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On space syntax as a configurational theory of architecture from a situated observer’s viewpoint


  • Mahbub Rashid


A configurational theory of architecture (CTA) from a situated observer’s viewpoint (SOV) is discussed. It includes the levels of description, representation, and interpretation and takes a bottom-up approach because a situated observer, who is on the ground with a building, typically builds his or her understanding of the building using immediately available elements, called perceptual primitives. Evidence from geometry, psychology or cognition, and spatial reasoning suggests that the level of description of a CTA from a SOV must include unambiguously defined perceptual primitives and their perceivable elementary topological and projective relations. Subsequently, in the levels of representation and interpretation any complex relational properties of buildings must be constructed and their meanings must be explained using these perceptual primitives. Early space syntax (SS), with its foundations defined using such perceptual primitives as convex space and axial lines, helps capture the structure of visual experience of buildings but has limitations regarding a CTA from a SOV. More recently, SS theorists have revised the foundations of SS using much simpler perceptual primitives in an attempt to integrate the apparently disparate techniques of SS into a coherent mathematical system. As a result, they have eliminated many limitations of early SS regarding a CTA from a SOV. However, in order to become a CTA from a SOV, SS will still need to explain the importance of these newly defined perceptual primitives, and provide a framework for configurational studies using the mathematical system developed using these primitives. Keywords: space syntax, configurational theory, situated observer

Suggested Citation

  • Mahbub Rashid, 2012. "On space syntax as a configurational theory of architecture from a situated observer’s viewpoint," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 39(4), pages 732-754, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirb:v:39:y:2012:i:4:p:732-754

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    1. Paul Anderson & David Levinson & Pavithra Parthasarathi, 2011. "Accessibility Futures," Working Papers 000088, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
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