Building circulation typology and Space Syntax predictive measures

Asya Natapov, Saskia Kuligas, Ruth Dalton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Spatial layout planning is one of the most ubiquitous and the most complex problems in architectural design. The essence of the majority of architectural configurations can be captured by the building’s circulation system, which is a key organizing mechanism of its spatial layout. An efficient floor plan allows a building user to navigate in a sequential, natural fashion and research in cognitive science has indicated that various spatial configurational features of a building can strongly influence human orientation and navigation (e.g.,see pdf document). This paper is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between architects and cognitive psychologists with the aim of investigating the link between human behavior and architectural design, specifically relating to the effects of different building circulation systems. At the first stage, a graph-based method for the systematic modification of the circulation system was applied to an existing, prominent architectural case (the Amsterdam Municipal Orphanage designed by Aldo van Eyck). The graph-method allowed us to control and to preserve the spatial organization of the existing building, while fundamentally altering its circulation pattern, and thereby developing distinctive circulation archetypes that are highly comparable in their topological structure, whilst systematically varying their geometric properties. The result was three different layouts, topologically similar whilst geometrically and visually distinct. In order to assess the wayfinding and navigation properties of the three different circulation typologies we implemented several space syntax representation methods, such as axial line analysis and visibility graph analysis (VGA). The resulting graphs are summarized using the property of intelligibility, that is, the correlation between local and global spatial properties of the layout. The local property in consideration is connectivity, i.e. direct visual connections, and the global measure is integration, i.e. the strategic importance and/or overall accessibility of a particular space in the system. Previous research has indicated that intelligibility can be a key determinant in human navigation and wayfinding (e.g.,see pdf document). Highly intelligible environments are expected to facilitate navigation, because most paths lead to, or through, ‘central’ locations and local visual cues give an indication of global structure. Low intelligibility indicates that ‘central’ locations may lie on fewer, less connected paths and there is a mismatch between local cues and overall configurational structure, making navigation difficult because users have to find the limited number of correct paths and local inferences cannot be made. By comparing the intelligibility of the different circulation systems and by using a number of space syntax measures in conjunction, we are able indicate which spatial measures could be the optimal predictors of building navigability. The study concludes with the identification of a navigational signature of the building’s circulation system. In addition, it captures the interplay of spatial features with the cognitive properties of its users, assessing the competency of post occupancy evaluation and overall building usability.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2015
EventThe 10th Space Syntax Symposium (SSS10) - London
Duration: 13 Jul 2015 → …


ConferenceThe 10th Space Syntax Symposium (SSS10)
Period13/07/15 → …


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