CSD: Space Syntax Theory

Space syntax is a social theory on the use of space. It encompasses a set of theories and techniques that examines relationships between man (e.g. individual/user/society) and the environment (in/outdoor).

Recommended basic readings are Lynch’s “The image of the city” (Lynch, 1960) as well as “Space is the machine” (Hillier, 2007) . Advanced readings are “The social Logic of Space” (Hillier & Hanson, 1989) , which also introduced Space Syntax.

Spatial Configuration

Spatial configuration defines how the relation between spaces A and B is modified by their relation to space C (Hillier, 2007) .

Representation of Space

Isovists, also called a view shed in geography, are the volume/area of the 360° field of view from particular points of view.  Lines of sight are used to construct the isovists. Partial isovists are also constructed to mimic the human field of view. Psychologists have suggested (but not yet quite proven) that the shapes of isovist polygons influence the behaviour of humans. Each point of view generates its own isovist. Visibility Graph Analysis converts the set of isovists into a measure of visibility.

When people move, they like to move in straight lines (confirmed in Spatial Cognition). Axial lines provide a potential for long straight lines which could be walked upon. Typical analysis chooses the minimal set of longest axial lines that allows to see the complete space.

Major assumptions of space syntax assume that people move in lines (axial lines), see changes in visual fields (VGA), and interact in convex space (which is not covered).

Measuring centrality and graphs

To convert a road network into a graph. The roads are taken as nodes and connections between roads are edges. Curves are replaced by a set of lines that mimic the curvature. Segment angular analysis splits roads into segments (according to connections to other roads), however, additionally the connections are weighted by changes of direction. Essentially, degree centrality is measured. Also, other measures of network centrality are used (see previous link). Closeness Centrality is called Integration in Space Syntax. Betweenness Centrality is called Choice in Space Syntax. Other centrality measures are currently not applied in Space Syntax.


Hillier, B. (2007). Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture. Space Syntax.
Hillier, B., & Hanson, J. (1989). The social logic of space. Cambridge university press.
Lynch, K. (1960). The image of the city. MIT press.