Spatial configuration, spatial cognition and spatial behaviour : the role of architectural intelligibility in shaping spatial experience
This thesis investigates the role of spatial configuration in shaping resident's experience of their neighbourhood. Studies to date have found that spatial configuration affects spatial behaviour and movement patterns (e.g., Hillier et al, 1993), however there has been little investigation of the cognitive processes that might underlie this relationship. Other research into cognition of the urban environment suggests that local spatial factors may play a role in cognitive processes (e.g., Hart & Moor, 1973), however these studies have not addressed global spatial configuration in quantitative terms. No studies to date have sought to integrate cognitive, behavioural and configurational factors within a single framework. Using Hillier's (1996) definition of intelligibility as the relationship between local and global configurational factors, this thesis investigates the relationship between resident's cognition, observed patterns of movement and the spatial configuration of an area. Two adjacent areas in Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London were investigated in detail. One area is relatively intelligible, the other less so. Structured interview surveys were carried out with local residents to elicit aspects of their cognition of the local area and detailed observations were made of movement patterns in the two neighbourhoods. Analysis of the spatial characteristics of the two areas using 'space syntax' methods provided a common basis for analyses of these data. The findings confirm that spatial configuration, spatial cognition and space use patterns are all related to one another. The main finding is that the degree of intelligibility of the area is the most significant intervening variable in relations between the three variables. The more intelligible area showed more powerful correlations between spatial configuration and patterns of movement, as well as giving rise to perceptions of greater legibility and increased neighbourhood size by local residents. Strong correlations were also identified between residents' cognitive maps and observed patterns of movement in the area. The correlations were again found to be stronger in the intelligible area than the unintelligible area. These findings suggest that spatial configuration may play an important role in determining people's daily spatial experience by increasing or reducing their sense of autonomy. By reducing the ability to predict either one's precise location within his/her global context, or the likely behaviour of others in space, unintelligible urban configurations may result in perceptions of a lesser sense of personal control over one's own actions in the environment. The thesis concludes that 'architectural intelligibility' may be a basic aspect in achieving human spatial needs.