and
planners start relating to it in a different way.
Change is mediated not only at different
scales but also through the various character-
istics of town centres. The appearance of a cen-
tre, for example, may stay the same while its
function may change and vice versa. A study
of changeability must therefore recognize var-
ious aspects of the built environment in which
change is manifested. For instance, the physi-
cal, social and functional aspects, and the cul-
tural and institutional backgrounds in which
they are embedded, can each have different
degrees of changeability (Smeets, 2007).
7High street changeability
Lefebvre (1991) has theorized three dimen-
sions of space: conceived, perceived and lived
space. He argues that professionals working
with space, such as designers, scientists or pol-
iticians, tend to focus on abstract, conceived
space. In this conceptual space, change is cap-
tured in maps or drawings. However, from a
user’s point of view, understanding change-
ability in the lived or perceived experience not
only means change applied to a specic loca-
tion, but also change that unfolds through an
individual’s movement between given loca-
tions. Movement creates new opportunities to
conceptualize changeability: not only in the
sense of the capability to change the use of a
certain space, but also as a systemic capability
of diverse environments that mediate change
in the world of human experience.
Figure 1 illustrates these ideas diagram-
matically through a matrix of change and
movement ‘enablers’. These ideas can be
developed in relation to previous research
on processes of change in historical town
centres. This study focuses on the physical,
functional and social aspects, using buildings
as the units of change, and recognizes modi-
cation and movement as enablers of change-
ability. Research using a topological theory
of urban form – space syntax (Hillier and
Hanson, 1984) – is combined with research
based on ‘gure- ground’ voids and solids
– to examine the interplay between spatial
and geometrical properties. Studies of change
in urban form are then compared to studies
of city blocks and building types to better
understand the inuence of urban form on
building typology (Moudon, 1989).
Physical changeability: modication and
accessibility
Physical changeability entails a degree of
redundancy in a structure, whether of a build-
ing or a city (Davis, 2013; Hillier, 1999;
Holliss, 2015; Schneider and Till, 2007).
Redundancy, both in space and access, cataly-
ses physical changeability: it produces more
choice in how street blocks and/or individual
buildings can be arranged. Space syntax
research has demonstrated that redundancy
in street networks develops typically in urban
centres. It results from a self- regulating pro-
cess in which the most accessible parts of the
street network benet from relatively high
levels of through movement. Historically,
this process produces a densication of the
local grid structure, distinguished by an accu-
mulated concentration of diverse economic
activities that benet from increased footfall,
maximal building frontage and easy access
to buildings (Dhanani and Vaughan, 2013;
Hillier, 1999; Vaughan and Grifths, 2013).
Access and movement thus link built form
and urban economies.
High accessibility explains why sites in
central locations tend to have higher land val-
ues. Switzer (1963) has argued that increases
in site value stimulate redevelopment more
than any other factor. An expanding economy
Figure 1. Aspects of changeability in the built environment.
After Törmä (2011).
8High street changeability
raises rents proportionally more in central
areas and consequently creates pressure for
redevelopment where the earning power of
buildings is not on a par with the increased
land value (Lean and Goodall, 1966). Societal
changes, such as the growth of national
property companies in the early-twentieth
century, have accentuated this phenomenon
(Whitehand, 1984).
A relatively central location and accompa-
nying increase in economic value are agents
of physical change, but smaller- scale morpho-
logical features also play a role in how change
takes place. Porta and Romice (2010) argue
that in built- up locations relatively small plot
size is a key enabler of the incremental change
that is a precondition of urbanity. ‘Figure-
ground’ research has revealed that, for both
urban and suburban locations, additional
access, as in through- plots or plots abut-
ting the street with a wide frontage, encour-
ages differentiation within plots as it enables
subdivision and typological alternatives.
Street blocks with narrow and deep plots, in
contrast, are more prone to major structural
change where development pressures are high
(Siksna, 1998; Whitehand and Carr, 2001).
However, these processes of change are not
simply uniform and accumulative. Historical
land- use patterns embedded in the tissue of
streets and plots also serve as a constraint on
more drastic change (Vaughan et al., 2010b;
Whitehand, 2001b).
Redundancy in the spatial structure is
a facilitator of physical change, but local
building types and individual modica-
tions play a role in how changes aggregate.
Similar modications to buildings tend to
diffuse to neighbouring ones and cluster in
space and time (Whitehand and Carr, 2001).
Hiller and Hanson (1984) conceptualize
the built environment as a source of social
information encoded in the ‘conguration’
of space and transmitted through time. Such
an informational dynamic may give rise to
self- reinforcing cycles (Kropf, 2001) in the
sense that a street conguration provides
a mechanism for changes to diffuse, and
typological uniformity provides a basis on
which changes can multiply from neighbour
to neighbour. Together, the street congura-
tion and building typology constitute what
Allen (1997, p. 30) calls a ‘eld condition’:
a spatial matrix structure that allows inu-
ences to disperse and that is capable of uni-
fying diverse elements. At the macro- scale,
regional and periodical uniformities emerge
and form morphological regions and periods
(Whitehand, 2001a).
In summary, access to structure appears
both to trigger and enable physical modi-
cation. This is a multi- scalar proposition. It
applies as much to access to building parts
and spaces, which increases the adaptability
of buildings (Schneider and Till, 2007), as to
accessibility to local centres through regional
transportation infrastructure, which appears to
inuence their adaptation to societal changes
(Krenz, 2015, p. 72:15). The accessibility
of cities, however, is constituted by an ever-
shifting arrangement of streets and buildings.
In this ‘eld’ each change has repercussions
that are not entirely predictable. Nor do they
occur on a tabula rasa, but are affected by
local eld conditions and history.
Functional changeability: alteration of use
and diversity
Functional changeability refers to the abil-
ity of built forms to accommodate a range of
functions rather than any specic function:
it is about generality (Hillier, 1999), and in
that sense applies to all spaces, from rooms to
cities. Just as the dimensions of rooms allow
for multiple uses (Schneider and Till, 2007),
so urban grids provide a range of locations
from segregated to central (integrated), within
which different actors and actions can be
accommodated (Hillier, 1996). Generality can
be related to redundancy through the notion
of the ‘intelligibility’ of a spatial congura-
tion, meaning the facility with which one can
comprehend the elementary spatial structure
of the city from one’s particular location
within it (Hillier, 1996). Intelligibility, there-
fore, increases the ease of using the city and
nding different places. When redundancy
both in space and access are combined in an
9High street changeability
intelligible way, the result is a form that lends
itself to diverse uses.
