Technology by necessity
Posted on November 28, 2014 Leave a Comment
Notes for today’s talk at the NLA’s conference on “How do we build a smarter London”
The London context:
– more people (growing population)
– more data (sensors everywhere)
– more sophisticated computing.
Strategic problem: how to handle it all.
Space Syntax’s experience: address the problem via “the questions of reality”.
The commercial application of Space Syntax research was catalysed by approaches from London residents in the early/mid 1980s eg Limehouse Basin, South Bank, King’s Cross: citizens groups opposing property developments they saw as being alien to London life. Today we work for those developers as well as community groups. Developers have learned to “get it”.
Data and computing create an art of the possible (sometimes the seemingly impossible too eg the wonderful Pigeon Sim). Pass the art of the possible through the filter of reality/market demand. Then it’s possible to make sense of it all – to know what to do.
The questions asked by our clients are the necessary filter.
Then evolve the technology according to new and difficult questions.
This is what we had to do to understand Trafalgar Square – we’d never studied such a complex open space before.
Technology by necessity.
Defining Smart(er) (as) Cities
Posted on October 30, 2014 Leave a Comment
I prefer the term “Smarter City” to “Smart City” even if it has already been claimed by IBM.
“Smarter City” suggests the city is already smart and technology can make it smarter, whereas “Smart City” can be misinterpreted as suggesting that the city is dumb and technology, like a White Knight, will ride to its rescue.
And in truth some cities are dumb – or have been made dumb by modern transport planning: choked with congestion in pursuit of car-based sprawl.
But not all cities are dumb. We have cities for a reason. They are fundamentally smart in the way they create intensification of opportunities for people to meet, interact and transact. In this sense, cities are a natural product of human evolution.
To be truly smart, cities need to recognise their fundamental smartness. Real cities – the places that resonate to the “urban buzz” – are already smart cities. Historic cities, unsullied by destructive modern planning, are smart cities. Low technology cities, if they are compact and people-focused, are already smart cities.
Future cities need to be as smart as great historic and low technology cities.
Smart City – good.
Smarter City – better.
Smart as Cities – best!
A new science for cities
Posted on October 24, 2014 Leave a Comment
A talk given to the Leaders and Chief Executives of the Key Cities, Brighton, 24th October 2014.
We hear a lot about smart cities as the solution to the needs of urban places. But although technology allows us to live remotely and speak to each other from deep forests and mountaintops, humanity as a species has become more and more urban. The more that we could be apart, the more we have actually come together.
Perhaps we need to understand that smart cities is not a new concept: cities were always smart – if they weren’t smart we wouldn’t have them. Read More
Bill Hillier’s Smart London
Posted on October 9, 2014 Leave a Comment
Notes of Bill Hilliers opening talk about the NLA Smarter London exhibition, 8th October 2014.
Congratulations to the NLA and CASA for the exhibition.
It’s evidence that London is the original smart city – nowhere such a collection of top class practices, imaginative authorities and academic departments developing new ways of doing things, and new technologies –and talking to each other !
But I think London is a smart city also in another sense – the city itself and how it’s put together.
When I was young London was regarded as an unplanned mess, in need of being tidied up into a system of well-defined neighbourhood units separated by main roads – a bit like Milton Keynes.
I’ve been asked to say something about one of the technologies on show – space syntax.
When we apply space syntax analysis to London it suggests it’s not mess at all
That under the apparent disorder, there is a pretty smart city. Read More
Let them smoke ciggies because it keeps them calm
Posted on October 3, 2014 1 Comment
“Cul de sac layouts may be the opium of the unwary – seemingly an analgesic against high-density urbanism – but beware the risks of over-indulgence”.
Steve Morgan, founder of housebuilder Redrow, attacks high-density urbanism in today’s Building Design. He says:
“Build cul de sacs because that’s how people want to live”.
This reminds me of some other things I’ve heard:
“Give them salty food because they enjoy the taste.”
