Proceedings, 6th International Space Syntax Symposium, İstanbul, 2007
Author: Esenghiul Abdul Gemil, Space Syntax Ltd.

This paper investigates public spaces and their performance in relation to the urban embedding, aiming to identify factors that may influence the way in which the public realm is perceived. To that end, the paper sets to analyze a range of variables that could show why public spaces are perceived and used in different ways by different groups of people. The present study is based on a preliminary report of the Demos group which provides a large sample of spaces classified according to their capacity to be used and shared by most members of community into comfort zones, trading zones and discomfort zones.

The study focuses on a sample of public spaces chosen from the city of Cardiff. It explores the possibility of superimposing a spatial network on top of the trans-spatial public domain network defined by Demos and to integrate the qualitative analysis gathered by Demos into the spatial analysis methodology in the theoretical framework of Space Syntax, which is usually based on quantitative data in explaining the functionality of spaces. In doing so, one second aim of this paper is to explore the extended areas in which public spaces are most likely to operate and be influenced by. It attempts to refine a conclusive and complete approach to the notion of “catchment area”. Catchment areas are defined combining metric, topological, and morphological limits, followed by a comparative analysis of their characteristics. The measures used in this paper to characterize the catchments areas are derived from three different approaches; the first being their metric properties and composition, second the syntactic configurational analysis, and third the social variables, such as employment density,population density and mix and land use. The results of the research suggest that the embedding of the public spaces in the spatial configuration is a factor that influences their sharing capacity and even more a precondition to establishing any usage pattern.

Additionally the research proposes a series of variables that will influence the perception of spaces on top of their strictly spatial configuration and placement in the whole system. At the end a multi variable matrix is proposed including the factors that were found to be relevant for the characterization of the public spaces: the social profile of the users, the function of the space, and the spatial morphology of the public space.

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