In an urban setting, functional change-
ability is not simply a matter of amenable
spatial structure. The uses and customs that
have accumulated in the urban built environ-
ment are important. Penn et al. (2009) note of
Clerkenwell that a diversity of uses and users
spreads the risks of external disruptions and
enables quick adjustment to changing circum-
stances. This diversity arises from compet-
ing forces driving uses together or apart (for
example, businesses that cluster to compete
with each other or disperse to nd new cus-
tomers), and from intelligible localities that
allow clusters of activity to arise. However,
accessibility and intelligibility can render a
street excessively used, leading to develop-
ment pressures and ‘mainstreaming’ that may
be detrimental to diversity, as in some cen-
tral London shopping streets dominated by
international- brand stores (Hall, 2011; Penn
et al., 2009). Similarly, very large plots do not
lend themselves to gradual change over time
and therefore do not support diversication of
streets (Porta and Romice, 2010).
Earlier research by the authors on the growth
of London’s suburban town centres showed
that a street conguration that channels local
and longer- distance movement both to and
through a town centre, provides grounds for
diverse socio- economic activities (Vaughan
and Grifths, 2013). Davis’s (2013) research
complements these ndings from a building
typological point of view. It shows how the
shop- house type emerges in streets where
footfall is suitable both for residential and
commercial purposes. Diverse activity may,
in fact, be a precondition for the emergence
of town centres as well as being a key to their
long- term resilience in the face of the mas-
sive socio- economic changes of the twentieth
century (Vaughan and Grifths, 2013). Socio-
economic activity in London’s suburban cen-
tres does not arise only from purposeful visits
to a single destination. It arises in many ways
and may not have been planned in advance.
A visit to a town centre may be a by- product
of other, often more leisurely or spontaneous
activities on the way. It is the intermingling
of individual habits and the resulting collec-
tive emotional investment in place that sus-
tain diversity (Seamon, 1979; Vaughan, 2015,
ch. 7).
Social changeability: regulation of interaction
and connectedness
All space is socially produced and appro-
priated in varying degrees according to the
demands of specic social relations (Lefebvre,
2009). These appropriations are constantly re-
negotiated. Social space is produced through
everyday interactions, in which abstract social
structures are exploited and re- shaped to make
sense, and communicate and co- ordinate
actions between people (Giddens, 1984).
Accessibility enables the social appropriation
of space. It creates or eliminates the co- presence
of people living in and passing through an
area that makes up a ‘virtual community’
that is the patterns of co- presence one might
anticipate in a given area with a certain struc-
ture and density (Hillier, 1996, p. 141). The
conguration of morphological tissue that
generates intensication of encounters and
socio- economic ‘events’ in places like high
streets, becomes a source of social memory
that carries the sense of community from the
past to the future (Grifths, 2015).
Social changeability, then, is primarily an
expression of how the qualities of a locale
permit modication of the virtual community
structure and the social meaning of space: for
example, by introducing various spaces of
encounter, both random and intentional. It is
also how a locale affords movement along the
continuum of spatial integration- segregation
and social informality- formality, and realiza-
tion of different spaces catering for sociabil-
ity, as well as privacy.
Social changeability is not necessarily
desirable: the search for social advantage is
often associated with various exclusionary
tactics. Psycho- social boundaries are created:
for example, trafc arteries or geographi-
cal features may be used to favour the ‘right
kind’ of neighbours (Sies, 1997; Watt, 2009).
These processes create tensions where social
10 High street changeability
advantage and disadvantage are in close
physical, but not social, proximity. Mary Sies
(1997) has observed how, in suburbs that
have retained their exclusive status, socio-
economic persistence needs consistent com-
munity support that articulates and preserves
the value of the area. The support stems from
the perception that such upkeep is worth the
effort, a perception formed through local
informal networks, often perpetuated through
social space. Places like high streets may have
a robust ‘being- in- memory’ quality, but their
social meaning can be contested. Narratives
of places can sustain, but also challenge and
alter, specic cultural associations of a local
centre as a place of sociability.
Case studies in changeability
In relation to this theoretical framework, the
two suburban centres selected for compara-
tive study were examined to ascertain how
their buildings had changed over time as the
centres expanded. A particular focus of atten-
tion was the morphological properties that
lent themselves to building adaptation.
These two suburban centres in London are
appropriate for this type of study of change
because their development has been rela-
tively rapid and different development phases
are clearly pronounced. They are both in the
largely inter- war ‘doughnut’ zone between the
north- south circular road and the M25 orbital
road. Their histories are sufciently similar
to control for overarching socio- economic
circumstances, yet their current conditions
are different enough to provide a valid com-
parison of the inuence of urban form in their
contrasting trajectories of socio- economic
development.
Three kinds of change that could be extracted
from historical records are examined: build-
ing demolitions and modications that repre-
sent physical changeability; and building- use
changes that represent functional change-
ability. The discussion of social changeability
draws on observation studies conducted by
Vaughan et al. (2010b). Three types of vari-
ables that could hypothetically predict change
were investigated; the variables represent the
topological and the gure- ground character-
istics of urban form: the centralities of street
networks, building and plot dimensions, and
the functions of buildings and street segments,
such as the clustering of changes in the street.
The high streets focused on here are those
street segments that feature the highest den-
sity of non- domestic land use (Grifths et
al., 2013). More precisely, the high street
segments are those in the top quartile of the
amount of ground- oor, non- domestic land
use per segment in each centre. Broadly, this
denition coincides with Victoria Road in
Surbiton and High Street in South Norwood.
The case study sites and the main streets con-
taining ‘high street segments’ are shown in
Figure 2. Figure 2 also shows the results of
space syntax analysis of choice, which meas-
ures how central any given street segment is
likely to be for routes taken within a specic
search radius. The results are coloured in a
range from red to blue to represent the range
from high to low values, respectively (see full
explanation in the following section).
