Spatial Capital

Lars Marcus


Although space syntax is often presented as a configurational theory of architecture, this tends to hide the more fundamental claim that it is also an analytical theory, a theory based on analytical science rather than on the normative or ideological claims normally found in architectural theory. This article proposes an extension of such an analytical theory in the context of urbanism by using space syntax areas in urban morphology that earlier have not been directly part of space syntax analysis. If one allows for some simplification, one can say that the main variable of urban form analysed in space syntax is accessibility. This article introduces two other variables: density and diversity. Density, the dominating variable in geographic analysis of urban space, is fundamental for the development of knowledge about urban space and in the practice of urban planning. Diversity, at least since Jane Jacob’s writing of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, has been another focus for urban analysis and urban planners, yet one that has proven to be more difficult to address.
A study of an urban area in Stockholm identified three convincing correlations: 1.) a correlation between integration and movement; 2.) a correlation between accessible building density and population; and 3.) a correlation between accessible plots and diversity indices such as number of age groups and lines of businesses. Whereas the first correlation is not very surprising in the context of space syntax research and the second correlation is interesting mostly because of its original measuring technique, the third correlation must be considered surprising and an original finding.
The present study proposes that the three ways to measure the three variables accessibility, density and diversity could be combined into a more general analytical theory of urban form, directly stemming from space syntax analysis, significantly widening the scope of space syntax into a more general urban morphology. In addition, it is proposed that these measurements capture something that can be called spatial capital, that also can engage adjacent scientific disciplines.


analytical theory, urban form, accessibility, density, diversity, performativity

Full Text: JOSS_2010_p30-40.pdf