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Space is the machine, part three: the laws of the field

Hillier, B.; (2007) Space is the machine, part three: the laws of the field. In: Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture. (pp. 215-286). Space Syntax: London, UK. Green open access

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Part III of the book, ‘The Laws of the Field’, uses these noted regularities to reconsider the most fundamental question of all in architectural theory: how is the vast field of possible spatial complexes constrained to create those that are actually found as buildings? First, in Chapter Eight, ‘Is architecture an ars combinatoria?’, a general theory of ‘partitioning’ is proposed, in which it is shown that local physical changes in a spatial system always have more or less global configurational effects. It is the laws governing this passage form local physical moves to global spatial effects that are the spatial laws that underlie building. These local-to-global spatial laws are linked to the evolution of real buildings through what will be called ‘generic function’, by which is meant the spatial implications of the most fundamental aspects of human use of space, that is, the fact of occupation and the fact of movement. At this generic level, function imposes restraints on what is spatially viable, and this is responsible for what all buildings have in common as spatial designs. Generic function is the ‘first filter’ between the field of possibility and architectural actuality. The second filter is then the cultural or programmatic requirement of that type of building. The third filter is the idiosyncrasies of structure and expression that then distinguish that building from all others. The passage from the possible to the real passes through these three filters, and without an understanding of each we cannot decipher the form-function relation. Most of all, without a knowledge of generic function and its spatial implications we cannot understand that what all buildings have in common in their spatial structures is already profoundly influenced by human functioning in space. In Chapter 9, ‘The fundamental city’, the theory of generic function and the three filters is applied to cities to show how much of the growth of settlements is governed by these basic laws. A new computer modelling technique of ‘all line analysis’, which begins by conceptualising vacant space as an infinitely dense matrix of lines, containing all possible structures, is used to show how the observable regularities in urban forms from the most local to the most global can be seen to be products of the same underlying processes. A fundamental settlement process is proposed, of which particular cultural types are parameterisations. Finally, it is shown how the fundamental settlement process is essentially realised through a small number of spatial ideas which have an essentially geometrical nature.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Space is the machine, part three: the laws of the field
ISBN-13: 9780955622403
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.spacesyntax.com/en/downloads/library/bo...
Language: English
Additional information: Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture, by Professor Bill Hillier, is one of the foundational texts of the Space Syntax approach to human spatial phenomena. It was originally published hardcover by Cambridge University Press in 1996, and then in paperback in 1998. However, once the original run had been exhausted, the book went out of print: reprinting was not deemed economically feasible due to the number of colour plates in the book, even though the title had been selling well at the time. Space Syntax, with the support of University College London (UCL), is now happy to make this electronic edition available with a new preface and free of charge. We have done this to help meet the demand for access to Professor Hillier’s ideas, a demand that has increased steadily over the past decade.
UCL classification:
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/3851
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