Methodology
Mapping change in buildings and its
correspondence to urban form
Changes to the building footprints and build-
ing uses were mapped as follows:
Demolitions (disappearance of a building
shape on the map);
Modications: external additions, omis-
sions, divisions and consolidations of
building footprints (a minimum of 0.25
has been set to capture changes in the foot-
print area to allow for inaccuracies in the
maps);
Changes in the type of ground oor use
(retail, community services, commer-
cial services, catering (such as pubs), and
residences).
Changes in buildings were studied in rela-
tion to the morphological variables listed in
Table 1: building footprints, block shapes and
the topological properties of the street segment
11High street changeability
Figure 2. Figure- grounds, high street segments, stations and choice at 2 km
radius in 2013.
12 High street changeability
in which buildings were situated. Point bi-
serial correlation coefcients between the
building changes and the morphological vari-
ables were calculated for all the statistically
signicant correlations.
Geographical data sources
The analysis was based on GIS data pro-
duced for the interdisciplinary ‘Adaptable
suburbs project’ (Vaughan et al., 2010b).
Maps (Ordnance Survey County Series 1879,
1913, 1954; Ordnance Survey County Series
1880, 1913, 1955) and business directories
(Kelly, 1915, 1956; Phillipson, 1876; Ward,
1874, 1915, 1956) were assembled on a GIS
platform to study change in the town centres
compared with a contemporary land- use sur-
vey conducted for 2013. The contemporary
map was available in vector format (Ordnance
Survey MasterMap Topography Layer, 2013).
Building footprints in the historical maps
were converted into vectorized gure- ground
maps in GIS format (Dhanani and Vaughan,
2013). Plots were then redrawn manually in
GIS software. Where the addresses of his-
torical buildings could be identied on the
map, their matching land use, as listed in the
business directory, was geocoded to the cor-
responding building footprint. The contempo-
rary building uses were surveyed on site and
Table 1. The morphological variables
1. Topological variables of the street scene (computed with depthmapX programme (Varoudis, 2011–14))
Space syntax measure of street segment integration and choice for a range of search radii from
400 m onwards (Hillier and Iida, 2005)
2. Geometric variables (measuring the plot and building shapes)
Building street frontage length
Building footprint area
Proportional width of the building (frontage length/footprint area)
Plot efciency (building area/plot area)
Plot area
Proportional width for the plot (perimeter/plot area) (assuming that plots are deeper than their width)
3. Functional variables (Measuring changes to buildings and streets)
3.1 Building and plot
Building use type (domestic or non- domestic, or the sub- categories of non- domestic uses)
Building use type change (since the previous time period)
Total numbers of use changes in the building since the rst time period
Number of building modications
Building demolition
Plot redistribution (plot division or consolidation)
3.2 Street segment (segment densities calculated as: number of non- domestic uses divided by segment
length)
Density of non- domestic oor uses in the street segment
Density of building use changes in the street segment
Density of building use continuities in the street segment
Density of building modications in the street segment
Density of building demolitions in the street segment
13High street changeability
similarly geocoded in the GIS. Data on the year
of construction (using information obtained
from Croydon Council, 2008), close read-
ing of the maps and visual on- site evaluation
provided the basis for identifying features
of demolition and modication. In addition,
street network analysis was conducted using
the space syntax measures of integration
and choice, which analyse the conguration
of street segments as they form part of a net-
work. In space syntax analysis, integration
measures the proximity of one street segment
to all other street segments within a speci-
ed search radius; whilst choice measures
the centrality of a street segment on routes
between any two street segments within
a specied search radius. A street segment
will have a higher value of choice if it is
traversed many times on the shortest angu-
lar path between a pair of origins and des-
tinations. The space syntax values were
computed with depthmapX software
(Varoudis, 2011–14). The space syntax mod-
els were based on historical and contemporary
road centre line maps of street segments within
a 6 km radius (Dhanani and Vaughan, 2013).
Surveyed areas
The town centre boundaries were ini-
tially identied from a dataset produced by
the British Government’s Department of
Communities and Local Government and
based on criteria such as the diversity and
intensity of land use and pedestrian acces-
sibility (Thurstain- Goodwin et al., 2002)
These boundaries were then extended to
cover a radius of 800 m from the centroid
of the ofcial town centre boundary in
order to capture an area within 10 minutes
walking distance and so as to include a wider
array of land uses, such as industrial activities.
On- site survey of building change
A case study surveying individual street seg-
ments in Surbiton was conducted to form a
detailed picture of change: an axonometric
projection of the buildings was drawn with the
help of maps, aerial and street photographs of
how the surviving buildings were extended,
joined into one unit or divided, and also
how the plots were congured, built up and
redeveloped. The surveyed street segments
were chosen to nd the cases with the high-
est counts of demolition, modication and use
change per segment over time.
Changeability in the two centres
The two case- study centres showed similar-
ity in the correspondence between changes
in buildings (demolitions, modications and
use changes) and morphological variables
described in the previous section. Though
both areas were thriving in the early- twentieth
century, only Surbiton continues to do so
today. South Norwood’s high street is to a cer-
tain extent regarded as being ‘past its prime’,
with more social deprivation today than in the
past (Department for Communities and Local
Government, 2011). In this sense Surbiton
seems to have been more resilient socio-
economically. Given the fact that Surbiton’s
built form has been more robust in the face
of urban development within and around the
central area, it seems plausible to suggest that
the patterns of street segment accessibility
have contributed to changes in the building
stock in the two cases. This proposition is
explored further.
General ndings about change
Surveys of the three street sides with the high-
est concentration of changes are presented in
Figures 3, 4 and 5. They illustrate how building
demolitions, modications and use changes
recur under different spatial- morphological
conditions. Figures 3 and 4, featuring high
concentrations of modications and demo-
litions respectively, are situated either side
of a single section of Surbiton’s high street,
Victoria Road. In both cases, major rebuilding
occurred between c. 1955 and 2013, and car
parks created behind the plots have provided
14 High street changeability
Figure 3. Street section with a high amount of demolition – Victoria Road in Surbiton.
15High street changeability
a new access to the rear that has encouraged
development, providing evidence for the
importance of surplus access on changeabil-
ity. The rear ends of the plots have changed
more than the fronts – an observation consist-
ent with Conzen’s (1988, p. 257) nding in
his study of Ludlow. Where buildings on plot
frontages show greater persistence it suggests
that resistance to change might be an aspect of
urban form character rather than land utiliza-
tion of the individual plot.
