Linking space and nature syntaxes: the influence of a natural view through observed behaviour at Arcosanti, Arizona, USA

David Grierson, Karen Munro

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The world’s urban population is rapidly growing, now exceeding its rural population, and is expected to reach 70 % of the world’s total by 2050. Research in environmental psychology increasingly supports the Biophilia Hypothesis which holds that our connection with Nature is innate. Thus, how do we maintain a human connection to Nature in an increasingly urbanising world? The research explores the boundary between built and natural environments, specifically how proximity, initially through visual connections, to Nature affects how people use social spaces. Case study work is being undertaken at Arcosanti urban laboratory in the Arizona desert. Through development of a Space/Nature Syntax methodology applied within a uniquely compact urban form, this research attempts to understand how maintaining an instinctive bond with Nature can enhance social interactions and inform future design choices within built environments. Initial results support relationships of varying strengths between spatial connectivity, visibility of Nature, and types of social interactions. This paper explores the potential of the cross-disciplinary Space/Nature Syntax methodology as a design and analysis tool, projecting where social interactions within a built space could be influenced by visibility of Nature; where informed design can allow for the essential human/Nature connection to thrive.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2016
Event3rd World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities: Following-up the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) - Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, United States
Duration: 14 Sept 201616 Sept 2016


Conference3rd World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities
Abbreviated titleWSSD-U-2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCambridge, MA
Internet address


  • Biophilia Hypothesis
  • urbanisation
  • space syntax
  • wilderness
  • environmental psychology


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