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The knowledge that shapes the city:the human city beneath the social city

Hillier, B; (2003) The knowledge that shapes the city:the human city beneath the social city. In: (Proceedings) 4th International Space Syntax Symposium. : London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

In the Atlanta Symposium (Hillier, 2001, 2003a) a theory of the social constructionof the city was presented. In this paper it is proposed that underlying the variouskinds of social city there is a deeper, more generic human city, which arises from thepervasive intervention of the human cognitive subject in the shaping and workingof the city. This intervention is explored at two critical stages in the forming of thecity: in the 'vertical' form-creating process by which the accumulation of built formscreates an emergent spatial pattern; and in the 'lateral' form-function process bywhich the emergent spatial pattern shapes movement and sets off the process bywhich an aggregate of buildings becomes a living city. The nature of these cognitiveinterventions is investigated by asking a question: how do human beings 'synchronise'diachronically acquired (and diachronically created) spatial information into asynchronic picture of ambient urban spatial patterns, since it is such synchronicpictures which seem to mediate both interventions? A possible answer is sought bydeveloping the concept of 'description retrieval', originally proposed in 'The SocialLogic of Space' as the means by which human beings retrieve abstract informationfrom patterns of relations in the real world. Our ability to retrieve such descriptionhappens, it is argued, at more than one level, and can includes the high-level notionsof the grid which seems to plays a key role in cognitive intervention in the city.Finally we ask what the ubiquity of the human cognitive subject in the formation ofthe city implies for how we should see cities as complex systems. It is argued that,as with language, there is a 'objective subject' at the heart of the processes by whichcities come into existence, and that this provides us both with the need and themeans to mediate between the social physics paradigm of the city, with its focus onthe mathematics of the generation of the physical city and phenomenologicalparadigm with its - too often anti-mathematical - focus on the human experience ofthe city. Since the intervention of the cognitive subject involves formal ideas andhas formal consequences for the structure of the city, we cannot, it is argued, explaineither without the other.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: The knowledge that shapes the city:the human city beneath the social city
Event: 4th International Space Syntax Symposium
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Additional information: Imported via OAI, 7:29:00 22nd Sep 2005
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1058
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