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Studying cities to learn about minds: some possible implications of space syntax for spatial cognition

Hillier, B; (2009) Studying cities to learn about minds: some possible implications of space syntax for spatial cognition. Environment and Planning B , 39 (1) pp. 12-32. 10.1068/b34047t. Green open access

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Abstract

What can we learn of the human mind by examining its products? The city is a case in point. Since the beginning of cities human ideas about them have been dominated by geometric ideas, and the real history of cities has always oscillated between the geometric and the ‘organic’. Set in the context of the suggestion from cognitive neuroscience that we impose more geometric order on the world than it actually possesses, and intriguing question arises: what is the role of the geometric intuition in how we understand cities and how we create them? Here I argue, drawing on space syntax research which has sought to link the detailed spatial morphology of cities to observable functional regularities, that all cities, the organic as well as the geometric, are pervasively ordered by geometric intuition, so that neither the forms of the cities nor their functioning can be understood without insight into their distinctive and pervasive emergent geometrical forms. The city is often said to be the creation of economic and social processes, but here it is argued that these processes operate within an envelope of geometric possibility defined by the human mind in its interaction with spatial laws that govern the relations between objects and spaces in the ambient world.

Type: Article
Title: Studying cities to learn about minds: some possible implications of space syntax for spatial cognition
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1068/b34047t
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1068/b34047t
Additional information: Special Issue on Spatial Cognition and the Built Environment
UCL classification: UCL
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
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/18536
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