Uncovering the production process of social life in urban spatial settings is one of the essentials in the development of modern urban planning and design (Lefebvre 1991). Spatial structure refers to a set of spatial relationships arising out of the urban form and its underlying interaction between various urban entities (Anas et al. 1998). Urban Fabric is a vital component of urban planning.
In the socio-spatial dialectic, social events are argued to be formed through space, to be constrained by space and to be mediated in space (Soja 1989).
Evidence of how the society is reproduced spatially has been found in many ancient cities, where social hierarchies coincide with the spatial organisation of human settlements to a large extent (Lévi-Strauss 1963; Hillier and Hanson 1984).
In contemporary societies, modern technologies have significantly used rapid human mobility, leading to unprecedented urban sprawl over the last century and a half, and thus (re)shaping the urban context with numerous dispersed, hierarchical and interrelated hubs (Castell 2011; Buliung 2011).
The complexity of modern city systems has consequently been issued as a challenge for reclaiming the theoretical significance of urban form in the procedures of contemporary social life and for advancing relevant methodological developments. Modern urban design has been utilised as a primary tool to address the socio-economic issues of cities in history.
In parallel with the ‘social turn’ in modern planning history, in which the focus of modern urban planning was shifted from the individualist invention of ‘ideal’ public spaces to the collaborative planning of functional and democratic spaces (Healy 1997), important theoretical developments in urban design emerged from the 1960s through the 1980s, which have in return contributed to the ‘spatial turn’ in social sciences.
Neo-Marxist urban planning theories have emphasised the importance of the built environment—the ‘second nature’, an artificial nature—in urban production and consumption processes (Lefebvre 1974; Harvey 2010).
The spatial structure of cities has its roots in the recognition of urban centres and the notion of centrality in the urban system. In general, the spatial structure has two principal aspects: the morphological dimension, which refers to the locations, sizes and boundaries of the centres, and the functional dimension, which addresses the significance of the interrelationship between those hierarchical centres (Burger and Meijers 2012). These two principles interact with each other with some level of correlation, but empirical studies at the intra-city scale offer very little to show a robust causal connection between the functional and morphological changes in cities (Hall 2002; Burger and Meijers 2012). In the term’s usage, the normative definitions of these aspects of spatial structure can be reflected in various scenarios.
In geographical research, a series of analytical methods with diverse datasets have been employed to measure these two crucial aspects, which vary from using arbitrarily selected thresholds of urban population densities, employment, or land-uses (e.g., McDonald 1987; Thurstain-Goodwin and Unwin 2000) to adopting network properties based on flows of people (e.g., Thiemann et al. 2010). The focuses of these methods fall mostly on functionality, but they tend to treat the morphological features of urban cases as mere outputs of the statistical performance of the functional attributes of each case. This treatment somewhat simplifies the morphological elements of geographical studies, constraining their significance in meaningfully guiding urban design. This trend is reversed in configurational studies using space syntax, which analyses the -geometrical nearness of urban street networks, whereas the functional dimension is generally accounted for as a dependent product of distributed public spaces (Hillier and Penn 2004).
The space syntax theory proposes that spatial urban structure shapes movement and then movement shapes functions in the city (Hillier 1996). Space syntax representations of spatial structures can efficiently capture as spatial descriptions functional patterns in historic or informal settlements and slums.
Link(s) and Source(s):