“Let them smoke ciggies because it keeps them calm.”
Moving cities: from transport to transaction
Posted on September 30, 2014 Leave a Comment
“If the scope of urban policy makers can be widened from a fixation on transport to an appreciation of value-rich urban outcomes, built on the benefits of effective human transaction, then future cities are more likely to be places that meet the expectations of future citizens.”
Cities are ultimately vessels for the concentrated production and sustenance of life. Yet this intrinsic aspect of urbanism – the human factor – is neglected in many future cities discussions, which are instead dominated by the subject of transport and the use of technology to manage existing traffic systems more efficiently. Read More
Integrated Urbanism – Massachusetts & the United Kingdom Partnership Forum
Posted on September 17, 2014 Leave a Comment
Good afternoon Governor Patrick, visiting delegates and colleagues from the UK. As a recent resident of Massachusetts myself, it is a special pleasure to speak alongside the Governor on the subject of data and cities: and to share some remarks on the common interest in this room: the science of cities.
A few words about me: I am an architect and an urban planner in private practice. My company, Space Syntax is a consulting company that specialises in predictive analytics – using data science to forecast the impact of urban planning decisions – the “what goes where and how does it all connect together” – on urban impacts such as mobility, interaction, wealth, health and personal safety. Read More
RIBA thinkpiece launched: “A SMART approach to digital planning & design”
Posted on May 21, 2014 Leave a Comment
The RIBA today launched a set of think-pieces on Digital planning: ideas to make it happen.
What exactly is human scale?
Posted on May 9, 2014 Leave a Comment
Darwin City Centre Masterplan, Space Syntax
For too long, architects and urban planners have pursued the myth that human scale means “local” scale. In doing so, they have downscaled space, thinking that by fragmenting and disconnecting towns and cities into small enclaves they would be creating “community”. They were wrong.
Isolated and disconnected, people on inner -city housing estates, new towns and sprawling housing developments have found it hard to form social networks. To engage with the outside world. To be human.
And this form of urban planning prevails, being exported to developing cities worldwide.
In contrast, human scale is a combination of the local and the global, acting simultaneously on the individual. We are, unsurprisingly, more sophisticated than we were given credit for.
What do I mean? Well, consider having a doorstep conversation with a neighbour while watching the world go by on your street, or a coffee with a friend on the High Street. These are simultaneous local:global experiences.
Space Syntax analysis identifies the places where shops are most likely to locate in historic towns and cities. Using network models to study patterns of street connectivity, we find that shops are usually in locations that are simultaneously embedded in both local and global movement networks. Where everyday movement criss-crosses, be that local, short-distance movement or larger distance, global movement.
We call this “multi-scale” analysis and the places it identifies are multi-scale places.
Human behaviour is no mystery when the right kind of science is directed towards its understanding.
And the key finding for the creation of future urban settlement is that we need to think more globally. To connect more. To embrace the outside world more. To create more multi-scale places.
To make places work more effectively at the local scale we need to connect them more effectively at the global.
We need to see the human scale as a multi-scale phenomenon.
Digital urbanism – a sketch of a structure
Posted on May 8, 2014 Leave a Comment
Digital Urbanism has two key components:
That organisations and individuals are involved in the creation, collection, visualisation and analysis of data, leading to the creation, through computing, of modelling tools and predictive analytics. This kind of activity is now central to the operations of public and private organisations. It is no longer peripheral.
2. Human behaviour
That people now think about places online as well as places on land; that cyberspace is as real as physical space; that networked computing means we have moved beyond the single chatroom and into the interconnected “place-web”.
These, I believe, are the twin aspects of Digital Urbanism and, of the two, the second is the primus inter pares because human behaviour patterns should drive computing activities.
Centres and Cities
Posted on April 24, 2014 Leave a Comment
I’m sure you’re right about the link between street morphology and attractiveness to business. Centres seem to do one of three things through time. They either:
1. consolidate and grow (London, Paris)
2. move (Jeddah)
3. implode (Sunderland).