Remarkably, the south side of Victoria
Road (Figure 3) has been much more heavily
redeveloped than the north side (Figure 4). On
the south side, the relatively wide plots and
early industrial character abutting the railway
appears to have stimulated development. The
north side has narrower plots and more back
extensions to existing buildings. Rebuilding
on the north side has taken place particularly
on corner plots, whereas the mid- block plots
have only been developed since they obtained
rear access.
Ewell Road in Surbiton shows a high con-
centration of use change (Figure 5): its land-
use diversity predates the development of the
current high street and has persistently been
high in the space syntax measure of choice,
indicating its long- term centrality in the wider
network (Grifths et al., 2010). The original
residential buildings, set back from the street,
have been extended at the front and back,
with access from a back alley. The additional
premises have been provided primarily for
non- domestic use. The constraint on develop-
ment stemming from plot narrowness displays
a pattern similar to that which Conzen (1960)
and others have observed.
Overall, demolition is primarily inu-
enced by plots and the ground- oor dimen-
sions of buildings; use change by the degree
of choice (a measure of centrality) and origi-
nal land use; and modication more or less
equally by degree of choice, ground- oor
dimensions and land use. In summary:
Squarer, larger and less efciently built- up
plots are most likely to be demolished and
redeveloped.
A location with high choice around 1 km
radius and a large building footprint is
most likely to have modications to the
buildings along with a high amount of land
use change.
For use change, the most common predic-
tors are a history of repeated use change,
non- domestic use of the building, adjacent
non- domestic buildings and modications
on the same street segment, and choice
within a range of 1–3 km network dis-
tance. This range suggests that streets that
are important for wider- scale (rather than
local) movement are more likely to be sub-
ject to change, all other things being equal.
More broadly, the ndings suggest how build-
ing and plot dimensions inuence physical
change in buildings, supporting earlier gure-
ground research into how different types of
street block change over time (Conzen, 1960;
Siksna, 1998; Whitehand and Carr, 2001). The
inuence of street conguration on building
modication and use change recalls Hillier’s
(1999) notion of ‘centrality as a process’, in that
higher spatial integration gives rise to a process
of street grids becoming denser over time, with
town centres evolving in and around the high-
est intensity of network accessibility. The case
studies in this paper did not investigate grid
densication; instead they and previous ‘adapt-
able suburbs’ studies (Vaughan, 2015, ch. 7;
Vaughan et al., 2010b) propose that the congu-
rational qualities of the street network (namely
the space syntax measures of integration and
choice) give rise particularly to the functional
diversication of a centre in and around the
high street. Differing somewhat from Hillier’s
(1999) theory of the centrality process, the case
studies also imply that the redevelopment and
expansion of the building stocks of the centres
are more strongly associated with ample size
of plots than with the immediate adjacency of
spatially central streets.
Physical changeability
It was hypothesized that physical change-
ability follows from multi- scalar redundancy
in space and access: in the scale of buildings,
plots and the street network alike (Davis,
2013; Hillier, 1996; Schneider and Till, 2007;
16 High street changeability
Figure 4. Street section with a high amount of modication – Victoria Road in Surbiton.
17High street changeability
Figure 5. Street section with a high amount of use change – Ewell Road in Surbiton.
18 High street changeability
Siksna, 1998; Till, 2009; Whitehand and
Carr, 2001). Figure 6 illustrates how modied
buildings appear typically on street segments
that have quite high levels of choice, signify-
ing redundancy corresponding to accessibility
in the street network. This is especially the
case in Surbiton. Figure 7 compares the loca-
tions of demolished buildings in Surbiton and
South Norwood, showing a striking differ-
ence between the two centres: whereas demo-
litions appear on the side streets and large
plots in both Surbiton and South Norwood,
in Surbiton they also feature along the high
street itself. With the exception of Brighton
Road, Surbiton’s high street segments are not
among the highest in choice values, whereas
in South Norwood, all the high street seg-
ments coincide with high choice values.
These results suggest that network congu-
ration and changeability are not related in a
straightforward linear manner: it may be the
case that it is the active but slightly less busy
parts of the street that are most malleable
in small centres such as these, when taking
account of the development phase of the cen-
tre. The ndings regarding South Norwood’s
demolition rates indicate that if accessibility
is too high, it can be detrimental to a small
centre. Indeed it has been argued that trafc
is a major threat to London high streets (Gort
Scott Architects and UCL The Bartlett School
of Planning, 2010) and it can cause a tension
between a street trying to be both a ‘link’ in a
trafc network and a ‘place’ in which to live
(Jones, 2007).
Figure 7 reveals how Surbiton’s high street
has been much redeveloped, whereas South
Norwood’s high street has undergone rela-
tively little redevelopment. Since c. 1915,
demolitions have consistently taken place on
less active streets in South Norwood. This
phenomenon has quite possibly contributed
to the relative decline of the town centre. In
his study of changes in the town centres of
Northampton and Watford in the mid- twentieth
century, Whitehand (1984) shows how build-
ing shape and size changed in the two centres
as they became more integrated in the national
property market. Chain stores moved into
large, purpose- built accommodation and the
relative number of local concerns involved
in changing the townscape decreased. And at
the same time there was a decline in a histori-
cal sense of place among the agents of change
(see also Whitehand and Whitehand, 1984).
Conzen (1988) refers to this phenomenon as
a type of ‘secular human agency’ (as opposed
to morphogenetic agency) acting on historical
townscapes.
Modern non- domestic uses demand an
increasing amount of space which the tra-
ditional high street sometimes struggles to
accommodate (Grifths et al., 2013). Another
factor that may lie behind the different devel-
opment trajectories of Surbiton and South
Norwood is the contrast in their historical
urban forms, stemming from particular histor-
ical street congurations. The street centrali-
ties in Figures 2, 6 and 7 illustrate that South
Norwood has adhered tightly to a junction of
arterial roads, whereas Surbiton is sandwiched
between its closest main roads. Surbiton also
has a robust network of well- connected streets
between the arterial roads, whereas South
Norwood has only a thin corridor of maxi-
mal choice. As a result, Surbiton has many
more buildings on middle- to- high choice
streets (Figure 8). There are more buildings in
Surbiton on streets that are not trafc arter-
ies, but are likely to attract passers- by through
them, so providing desirable locations both for
dwellings and businesses. Moreover, Surbiton
has a greater number of sizeable plots that
inuence physical change by providing sur-
plus space and access to the plot (Figure 8), so
more buildings have the potential for physical
adaptation. In summary, it appears that greater
redundancy in accessibility to buildings in the
town centre and favourable plots in the high
street have rendered Surbiton more physically
changeable.
