Towards a space/nature syntax : the influence of spatial configuration and a view of nature on social interaction, with Arcosanti, Arizona, USA, as case study

  • Karen Munro

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

In 1984 E.O. Wilson proposed the Biophilia Hypothesis, an evolutionary theory which holds that there is a connection between humans and non-human Nature which is innate: that when this connection is provided the human mind performs at its best, and when this connection is absent the human mind is in a state of deterioration. Increasingly, research in the field of environmental psychology supports the Biophilia Hypothesis; studies show that connection to Nature provides psychological, physical, and emotional benefits. Concurrently, the world’s urban population is rapidly growing and is expected to reach 70% of the world’s total by 2050. Thus a dichotomy emerges: how do we maintain this essential and beneficial human connection to Nature in an increasingly urbanising world? The research has developed the Space/Nature Syntax, a novel, cross-disciplinary methodology which attempts to understand how maintaining an instinctive bond with Nature, through visual connectivity, can enhance social interactions and inform future design choices within built environments. Arcosanti, an “urban laboratory” in the Arizona desert which is built to the design principles of Paolo Soleri’s Arcology (ARChitecture + ecOLOGY) theory, serves as a site for both development and application of the Space/Nature Syntax methodology. The Space/Nature Syntax was applied to 15 public spaces at Arcosanti and both qualitative and quantitative relationships between spatial configuration, visual connectivity to Nature and observed social Interactions were produced. The main findings support a relationship between spatial configuration and both Passive Interaction with Space and Spontaneous Use of Space, echoing existing established patterns in spatial analysis research.Additionally, the research finds a relationship between visual connectivity to Nature and Intimate Interaction with Others, and between Visual Interaction with the Natural Environment and Personal Interaction with Others, suggesting that a view of Nature encourages a social connection between people of a certain emotional closeness. Finally, the thesis presents the viability of the Space/Nature Syntax methodology as a design tool, projecting where social interactions within built spaces at Arcosanti could be influenced by alterations to spatial configuration and visual connectivity to Nature following future stages of construction; demonstrating where informed design can allow for the essential human/Nature connection to thrive, and taking steps towards understanding how cities can be built in harmony with Nature.
Date of Award1 Oct 2016
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorDavid Grierson (Supervisor) & Peter Grant (Supervisor)

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