Urban space and its information field

Nikos A. Salingaros

Go to article

Salingaros, N. A. (1). Urban space and its information field. Journal of Urban Design, 4(1), 29–49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13574809908724437

This paper proposes an essentially new theory of urban space based on information theory and the laws of optics. The use of urban space is linked to the information field generated by surrounding surfaces, and on how easily the information can be received by pedestrians. Historical building exteriors usually present a piecewise concave, fractal aspect, which optimizes visual and acoustical signals that transmit information content. Successful urban spaces also offer tactile information from local structures meant for standing and sitting. The total information field in turn determines the optimal positioning of pedestrian paths and nodes. This complex interaction between human beings and the built environment, incredibly neglected in our times, explains why so many historical urban spaces provide an emotionally nourishing environment.

Main finding
This research finds that urban space is bounded by surfaces that present unambiguous visual, thermal, acoustic and tactile information to a pedestrian and historical urban spaces with a core of pedestrian space protected from non-pedestrian traffic optimize this input. The author contends that the spatial information field determines the connective web of paths and nodes and the lack of information which one needs to define a spatial boundary causes psychological discomfort.

Description of method used in the article
Theoretical exploration of laws for generating urban space based on the spatial information field.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Walking or Rolling
Urban Design
Physical types