Functional changeability
It has been hypothesized that the accessibility
and intelligibility of the street network makes
a centre functional, and that access to build-
ing density and the presence of people bring
it alive. But a situation with levels of choice
19High street changeability
Figure 6. Modications between c. 1880 and 2013 in the town centres, and choice at 2 km radius
(2013).
20 High street changeability
Figure 7. Demolitions between c. 1880 and 2013 in the town centres, and choice at
2 km radius (2013).
21High street changeability
that are too high can actually be detrimental
to land- use diversity, by generating too much
change for a diverse local mix to evolve over
time (Hall, 2011; Marcus, 2010; Penn et al.,
2009; Vaughan and Grifths, 2013). Figure 9
shows that use change is indeed more strongly
associated with central streets than with build-
ing demolition or modication. The ndings
support earlier research, and demonstrate
how even ne- grained differences in the
choice value of the street network can have an
inuence on land- use diversity and functional
changeability.
The two case- study centres have simi-
lar ratios of land- use change. However,
Surbiton’s high street segments (especially
Victoria Road) have a more balanced mixture
of change and long- term continuity of uses.
The characteristic differences of the centres,
namely that Surbiton has relatively more
buildings on medium to high levels of choice
(rather than highest choice), renders Surbiton
Figure 8. The choice values of buildings and plot sizes
in c. 1880 to 2013.
22 High street changeability
more balanced in affording the spatial condi-
tions of continuity and change needed to gen-
erate socio- economic diversity.
The imbalance in use change and continuity
in South Norwood may stem from the fact that
the junction of the two main streets was the
original focal point of the centre. The railway
cuts across the junction, disrupting the conti-
nuity between the two main streets with the
effect that they resemble two different (even
rival) centres rather than one single centre.
Surbiton’s centre is on one side of the railway
line and its station opens directly to the high
street, whereas South Norwood’s station is
some distance from its high street.
Social changeability
Change in the social use of space is difcult
to assess empirically – in particular due to the
lack of ne- grained historical data. It has been
hypothesized that a gradient from seclusion
to co- presence of people, and from informal
to formal spaces, would create a socially rich
environment (Vaughan, 2015, ch. 2; Vaughan
and Grifths, 2013). The two centres do not
differ much in their potential for structuring co-
presence: they have very similar correlations
of integration and choice centralities at vari-
ous search distances (Dhanani and Vaughan,
2013). Non- domestic buildings in South
Norwood were found to exploit a slightly
wider range of integration, which could have
meant that South Norwood had a potential
for a richer social environment. Yet Surbiton
today appears to afford a more dynamic socio-
economic environment – an indication per-
haps of its morphological changeability.
A structured video study of the town cen-
tres took place in June/July 2008. The study
entailed multi- directional lming from a xed
tripod – three times a day over three mid-
week days – at a range of locations around
each town centre, in order to capture pedes-
trian movement and social activity. Analysis
of the footage revealed a marked contrast
between the two centres, with a bustling mix-
ture of shoppers, local people and workers
walking around Surbiton’s town centre, whilst
movement in South Norwood was mainly by
commuters or people passing through to catch
buses or trains, with few stopping to use the
town centre’s facilities. A questionnaire study
carried out in September 2008 for a sam-
ple of 199 people across three town centres
(High Barnet was another case studied) asked
respondents the purposes of their visit. It
revealed that – as reported in Vaughan et al.
(2010a, p. 12) – ‘46% mentioned shopping as
one or more of their activities, yet, of those,
only 16… ‘just’ shop… 86% of shoppers were
doing something else as a by- product of their
shopping (or vice versa)’. Respondents were
also asked to trace their walk from their point
of origin to the town centre. Figure 10 shows
those routes for which respondents had men-
tioned more than one purpose for their trip. It
illustrates the difference between the two high
streets (Victoria Road in Surbiton and South
Norwood High Street). Whilst Surbiton’s
high street and adjacent roads are well used,
South Norwood’s High Street rarely features
in reported routes. It appears to lack visibility,
in contrast to Surbiton with its strong connec-
tions to a residential hinterland.
The reasons for the problems of socio-
economic viability facing South Norwood’s
main streets are complex. Besides reecting
a lesser degree of typomorphological and
functional changeability when compared to
Surbiton, there are many other variables that
were not explored in this research. For exam-
ple, a cause of the difculties may be the fact
that South Norwood’s High Street, to the
north side of the railway, is not the focal point
of building densities: the earliest and densest
development is around what is today a sec-
ondary town centre, on Portland Road to the
south. This means the railway station tends
to feed passengers onto the conguration-
ally weaker side of the railway line. Another
consideration is middle- class disafliation.
The late- nineteenth and early- twentieth cen-
tury developments to the north of the centre
contain more expensive housing. One might
conclude that the railway provided the newly
arrived middle- class with a geographical and
physical boundary that amounted to a psy-
chological and functional disafliation device
23High street changeability
Figure 9. Use changes between c. 1880 and 2013 in the town centres, and choice at 2 km
radius (2013).
24 High street changeability
Figure 10. Reported routes of people undertaking multiple activities during their
walk (Surbiton: n=63; South Norwood: n=56). Movement traces are recorded
in 2008 and 2010: copyright EPSRC project on ‘Towards successful suburban
town centres’ (reference EP/D06595X/1). Background map Crown Copyright
2014 (an Ordnance Survey/EDINA service).
25High street changeability
between the south side and the north, where
the high street – named High Street in the
mid- 1860s (Croydon Council, 2008) – is situ-
ated (Sies, 1997; Watt, 2009).
In contrast, Surbiton was a single develop-
ment on open elds. Its uniform initial plan-
ning may have been the very stimulus that
has kept it exclusive. Indeed it may be an
illustration of the argument that a continu-
ing commitment to developing one’s neigh-
bourhood contributes to the persistence of
exclusive suburban settlements (Sies, 1997).
