Olympic Opening Ceremony – Creating the Iconic Map of London 27 July 2012

Explaining  the map seen dimly under the performers on Friday night, Tim Stonor of Space Syntax commented by mail: ”

To explain to those who didn’t see the opening, Danny Boyle constructed an event in which we were taken on an allegorical history of Britain from a green and pleasant land of Bo Peep, Cricket and May Pole dancing, through the industrial revolution to the modern networked age. As Isembard Kingdom Brunel directed the industrial age the green fields were stripped bare to reveal the space syntax map of London – suitably greyscale – to form the floor for all that followed. The massive Olympic rings were forged from iron and hoisted over head, then a series of other great British achievements were portrayed, the NHS, Great Ormond St, CND, Mary Poppins, the Beatles, James Bond and Mr Bean. Even Tim Berners Lee was credited with inventing the Web. All good company for syntax :-

From the official UCL Site

The map – produced by Space Syntax to advise on plans for new streets and public spaces in London – was spotted by the Games’ organisers in a book about the history of mapping in London.

The map is one of many produced by Space Syntax to aid property developers and city authorities plan the biggest urban centres on the planet, including Beijing, Sydney and Athens.

Based on mathematical analysis of street networks developed at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, the map forecasts how people will flow through new developments and how this leads to social and economic benefits such as safer public spaces, more successful shops and higher property values.

Space Syntax, which was founded at UCL in 1989, has used its map to redesign key public spaces in London including Trafalgar Square, the South Bank Centre and the Barbican. The map has underpinned many new developments in the capital, including Broadgate and One New Change in the City of London. Most recently it has been used to test proposals for the regeneration of London’s Elephant & Castle and Earls Court, two of the largest regeneration projects in Europe.

Computer software measures the degree to which each street in the network is likely to be used by people on foot, on bikes and in cars and where people are more or less likely to use parks and public spaces. Each street is assigned a unique mathematical value, which is converted into a unique shade of grey – giving the instantly identifiable map which will have been seen by billions around the globe.

The map was used to develop the masterplan for the Olympic site at Stratford City, where Space Syntax worked to connect the new streets and spaces into the existing communities surrounding the Olympic Park.

Commenting on the use of the map as part of the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony, Tim Stonor, Managing Director of Space Syntax and Visiting Professor at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, said:

“This map captures the essence of London: people moving and interacting in space; sharing stories and ideas; trading, creating and innovating; a social and economic network, played out in streets and public spaces.”

“A city, after all, is a living entity, with life given by the millions of people who both shape and live in it.

“The legacy of the Games will be felt long after the fireworks are over and the medals won – it will be the way in which the Olympic Park is used, and becomes part of the fabric of the East End. Space Syntax has played its part in making that happen.”

Dr Steven Schooling, who is a Director of UCL Business PLC and Space Syntax Ltd commented that “the interactions between Space Syntax Ltd and the Bartlett School of Architecture continue to set a benchmark for successful knowledge exchange between academia and industry, with both parties gaining significant benefits from a partnership which has fostered linkages in areas ranging from consultancy through to software development.

The use within the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games of a Space Syntax map of London’s street network, provides an excellent illustration of how mathematical analysis of street networks developed at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture have been translated by Space Syntax Ltd into tools and solutions which are having a substantive impact on urban planning in the UK and overseas”.

About Space Syntax
Space Syntax’s mission is to enhance the social, economic and environmental performance of buildings and urban places by developing and applying a science-based, human-focused approach to their planning, design and operation. We exist to provide leadership and cumulative tested knowledge to support the development, dissemination and application of this approach.



AoU Landscape Urbanism notes & questions _ TIm Stonor

A commentary on the threat that fragmented urbanism poses to  the future city – is this the full story ? from Tim Stonor’s The Power of the Network

Fragmented urbanism: the rise of Landscape Urbanism & the threat it poses to the continuously connected city

TS intro
This is a crucial moment for urbanism. In the UK, the Portas review, highlighting the UK’s threatened high streets. Around the world, cities are growing faster than ever. But cities – as we knew them – are under threat.

First, from the car. Car-dependent urbanism is the principal form of urbanism on the planet. our cities have become so fragmented by road systems in the last century that it is now almost impossible not to be far dependent – not without a major demolition and reconnection programme.

Second, from designers, accepting of the car and intellectualising around this complicity.

The aim of this talk
I have been forming my own views and am looking to raise a discussion within the Academy of Urbanism and beyond. Do people agree with me? If so, how do we respond? If not, why not?

How technology can help us redesign our cities – and lives (maybe?)

From a series in The Gaurdian on the Future of Urban Living another futurist hopeful on how technology could shape our lives for the better in the future with a caveat at least on how the current capitalist paradigm needs to change – for myself I am more skeptical than ever that we know what is in our best interests – with all the research and all the technology in the world – we don’t seem to able to control much in our own little lives – let alone  at a whole city level – as reputedly said by John Lennon  ” life is what happens while your were making other plans” still, no doubt, we will be salivating over the latest techno-wonders while bemoaning their lack of bandwidth and reliability – no matter who made them or how fat they are – they are always too slow and always …….

From analysing our urban spaces to ensure they encourage social cohesion, to connecting household appliances to the internet to regulate our energy needs, technological developments promise an exciting future for city living

Local teenagers in front of burnt out buildings on Tottenham High Road

Local teenagers pause in front of part-demolished buildings on Tottenham High Road after the London riots in August 2011. Photograph: Jason Alden/Rex Features

The riots that erupted across the UK in August 2011 caused devastation in many areas, but could they have been tackled earlier or even avoided through the use of advanced urban planning?

