6,874 research outputs found

    The city as a socio-technical system a spatial reformulation

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    The knowledge that shapes the city:the human city beneath the social city

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    In the Atlanta Symposium (Hillier, 2001, 2003a) a theory of the social constructionof the city was presented. In this paper it is proposed that underlying the variouskinds of social city there is a deeper, more generic human city, which arises from thepervasive intervention of the human cognitive subject in the shaping and workingof the city. This intervention is explored at two critical stages in the forming of thecity: in the 'vertical' form-creating process by which the accumulation of built formscreates an emergent spatial pattern; and in the 'lateral' form-function process bywhich the emergent spatial pattern shapes movement and sets off the process bywhich an aggregate of buildings becomes a living city. The nature of these cognitiveinterventions is investigated by asking a question: how do human beings 'synchronise'diachronically acquired (and diachronically created) spatial information into asynchronic picture of ambient urban spatial patterns, since it is such synchronicpictures which seem to mediate both interventions? A possible answer is sought bydeveloping the concept of 'description retrieval', originally proposed in 'The SocialLogic of Space' as the means by which human beings retrieve abstract informationfrom patterns of relations in the real world. Our ability to retrieve such descriptionhappens, it is argued, at more than one level, and can includes the high-level notionsof the grid which seems to plays a key role in cognitive intervention in the city.Finally we ask what the ubiquity of the human cognitive subject in the formation ofthe city implies for how we should see cities as complex systems. It is argued that,as with language, there is a 'objective subject' at the heart of the processes by whichcities come into existence, and that this provides us both with the need and themeans to mediate between the social physics paradigm of the city, with its focus onthe mathematics of the generation of the physical city and phenomenologicalparadigm with its - too often anti-mathematical - focus on the human experience ofthe city. Since the intervention of the cognitive subject involves formal ideas andhas formal consequences for the structure of the city, we cannot, it is argued, explaineither without the other

    What do we need to add to a social network to get a society? answer: something like what we have to add to a spatial network to get a city

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    Recent years have seen great advances in social network analysis. Yet, with a few exceptions, the field of network analysis remains remote from social theory. As a result, much social network research, while technically accomplished and theoretically suggestive, is essentially descriptive. How then can social networks be linked to social theory ? Here we pose the question in its simplest form: what must we add to a social network to get a society ? We begin by showing that one reason for the disconnection between network theory and society theory is that because it exists in spacetime, the concept of social network raises the issue of space in a way that is problematical for social theory. Here we turn the problem on its head and make the problem of space in social network theory explicit by proposing a surprising analogy with the question: what do you have to add to an urban space network to get a city. We show first that by treating a city as a naïve spatial network in the first instance and allowing it to acquire two formal properties we call reflexivity and nonlocality, both mediated through a mechanism we call description retrieval, we can build a picture of the dynamics processes by which collections of the buildings become living cities. We then show that by describing societies initially as social networks in space-time and adding similar properties, we can construct a plausible ontology of a simple human society

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

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    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

    The architectures of seeing and going:or, are cities shaped by bodies or minds? And is there a syntax ofspatial cognition?

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    In my first paper to this Symposium, it was argued that the human cognitive subjectplayed a key part the shaping and working of the city. The key mechanism was thesynchronisation of diachronically experienced (and usually diachronically created)information into higher order pictures of spatial relations, the guiding form for whichwas an abstracted notion of a grid formed by linearised spaces. This notion wasargued to be both perceptual and conceptual, serving at once as an abstractedrepresentation of the space of the city and as a means of solving problems, such asnavigational problems. In this paper, the question addressed is where the notion ofthe ideal grid comes from, why it has the properties it does, and what it has to dowith the real grids of cities, which are commonly of the 'deformed' or 'interrupted'rather than 'ideal' kinds (Hillier, 1996). The answer, it is proposed, lies in the verynature of complex spaces, defining these as spaces in which objects are placed so asto partially block seeing and going, and, in particular, in certain divergences in thelogics of metric and visual accessibility in such spaces. The real grid, deformed orinterrupted, is, it is argued the practical resolution of these divergent logics, and theideal grid its abstract resolution. In both resolutions, however, the resolution is moreon the terms of the visual than the metric, suggesting that cognitive factors are morepowerful than metric factors in shaping the space of the city. The question is thanraised: do people have or acquire the concept of the grid, perhaps as some kind ofperceptual-conceptual invariance of spatial experience in complex spaces, and dothey use it as a model to interact with complex spatial patterns of the urban kind?This possibility is examined against the background of current opinion in the cognitivesciences

    The art of place and the science of space

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    A theory of the city as object: or, how spatial laws mediate the social construction of urban space

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    A series of recent papers (Hillier et al 1993, Hillier 1996b, Hillier 2000) have outlined a generic process by which spatial configurations, through their effect on movement, first shape, and then are shaped by, land use patterns and densities. The aim of this paper is to make the spatial dimension of this process more precise. The paper begins by examining a large number of axial maps, and finds that although there are strong cultural variations in different regions of the world, there are also powerful invariants. The problem is to understand how both cultural variations and invariants can arise from the spatial processes that generate cities. The answer proposed is that socio-cultural factors generate the differences by imposing a certain local geometry on the local construction of settlement space, while micro-economic factors, coming more and more into play as the settlement expands, generate the invariants