If such a commitment existed, it may have
been an important reason why the buildings in
Surbiton’s high street have been continuously
improved, whereas there is less evidence of
this in South Norwood.
Conclusion
Of the two centres under consideration,
Surbiton has sustained its original socio-
economic character more than South
Norwood. It follows that Surbiton’s high
street has been more continuously redevel-
oped, has had a greater balance between
continuity and change, and today has greater
land- use diversity. Although extrinsically
similar, Surbiton and South Norwood have
distinctive typomorphologies. Broadly speak-
ing, the centre of South Norwood has grown
around the junction of arterial roads, while
that of Surbiton was planned between arterial
roads. This disparity may help explain why
the centres have adapted differently to chang-
ing socio- economic circumstances, such as
the transition to national- scale commerce and
property markets.
The study found that buildings on active
streets with medium- to- high spatial choice
have tended to be most changeable: they can
accommodate a variety of non- domestic uses
that may change or stay for decades – a phe-
nomenon that resembles the accumulation of
land- use diversity in little frequented centres
(Hall, 2011; Penn et al., 2009). Such streets
also foster modications to buildings and
cyclical redevelopment, particularly within
wide- fronted plots.
Surbiton’s urban form has more instances
of what we have dened as ‘changeable
streets’, which have created a functionally
and socially resilient centre. In general, lower-
level changeability in buildings appears to
contribute to the higher- level functional and
social robustness of a centre: it stays in a state
of continuing morphological transition and re-
creates and maintains its potential for change.
This vital source of self- sustainability is, we
suggest, an essential ingredient of long- term
urban viability.
The ndings of this study highlight how
changeability needs to be understood as a sys-
tem of interdependencies between different
contexts (social, functional and physical) and
sub- systems with different dynamics (build-
ings, street networks and spatial network
conguration). Of course, the case studies
presented here are both highly specic as sub-
urban locales of Greater London. Useful fol-
low- up research would involve investigating
the extent to which similar change patterns are
to be found elsewhere. Might it be, one might
speculate, that just as a stock of changeable
buildings is important for robust town centres,
so a stock of changeable town centres that can
acquire new meanings and functions is impor-
tant for robust cities?
Acknowledgements
The research reported in this paper forms part
of the ‘Adaptable suburbs’ study funded by the
EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council, EP/I001212/1, 2010–2014).
The project team comprised: Laura Vaughan,
Victor Buchli, Sam Grifths, Muki Haklay, Claire
Ellul, Patrick Rickles, Ashley Dhanani and David
Jeevendrampillai. We are grateful to Mr John
Hickman for sharing his knowledge of South
Norwood.
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... (Hillier, 2016: 200). Accordingly, mirroring the shift in heritage on process rather than form, recent space syntax research has turned to examine processes of urban change in history, and how this relates to social phenomena in time and space -and vice versa (Dhanani, 2016;Griffiths and Vaughan, 2020;Rokem and Vaughan, 2018;Törma et al., 2017;Vaughan et al., 2018). The ideas and thinking behind these methods and approaches, specifically historico-geographical (Conzenian), and process typological (Muratorian), are highly relevant to this thesis for the following reasons. ...
... One of the major contributions of space syntax research is the connection between network configuration and centrality, revealing how open spaces generate and attract different movement flows and levels of human co-presence (Hillier, 1999). Centrality, as a product of the street network's configuration, was found to have significant bearing on movement patterns and land use choices (ibid), social and residential segregation and mobility in particular urban settings (Hillier and Vaughan, 2007;Rokem and Vaughan, 2018), and -significantly for this study -patterns of evolution in the urban landscape (Dhanani, 2015;Törma et al., 2017;Vaughan et al., 2013Vaughan et al., , 2015. ...
... General application to archaeology (Psarra, 2018;Smith, 2011, p.176;Stöger, 2016) Old World archaeology (Banning, 2010;Banning and Byrd, 1989;Bonanno et al., 1990;Letesson, 2013;Perdikogianni, 2003) New World archaeology (Bradley, 1992;Bustard, 1999;Cooper, 1997;Dawson, 2002;Hohmann-Vogrin, 2005;Hopkins, 1987;Moore, 1992;Robb, 2007) Spatial evolution Evolution of Sheffield, in reference to three historic dates (Griffiths, 2009) Oporto's spatial evolution (Oliveira and Pinho, 2008;Serra and Pinho, 2011) Urban change (spatial and morphological) in London and Manhattan, over four historic periods (Dhanani, 2016;Palaiologou, 2015;Törma et al., 2017) Detroit's evolution, in reference to six dates (Psarra et al., 2013) Spatial Cultures In Teotihuacan in Mexico, Versailles in France, Brasilia in Brazil (Hillier, 1989) Interdisciplinary application of methods (including space syntax) to examine spatial cultures over time (Griffiths and Lünen, 2016) Processional culture (Griffiths, 2016) Urban heritage components Monuments (Fong, 1999) Urban historic centres (Karimi, 2000b;Triguerio and Soares de Medeiros, 2003) Table 6 -Space syntax application for studies in urban history, and heritage, derived from the literature, and building on work by Griffiths and Palaiologou (2012; ...
Thesis
This thesis investigates urban evolution in Tel Aviv-Yafo’s historic urban landscape. The research uses historical, spatial, morphological and social analysis to frame and question contemporary configurational, morphological and social properties to examine how historical socio-political conditions in Tel Aviv-Yafo impacted on emergent spaces of activity over time. The research is positioned within, and seeks to advance, the field of heritage urbanism syntax by contributing a social heritage layer as an urban component, alongside the existing components of configuration and morphology. The thesis draws on theories and methods from space syntax, urban morphology, and geography, and employs methods and tools from these fields to explore urban evolution and transformation over time. The research adopts a landscape-based approach firstly to discuss the evolution of Tel Aviv-Yafo’s regional network and secondly to examine the heritage gateway-pathway that links historic Jaffa to Tel Aviv. The gateway-pathway – a transect sample – is used as a tool to track properties of the historic urban landscape and to explore mechanisms of change in urban space. This is related to the impact on the perception and use of heritage space by individuals of different identities today. Analysis finds that individuals with different identities (specifically Arab and Jewish) inhabit, use and perceive space differently. Tel Aviv-Yafo’s spatial and morphological urban evolution has resulted in restricted urban residence, mobility and cognition for Arabs. Conversely, events and urban transformation appear not to impact Jewish cognition, behaviour and activities to the same degree. Historical processes of urban evolution appear to shape heritage patterns and spatial cultures that are identity contingent. The research is innovative in its historical breadth (over 200 years), comprehensive approach (focus on broader landscape and micro-morphological detail, interdisciplinary nature and integrated framework), and the scope of specialised methods used to map transformative urban processes and their impact on individuals today.
