Space Syntax*


Space Syntax was founded in the 1970s by the late Professor Bill Hillier at University College, London. It was founded on the work described in his eponymous books, ‘The social logic of space’ (1984) and ‘Space is the machine’ (1996). In short, it is a method for calculating spatial interrelationships in built environments at various scales, ranging from building interiors up to regional agglomerations.

Since Space Syntax was founded, the leaps and bounds in computer and software capabilities have made it possible to refine the calculations and apply them to increasingly complex systems. It’s an ever-evolving field of theory and professional practice that is being embraced by an ever-wider range of disciplines such as architecture, urban design, town planning, sociology, transport planning, criminology, philosophy, human geography, etc.

The principles and methodologies used by Space Syntax are as relevant to wayfinding as to urban planning. Fundamentally, it’s a human-focused approach to the configuration of space based upon ‘to-movement’ and ‘through-movement’. It’s a way of abstracting space that reveals patterns of connectivity and integration.

Space Syntax graph-based analytical techniques can identify how people move through urban areas, identify areas of high flow, walkability, and demonstrate how integrated and connected areas or neighbourhoods of a city are. The revealed pedestrian movement choices and behaviour can help address issues in the linking of key destinations (POIs), encourage exploration, revealing primary movement corridors—and vice versa—areas of low accessibility.

Other fields such as the theory of vision also apply within Space Syntax, with isovist fields and the corresponding visibility graphs emphasisng the importance of visual affordance in guiding an agent through space—choice in other words. It’s an excellent tool to have in the ‘wayfinding toolbox’ that positively contributes to analysis, strategy and implementation, and one that now forms part our offer.