Porta, S., Romice, O., Maxwell, J. A., Russell, P., & Baird, D.
Porta, S., Romice, O., Maxwell, J. A., Russell, P., & Baird, D. (2014). Alterations in scale: patterns of change in main street networks across time and space. Urban Studies, 51(16), 3383-3400.
This paper presents a morphological study of 100 main street networks from urban areas around the world. An expansion in the scale of main street networks was revealed using a unique heuristic visual method for identifying and measuring the lengths of main street segments from each of the study areas. Case studies were selected and grouped according to corresponding urban design paradigms, ranging from antiquity to present day. This research shows that the average lengths of main street segments from networks of historic (i.e. ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque and industrial) and informal case studies are much smaller relative to those from networks of more contemporary case studies (i.e. Garden City, Radiant City and New Urbanism). This study provides empirical evidence in support of prior, observational claims suggesting a consistent pattern in the smaller scale of main street networks from traditional urban areas, termed the ‘400-metre rule’. Additionally, it makes the case for further empirical research into similarly recursive spatial patterns within other elements of urban form (i.e. plots, blocks, etc.) that, if discovered, could aid in future urban design efforts to help provide the framework for more ‘human-scale’ urban environments.
Main streets networks in historic cities have predominantly followed the 400-meter rule. Since the advent and application of professional modern and postmodern urban design theories at the dawn of the 20th century, the distance between main streets in cities has roughly doubled. This alteration in scale does not appear in informal settlements, suggesting that the pattern comes from emergent dynamics that are overridden by modern planners.
Description of method used in the article
The 400-meter rule has been tested with 100 main street segments in 30 countries. The case studies have been analyzed with help of Google Earth. Three maps of varying scales helped to produce data that was then analyzed with descriptive statistics.
Of practical use