... This ecology is supported by an ecosystem of built form and street network characteristics which allow for its long-term evolution. (Vaughan et al., 2015;Törmä et al. 2017) In this paper we present research which goes deeper in the relationship between land use diversity, and the contextual spatial and social characteristics of London's high streets, examining the relationship between spatial configuration, plot size and socioeconomic diversity of the local high street to investigate whether the potential for diversity is embedded in its contextual spatial characteristics. ...
... London is a city where 179 nationalities are represented and 300 languages are spoken citywide (Knowles 2013) and exhibits high levels of ethnic diversity, particularly in inner London boroughs (Paccoud 2013). It has also been shown to be made up of a well-structured network of centres and sub-centres (Hillier 1999) and that there is an association between longevity of a town centre, land use diversity and spatial adaptability (Vaughan 2015a;Törmä et al. 2017). It is for these reasons that London was chosen as a focus for the study, which considered a sample of ten commercial streets (or in the UK terminology, high streets) and their immediate environs. ...
Conference Paper
Previous research has shown that the local town centre can be a space of considerable socio-economic diversity, manifested in its being a place of work and community activity in addition to retail activity. The long-term sustainability of the town centre has been shown to correspond to its configurational spatial signatures. Where high streets exhibit a high ethnic diversity amongst proprietors, there appears to be a corresponding diversity of land use and goods, with a tendency to adapt and alter space for greater economic benefit. Small independent units are often further subdivided to accommodate a greater number of services and products. In the context of the local high street in the UK, the small independent Minority Ethnic Business (MEB) is a common feature, whether it is a halal butcher, an Indian chemist or a Chinese takeaway, serving both an embedded local minority community as well as often having a wider mainstream appeal. This paper seeks to examine the relationship between spatial configuration and socio-economic diversity of the local high street to investigate whether the potential for diversity is embedded in its contextual spatial characteristics. For the purpose of this study using nationally defined town centre boundaries, ten town centre case studies were selected from around London based on their residential ethnic profile and the level of deprivation of the area. Building on the literature that shows that land use diversity is associated with the persistence of smaller town centres, we test the proposition that it is also associated with the presence of MEBs. Here we tested the degree of impact of MEB presence on commercial diversity across these case studies. Additionally, the study examines the spatial and morphological signatures of these case studies and how these relate to the context of MEB presence and land use diversity, finding a strong relationship between spatial and urban form factors and a greater presence of MEBs. The study concludes that given the importance of spatial accessibility coupled with built form diversity to the presence of MEBs, greater attention needs to be given to the embedded social value in the spatial characteristics of town centres.
...  Vitality: is the provision of community needs, the viability of the city, and the balance between the structure of the existing city and the activities of the residents. [13]  Liveability: It includes indicators of quality of life and its role in increasing community participation in urban development processes [14]. ...
Article
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Conference Paper
Full-text available
Urban grid, as an open framework and an adaptable form of spatial organisation, has a capacity to produce infinite complexity and variety through time. This research is about the morphological conditions that affect the generative capacity of urban grids. Arguing that there could be distinctive morphological settings and conditions that may hinder or facilitate further adaptation and change, the research aims to develop an analytical framework to identify possible morphological variables affecting the patterns of change and persistence in the built environment. The study focuses on the Midtown Manhattan, the central part of Manhattan's extensive grid, and traces the morphological changes and continuities between 1884 and 2011 by relying on a comprehensive spatial database. The longitudinal analysis of the site reveals that different characteristic areas in the grid (in terms of plot compositions, syntactic values of the streets, diversity of land uses) show different patterns of change and levels of adaptation to emerging disturbances through time. Identification of the reliable morphological parameters explaining the capacity of spatial change and persistence will contribute to the emerging discussions on the resilience and adaptability of urban form.
Chapter
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Over the years, cities and urban districts undergo constant transformations. Some areas are in their prime; others experience stagnation or, in the extreme case, collapse. We aim to contribute to the definition of the concept of urban resilience. Our goal is to expand its understanding from the normative perspective of urban design. We propose the method based on contemporary research in morphometrics. Our starting point is the Conzenian process of the burgage cycle. We begin with the approach developed by Marek Koter for several streets in Lodz. We expand the method further and relate it to the well-recognised attributes of urban resilience, i.e. diversity, connectivity, redundancy and modularity. Moreover, the key issue of this study was the proper relationship between the front width, plot area and Building Coverage Ratio (BCR). The case study showcases the method applying it to the case study of Zachodnia Street in Lodz, Poland.
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Patterns of change in neighborhoods can be discordantly different, even within the same city district. A little understood factor in how urban neighborhoods form and grow is structural inertia, which is the tendency of an urban area to resist change due to its existing physical and socio‐economic fabric. This study explores how patterns of buildings, plots, blocks, and streets affect change or inertia in neighborhoods over time. We integrate Conzenian morphology and space syntax approaches within a geographic information system (GIS) framework to study two historic neighborhoods in Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C. at four points in time over a 96‐year span. Aerial images, historic maps, and GIS sources help to create spatial configuration and building data for each time period. We then analyze these data to identify statistical and map‐pattern morphological and syntactic relationships both in the aggregate and in detail. Our research finds that most of the independent variables of block size, plot size, building footprint, global integration, local integration, and connectivity predicted long‐term change measured in building inventory in almost every occurrence. Our study also suggests design implications and possible future tools and research for measuring change and its relation to the physical characteristics of our cities.
