Email update to colleagues at Space Syntax

Dear All

Warm and friendly wishes from Harvard!

We are one month into term now and I thought you would be interested to hear what I have been up to. To be honest, it feels as if I have been here for 6 months – so much has been happening.

First of all, it is truly amazing here. The people, resources and atmosphere are almost unheard of – only rivalled by a Friday afternoon at 21 Brownlow Mews!

I am dividing my time between taking courses, meeting people for coffee, reading, writing, lecturing, communicating and serendipity. I start at 6am every day and turn in around midnight. I am keenly aware that time is passing quickly and I have so much to do for the practice. 

Taking courses
This semester I am dividing my time between the Graduate School of Design and the Kennedy School of Government. At the GSD I am taking a course on sustainability, which is covering a facet of sustainability in each weekly lecture. Part of my mission here is to position Space Syntax firmly within the sustainability debate. In order to do so, I need to understand the debate in its widest and deepest dimensions; to reference other thinkers and practitioners; to contextualise. The Kennedy School is an amazing work environment, worthy of study by us, with a central “forum” around which two spiralling staircases climb, with four-person, open meeting spaces opening up off the stairs. I am taking two courses here: the first is on digital media and its effects on governance; the second is on “The Arts of Communication”, which is an intensive course on speaking and writing. 

I am averaging one meeting a day with staff and students, so far mostly at the GSD. I see this broadening of our network as a key task during the year. Watch my LinkedIn membership grow…! I am especially spending time with the other eight Loeb Fellows, each of whom is an exceptional person with a compelling history. We recently spent the weekend away together on a former military base in Maine and it was a revelation to realise the true quality of the company I’m keeping.

I have read more books in the last four weeks than, I’m ashamed to say, I have done in the last four years, including: “Googled” by Ken Auletta, “The Wealth of Networks” by Yochai Benkler”, “The Wikipedia Revolution”, “You are the message”, “This I believe”, “Who is Your City” by Richard Florida. 

You might have seen that I have stared a blog, to record current intents as well as things I have written before I came here:  

I have given a couple of presentations on Space Syntax to students at the GSD, each of which has led to follow up coffees with intrigued students. More lectures are lined up. The key thing for me is to keep transforming these lectures as I learn more and develop my thinking. 

I am spending a certain amount of time every day keeping in touch with the UK and especially with the Space Syntax mothership via daily email/Skype chats with Anna, Kayvan, Chris, Alan and Bill. I get all the news and I don’t feel disconnected at all. Please don’t hesitate to share me into emails if you think something is worth letting me know about. 

Despite the quick pace of things, I am trying to leave time to stop and think and do things that are not obviously beneficial – most of the time they turn out to be highly beneficial, either meeting people or reading something I didn’t expect to be anything other than fun.

Above all, I am keeping my sights firmly on Space Syntax. It is no exaggeration that I test everything I do against the company’s mission. In doing so, I am becoming increasingly focused on dissemination. There is a big interest at the GSD in Space Syntax. Indeed, I am hoping to teach a short course on Space Syntax basics in January. Apart from the obvious benefit of training a dozen or so Harvard students, I want to use the experience as an opportunity to structure a simple training module and, perhaps even, a training manual – one that might form the basis for an accelerated rate of both academic and commercial licensing in the future. 

I may need some technical help with this course, so watch this space…!

What is enjoyable to see though, is how positively people respond to the fact that we at Space Syntax are both professional practice and academic research team at the same time. There isn’t a precedent at the GSD for such an entity – it makes me realise just how important it is that we exploit our unique and valuable collaboration with UCL. Certainly, there are plenty of distinguished people at the GSD who both teach and practice, but I haven’t yet come across anything close to our business model. 

So, my week ahead comprises:

Breakfast with Nicco Mele, inspirational Professor at the Kennedy School.
Meeting with the Vice President at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where I am the Lincoln Loeb Fellow.
Courses at the Kennedy School.

Seminars around Harvard.

40th Reunion of the Loeb Fellowship comprising seminars, networking and a big party on Saturday evening.

So this is my news for now. I wish you a great week of your own and, as I said earlier, don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Best wishes


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