    Between social physics and phenomenology

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    In recent years, both phenomenology and social physics, which might be thought of asoccupying the humanistic and scientific poles of urban discourse, have taken an interestin space syntax as a means of furthering their academic aims. Here we suggest that thiscould presage a far deeper theoretical integration of the multi-disciplinary study of citiesthan either currently envisage

    Space is the machine, part four: theoretical syntheses

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    Part IV of the book, ‘Theoretical Syntheses’, begins to draw together some of the questions raised in Part I, the regularities shown in Part II and the laws proposed in Part III, to suggest how the two central problems in architectural theory, namely the form-function problem and the form-meaning problem, can be reconceptualised. Chapter 10, ‘Space is the machine’, reviews the form-function theory in architecture and attempts to establish a pathology of its formulation: how it came to be set up in such a way that it could not be solved. It then proposes how the configuration paradigm permits a reformulation, through which we can not only make sense of the relation between form and function in buildings, but also we can make sense of how and why buildings, in a powerful sense are ‘social objects’ and in fact play a powerful role in the realisation and sustaining of human society. Finally, in Chapter 11, ‘The reasoning art’, the notion of configuration is applied to the study of what architects do, that is, design. Previous models of the design process are reviewed, and it is shown that without knowledge of configuration and the concept of the non-discursive, we cannot understand the internalities of the design process. A new knowledge-based model of design is proposed, with configuration at its centre. It is argued from this that because design is a configurational process, and because it is the characteristic of configuration that local changes make global differences, design is necessarily a top down process. This does not mean that it cannot be analysed, or supported by research. It shows however that only configurationally biased knowledge can really support the design Introduction Space is the machine | Bill Hillier Space Syntax Introduction process, and this, essentially, is theoretical knowledge. It follows from this that attempts to support designers by building methods and systems for bottom up construction of designs must eventually fail as explanatory systems. They can serve to create specific architectural identities, but not to advance general architectural understanding. In pursuing an analytic rather than a normative theory of architecture, the book might be thought by some to have pretensions to make the art of architecture into a science. This is not what is intended. One effect of a better scientific understanding of architecture is to show that although architecture as a phenomenon is capable of considerable scientific understanding, this does not mean that as a practice architecture is not an art. On the contrary, it shows quite clearly why it is an art and what the nature and limits of that art are. Architecture is an art because, although in key respects its forms can be analysed and understood by scientific means, its forms can only be prescribed by scientific means in a very restricted sense. Architecture is law governed but it is not determinate. What is governed by the laws is not the form of individual buildings but the field of possibility within which the choice of form is made. This means that the impact of these laws on the passage from problem statement to solution is not direct but indirect. It lies deep in the spatial and physical forms of buildings, in their genotypes, not their phenotypes. Architecture is therefore not part art, and part science, in the sense that it has both technical and aesthetic aspects, but is both art and science in the sense that it requires both the processes of abstraction by which we know science and the processes of concretion by which we know art. The architect as scientist and as theorist seeks to establish the laws of the spatial and formal materials with which the architect as artist then composes. The greater scientific content of architecture over art is simply a function of the far greater complexity of the raw materials of space and form, and their far greater reverberations for other aspects of life, than any materials that an artist uses. It is the fact that the architect designs with the spatial stuff of living that builds the science of architecture into the art of architecture. It may seem curious to argue that the quest for a scientific understanding of architecture does not lead to the conclusion that architecture is a science, but nevertheless it is the case. In the last analysis, architectural theory is a matter of understanding architecture as a system of possibilities, and how these are restricted by laws which link this system of possibilities to the spatial potentialities of human life. At this level, and perhaps only at this level, architecture is analogous to language. Language is often naïvely conceptualised as a set of words and meanings, set out in a dictionary, and syntactic rules by which they may be combined into meaningful sentences, set out in grammars. This is not what language is, and the laws that govern language are not of this kind. This can be seen from the simple fact that if we take the words of the dictionary and combine them in grammatically correct sentences, virtually all are utterly meaningless and do not count as legitimate sentences. The structures of language are the laws which restrict the combinatorial possibilities of words, and through these restrictions construct the sayable and the meaningful. The laws of language do not therefore tell us what to say, but prescribe the structure and limits of the sayable. It is within these limits that we use language as the prime means to our individuality and creativity. In this sense architecture does resemble language. The laws of the field of architecture do not tell designers what to do. By restricting and structuring the field of combinatorial possibility, they prescribe the limits within which architecture is possible. As with language, what is left from this restrictive structuring is rich beyond imagination. Even so, without these laws buildings would not be human products, any more than meaningless but syntactically correct concatenations of words are human sentences. The case for a theoretical understanding of architecture then rests eventually not on aspiration to philosophical or scientific status, but on the nature of architecture itself. The foundational proposition of the book is that architecture is an inherently theoretical subject. The very act of building raises issues about the relations of the form of the material world and the way in which we live in it which (as any archaeologist knows who has tried to puzzle out a culture from material remains) are unavoidably both philosophical and scientific. Architecture is the most everyday, the most enveloping, the largest and the most culturally determined human artefact. The act of building implies the transmission of cultural conventions answering these questions through custom and habit. Architecture is their rendering explicit, and their transmutation into a realm of innovation and, at its best, of art. In a sense, architecture is abstract thought applied to building, even therefore in a sense theory applied to building. This is why, in the end, architecture must have analytic theories

    The genetic code for cities – is it simpler than we thought?

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    September 200
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