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The paper re-examines the uncomplicated initial postulates of flexibility. Extending them diversifies the field of the application of flexibility. Fundamentally one can change one’s environment not only through modification but also by changing one’s location. Therefore, flexible environment is both adaptable as well as diverse, accessible and networked. This notion couples flexibility with ensembles larger than a flat or a building. Considering movement a source of flexibility opens new development possibilities especially in the scale of a city block. It can e.g. provide one solution to the contradictory aims of housing design to build economically efficient housing on one hand and roomy multipurpose flats on the other hand. This kind of flexibility could be particularly applicable in e.g. cooperative building and co-housing. Moreover, movement-related flexibility may be useful in the design of densely built mixed-use blocks and contemporary public facilities the use of which modern information and communication technologies have changed.
Code
depthmapX is a multi-platform software platform to perform a set of spatial network analyses designed to understand social processes within the built environment. It works at a variety of scales from building through small urban to whole cities or states. At each scale, the aim of the software is to produce a map of open space elements, connect them via some relationship (for example, intervisibility or overlap) and then perform graph analysis of the resulting network. The objective of the analysis is to derive variables which may have social or experiential significance. depthmapX is solely dedicated to Alasdair Turner who original envisioned it.
Book
Henri Lefebvre has considerable claims to be the greatest living philosopher. His work spans some sixty years and includes original work on a diverse range of subjects, from dialectical materialism to architecture, urbanism and the experience of everyday life. The Production of Space is his major philosophical work and its translation has been long awaited by scholars in many different fields. The book is a search for reconciliation between mental space (the space of the philosophers) and real space (the physical and social spheres in which we all live). In the course of his exploration, Henri Lefebvre moves from metaphysical and ideological considerations of the meaning of space to its experience in the everyday life of home and city. He seeks, in other words, to bridge the gap between the realms of theory and practice, between the mental and the social, and between philosophy and reality. In doing so, he ranges through art, literature, architecture and economics, and further provides a powerful antidote to the sterile and obfuscatory methods and theories characteristic of much recent continental philosophy. This is a work of great vision and incisiveness. It is also characterized by its author's wit and by anecdote, as well as by a deftness of style that Donald Nicholson-Smith's sensitive translation precisely captures.
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Suburbs are commonly perceived as essentially non-urban and as non-places without a spatial logic of their own. Such theories ignore the centrality of suburbs to everyday life. This paper presents evidence to show that suburbs have an independent public life that is real, measurable and diverse. A combination of quantitative analysis using space syntax and geographical analysis and qualitative analysis using questionnaires, ethnographic observations and video footage shows that London’s outer suburbs are places of flows at different scales, supporting activities of differing spatial qualities and demands. This diversity of activities and people explains how suburbs can adapt to change and become part of the urban fabric through time.
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This paper addresses the question of how the fringes of cities develop spatially at both the local scale and in relation to the wider urban area that they are linked to. Through an analysis of Greater London over a period of 150 years the changing structure of the street network of Surbiton and South Norwood on the south-western and south-central (respectively) edge is studied. The period covers their transformation from being relatively independent settlements to forming parts of the urban fabric. The methodology that this study uses combines the latest space syntax analytical techniques with innovative historical data capture to create a highly detailed analysis of the changes that occur in the structure of the built environment. Through the application of these methods, that explicitly allow for the exploration of differing scales of relation within the network of urban space, the study elucidates the competing scales of potential movement and access that structural changes over time afford. In the example case studies the changes to the network of space are observed to act at both the local scale, as the process of urbanisation occurs around pre-existing centres, and also at the scale of the city as macro networks develop on and through the fringes of the city to facilitate connectivity at t he regional and national scale. The relationships between these scales are seen to change through time as the overlap between the network elements that facilitate connectivity at local and global scales diverge. The reasons for this divergence are explored through temporal analysis. The analysis demonstrates that over the period of time that the study considers there have been distinct stages in the spatial development of London’s urban fringe that are tied to the planning regime and urbanisation stage of specific periods. The changes that occur show how in the process of urbanisation, as the city expands to encircle new territories, the spatial relationships of fringe areas of the city changes dramatically as new scales of infrastructure are implemented and thus reconfigures the relational nature of place. This is found to be particularly the case in more recent years.
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The dominant image of the suburb as a primarily residential phenomenon and of the suburban town centre as a primarily retail-based phenomenon has not been displaced despite the recent upsurge of scholarly interest in suburbia. This article attempts to make a two-pronged refutation of both these assumptions, demonstrating how urban form and spatial configuration support a mixed use synergy between retail and all other non-residential activities in the sub-urban context. The article maintains that the complex interrelationship between movement, spatial network and land use forms a vital contribution to sustaining the future of urban settlements.
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The purpose of this paper is to provide some much needed theoretical grounding and historical-morphological context for the narratives of communal loss that recur in the reportage concerning the British high street. Given the topicality of this issue for policy-makers it is worth enquiring into precisely how far such narratives are in fact supported by a long-term perspective on historical changes in high street land uses in relation to the evolving spatial morphology of small town centres, in order to better distinguish the extent to which a further layer of socio-cultural explanation is required to account for the concern over ?decline?. This research, undertaken as part of the EPSRC Adaptable Suburbs project at UCL, uses fully digitized historical maps, contemporary and historical land use data and space syntax analysis to identify historical-morphological parameters of change and continuity in and around two suburban high streets of Greater London since the nineteenth century: Surbiton and South Norwood. Drawing on Hillier and colleagues? theory of ?movement economy, the contemporary English high street, as it is represented in the case-study areas, emerges as a distinctive and resilient spatial morphology which has supported varied modes of land use over time. It concludes that the narrative of high street decline in part reflects a dominant focus on difficulties facing the UK retail sector and that a broader focus on the high street as a (re)generative social space rather than simply as a ?retail attractor? would allow for a broader appreciation of both its morphological and socio-economic capacities.
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the issues in current city planning and rebuilding. It describes the principles and aims that have shaped modern, orthodox city planning and rebuilding. The chapter shows how cities work in real life, because this is the only way to learn what principles of planning and what practices in rebuilding can promote social and economic vitality in cities, and what practices and principles will deaden these attributes. In trying to explain the underlying order of cities, the author uses a preponderance of examples from New York. The most important thread of influence starts, more or less, with Ebenezer Howard, an English court reporter for whom planning was an avocation. Howard's influence on American city planning converged on the city from two directions: from town and regional planners on the one hand, and from architects on the other.