Work being done by consultants Space Syntax, who use computer-modelling to consider the spaces between buildings in the design of urban places, shows how technology can help us to understand the way we live and work in cities and how we interact with our surroundings.

Ed Parham, Space Syntax’s associate director, says: “By analysing how areas are connected, you can find patterns of accessibility.” The modelling technique, known as spatial networks, examines how streets and communities function in relation to each other. It builds on research being carried out in the slums of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where Space Syntax discovered that a deprived area can become connected to surrounding communities and potential new markets by simply removing a small number of key buildings.

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Urban Network Analysis: A Toolbox for ArcGIS 10

A potential alternative for Space Syntax analysis of urban form has been released by MIT’s City Form Research Group. This will be of interest to many researchers and urbanists who wish to understand more of the factors that influence various attributes of urban form operation. It is especially useful that it operates within ArcGis and is available free. The following press release from MIT:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — MIT researchers have created a new Urban Network Analysis (UNA) toolbox that enables urban designers and planners to describe the spatial patterns of cities using mathematical network analysis methods. Such tools can support better informed and more resilient urban design and planning in a context of rapid urbanization. “Network centrality measures are useful predictors for a number of interesting urban phenomena,” explains Andres Sevtsuk, the principal investigator of the City Form Research Group at MIT that produced the toolbox. “They help explain, for instance, on which streets or buildings one is most likely to find local commerce, where foot or vehicular traffic is expected to be highest, and why city land values vary from one location to another.”
Network analysis is widely used in the study of social networks, such as Facebook friends or phonebook connections, but so far fairly little in the spatial analysis of cities. While the study of spatial networks goes back to Euler and his famous puzzle of Königsberg’s seven bridges in the 18th century, there were, until recently, no freely accessible tools available for city planners to calculate computation-intensive spatial centrality measures on dense networks of city streets and buildings. The new toolbox, which is distributed as free and open-source plugin-in for ArcGIS, allows urban designers and planners to compute five types of graph analysis measures on spatial networks: Reach; Gravity; Betweenness; Closeness; and Straightness. “The Reach measure, for instance, can be used to estimate how many destinations of a particular type — buildings, residents, jobs, transit stations etc. — can be reached within a given walking radius from each building along the actual circulation routes in the area”, said Michael Mekonnen, a course six sophomore who worked on the project. “The Betweenness measure, on the other hand, can be used to quantify the number of potential passersby at each building.”The tools incorporate three important features that make network analysis particularly suited for urban street networks. First, they account for geometry and distances in the input networks, distinguishing shorter links from longer links as part of the analysis computations. Second, unlike previous software tools that operate with two network elements (nodes and edges), the UNA tools include a third network element — buildings — which are used as the spatial units of analysis for all measures. Two neighboring buildings on the same street segments can therefore obtain different accessibility results. And third, the UNA tools optionally allow buildings to be weighted according to their particular characteristics — more voluminous, more populated, or otherwise more important buildings can be specified to have a proportionately stronger effect on the analysis outcomes, yielding more accurate and reliable results to any of the specified measures.The toolbox offers a powerful set of analysis options to quantify how centrally each building is positioned in an urban environment and how easily a user can access different amenities from each location. It introduces a novel methodology for tracking the growth and change of cities in the rapidly urbanizing world and offers analytic support for their designers and policymakers.The UNA toolbox can be downloaded from the group’s website.



Spatial layout, urban movement & human transaction (via The power of the network)

Tim Stonor of Space Syntax gives a detailed account of the role of design in achieving sustainable mobility and all that goes with it in cities

Spatial layout, urban movement & human transaction Download my presentation "Designing mobility for democracy: the role of cities" #demobility Thursday, 14th April 2011 from 1pm to 5pm NYU, Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium 60 Washington Square South, New York Summary Given the title of this event: "Designing mobility", I want to turn to the subject of design and the role of architects. The key message of this presentation is that cities need architects, not only to design the building … Read More

via The power of the network

Carbon emissions & spatial connections (via The power of the network)

The extension of Space Syntax’s methodology within this presentation from Tim Stonor, especially in regards to Beijing highlighting the role of green open space is noteworthy , I am still unsure whether this adequately addresses the problems of the cities footprint – does the model proposed leverage enough possibilities with regards to water and energy – or are these assumed to be addressed by the disciplines who build the infrastructure and buildings, as a matter of course?
Also repeated is in graphics if not in words are the comments from TIm’s earlier post on Landscape Urbanism and New Urbanism.

Carbon emissions & spatial connections I spoke today to Dr Joyce Rosenthal’s “Environmental Planning & Sustainable Development” class at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. My presentation “Carbon emissions & spatial connections” can be downloaded from Slideboom. … Read More

via The power of the network

Achieving prosperous local communities – physical connectedness is key (via The power of the network)

Is this reasoned approach applicable to the problems we face in African cities in the 21st century? Do these first world solutions adequately address the problems in Kigali?, Cape Town or Nairobi? Space Syntax argues they do.

Community prosperity means social, economic and environmental prosperity. Each of these dimensions is strongly influenced by the physical design of the places where people live. Physical design influences human behaviour, which in turn influences community prosperity. The most important aspect of physical design is connectedness. Connectedness can be measured scientifically. Its effects on societal wealth have been identified by UK scientific res … Read More

via The power of the network