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Persistence and change in the spatio-temporal description of Sheffield Parish c.1750-1905

Griffiths, S.; (2009) Persistence and change in the spatio-temporal description of Sheffield Parish c.1750-1905. In: Koch, D. and Marcus, L. and Steen, J., (eds.) Proceedings of the 7th International Space Syntax Symposium. (pp. p. 37). Royal Institute of Technology (KTH): Stockholm, Sweden. Green open access

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Abstract

This paper brings a range of techniques from space syntax and fractal geometry to the question of the diachronic description of spatial structures that are usually considered in purely synchronic terms. Drawing on historical research into the growth of the English industrial city of Sheffield c.1770-1905 it asks how far the spatial configuration of the city’s rural hinterland (its ‘parish’) was implicated in the processes of social change and continuity that unfolded during this period. Time-series data on the development of Sheffield Parish is provided by the syntactical analysis of detailed historical maps, the routes taken by roadbased public transport systems and contemporary newspaper reports. The data is interpreted in the light of Hillier and Iida’s notion of angular, topological and metric “distance concepts” which are said to represent distinctive ‘modalities of scale’ in the emergence of an urban area embedded in the historical spatial configuration of its rural hinterland. In traditional urban geography the growth of cities is conventionally represented as the projection of an expanding built environment onto a blank surface. The discourse that accompanies this teleological notion of urbanization is typically one in which the countryside is ‘absorbed’ by the rapacious city. This language can be misleading, since urban areas whose growth can be regarded as ‘organic’ - in the sense of arising piecemeal over time - suggests the inadequacy of conceptualizing the built environment in a single (synchronic) dimension. The evidence from Sheffield Parish indicates how the differentiation of urban form is constituted both synchronically and diachronically in the description of spatial elements structured at different modalities of scale consistent with prevailing patterns of social practice, some of which relate to innovations in public transportation. The analysis of rural road networks represents a relatively new area of space syntax research. An historical study of this kind helps to ground future work by focusing on the emergent properties of space at the urban-rural periphery without also raising complex methodological questions relating to the application of space syntax methodology to large-scale contemporary urban regions. Rather, the emphasis is on drawing together the theoretical and analytical aspects of the Sheffield case study to assert that if the growing city is legitimately said to have ‘absorbed’ its rural hinterland then it is equally evident that this process of urban transformation can be also described in terms of the persistence of pre-urban road networks, historically embedded in local topography.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: Persistence and change in the spatio-temporal description of Sheffield Parish c.1750-1905
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.sss7.org/Proceedings_list.html
Language: English
Additional information: Part of the 7th International Space Syntax Symposium, School of Architecture and the Built Environment, The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden, 8-11 June 2009. Please see http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/15021, http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/15294/, http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/15302/, http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/15303/, http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/16184/ http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/16409, and http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/16411 for other proceedings from this symposium
Keywords: Sheffield, urban periphery, space syntax, road networks, historical space, spatial description
UCL classification:
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/15301
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