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Synergy, inteligibility and revelation in neighbourhood places

Dalton, N.S.C.; (2011) Synergy, inteligibility and revelation in neighbourhood places. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In architectural and urban design the notion of place is highly desired, or in its absence, strongly criticised. Yet what is place and how might it be engendered by design? Over the last 30 years an extensive body of research on place has emerged, largely based on phenomenological approaches. This work gives rise to the question of whether place is a purely social concept completely divorced from physical space, or is linked to space and therefore amenable to design based intervention. Talen and Relph, for example, assert that there is no link between space and the social notion of place. This thesis attempts to approach place from a highly empirical and positivist methodology grounded in the theories known as space syntax but inspired by phenomenological approaches to place. The hypothesis presented here is that neighbourhoodplace, or sense of the genius loci of a place, is partially dependent on the global homogeneity of the relationships between spaces defining a region (the neighbourhood) combined with a local heterogeneity of the spatial properties that create a place’s identity. Results from a study show that a measure of total revelation (a measure of the difference in information content between a space and its immediately adjacent spaces) is consistent with the degree to which participants would locate a café/place, reinforcing other work done in the area and by environmental psychologists such as Kaplan and Kaplan. Total revelation serves as a powerful measure of the local heterogeneity of a location and hence a place’s identity. In further experiments presented in this thesis, neighbourhood boundaries were compared to the areas reported by inhabitants and against new measures of point synergy and point intelligibility, as well as a number of methods suggested by Raford and Hillier, Read, Yang and Hillier, and Peponis, along with a ‘null’ control measure. Evidence is presented suggesting that point synergy is the most effective method for predicting a neighbourhood’s extent from its spatial configuration, hence making it a suitable method to define the global homogeneity of a named district. This work concludes by suggesting that that while place may be unrelated to geographic location there is evidence to suggest that it is related to space (in the configurational or architectural sense) which would appear to contradict those who assert that the notion of place is wholly unrelated to the physical aspects of space. From an architectural perspective this thesis suggests that certain key aspects of spatial design are present in the affordance of social neighbourhoods.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Synergy, inteligibility and revelation in neighbourhood places
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Graduate Studies

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