Oh, and some places:
4. never have a functioning centre (Skelmersdale, UK New Towns) because they were designed in ignorance of the importance of a) grid continuity and b) multi-scale centrality – properties measured by Space Syntax models
5. divide and reunite (Berlin) but we can’t blame the architects for that!
Email to Paul Swinney at the Centre for Cities
Move, interact, transact – the human dimension of Smart Cities
Posted on March 18, 2014 Leave a Comment
Speaking at the invitation of the organisers of the British Business Summit, Istanbul, Turkey. Read More
UK Spatial Infrastructure Model
Posted on February 13, 2014 Leave a Comment
This is a model of the spatial infrastructure of Great Britain (and will soon include Northern Ireland to become a model of the United Kingdom). It allows us to zoom in and out on cities, towns and villages as well as the connections between them. It also lets us understand the hierarchy of connections at different scales – which routes are more important at a local, pedestrian scale and which are more important at a cross-country, car scale. More important routes are coloured red, then orange and green to less well connected routes in blue. Read More
Spatial Layout as Critical Infrastructure
Posted on January 14, 2014 Leave a Comment
Stub…notes for an upcoming conference talk
Key issue to be addressed:
– Urban-Rural development
– Urban Regeneration
– Smart Cities.
When a network of streets is laid out, planners and designers build in an enormous amount of “embedded potential”:
- the pattern of movement
- land use potential
- land value
- social interaction
- public health
- carbon emissions.
The design of the street network has a fundamental and measurable influence on each of the above.
Later changes – to land use pattern or to the local design of streets (eg road widening or narrowing, adding cycle lanes or public transport) – can enhance or even diminish these potentials, but such later changes always occur around a benchmark that is set by spatial configuration decisions.
Buildings come and go – are built and demolished – but the spatial network, once laid out, is harder to adjust.
Exceptional new connections – such as bridges – can be built to connect disconnected networks but grids are resilient to change. Therefore, putting the wrong grid into an urban development can be a pathological move, setting the socio-economic potential of places for generations to come.
How do we know this?
The evidence-base: post-war housing estates; UK New Towns. Places that go wrong within a generation, if that – sometimes within a few years. Car-dominant transport planning. Land use zoning.
Risk of failed UK models.
In finding a balance between the tension of urban and rural development, Chinese towns and cities should learn from China first:
– mixed use planning: marginal separation by linear integration.
– mixed mode planning: roads, streets, lanes, canals: Jiading.
– mixed character planning.
What are the Spatial Layout requirements?
The historic Chinese grid: rectilinear hierarchy.
To be developed…
SkyCycle – elevated but not remote
Posted on January 3, 2014 Leave a Comment
The comparison between SkyCycle – a proposal to create a network of strategic cycling routes above London’s radial railway lines – and the City of London’s much maligned network of (unbuilt or demolished) upper level walkways is one worthy of attention.
1. The City of London “Pedways” often paralleled routes at street level. When they did so they effectively split the pedestrian flow between upper level and street level – thus typically making neither level particularly/sufficiently vibrant. This is why most of them did not work or were resisted from being built in the first place.
However, as all good students of spatial networks understand, not all links are equal. When upper level walkways genuinely create routes that are not available at ground level then the evidence of observation surveys shows that they can be very well used. Some of the upper level routes through the Barbican are as well used as ground level residential streets elsewhere in London. Reality is, as always, more subtle than simplistic classification.
2. In contrast, SkyCycle follows railway lines that have historically created morphological “fissures” in the street network either side of them. In this way SkyCycle does not recreate routes that are already available. Instead, it create new routes.
3. Spatially, these SkyCycle routes have two important characteristics:
a) because they connect directly from the edge of London to the centre, linking to the ground level at accessible points in the street network (identified by Space Syntax through spatial accessibility analysis) SkyCycle routes add to London’s “foreground network” of important arterials (the red and orange links in a Space Syntax map of London).