Urban morphology

Urban morphology is the study of the form of human settlements and the process of their formation and transformation by urban morphologists. The study seeks to understand the spatial structure and character of a metropolitan area, city, town or village by examining the patterns of its component parts and the process of its development. It is also concerned with the understanding of the whole urban landscape and factors that have led to such a landscape. This can involve the analysis of physical structures at different scales as well as patterns of movement, land use, ownership or control and occupation. Typically, analysis of physical form focuses on street pattern, plot pattern and building pattern, sometimes referred to collectively as urban grain. Analysis of specific settlements is usually undertaken using cartographic sources and the process of development is deduced from comparison of historic maps. Special attention is given to how the physical form of a city changes over time and to how different cities compare to each other. Another significant part of this subfield deals with the study of the social forms which are expressed in the physical layout of a city, and, conversely, how physical form produces or reproduces various social forms. Urban morphology is also considered as the study of urban tissue, or fabric, as a means of discerning the underlying structure of the built landscape. This approach challenges the common perception of unplanned environments as chaotic or vaguely organic through understanding the structures and processes embedded in urbanisation. Urban morphology approaches human settlements as generally unconscious products that emerge over long periods, through the accrual of successive generations of building activity. This leaves traces that serve to structure subsequent building activity and provide opportunities and constraints for city-building processes, such as land subdivision, infrastructure development, or building construction. Articulating and analysing the logic of these traces is the central question of urban morphology. Urban morphology is not generally object-centred, in that it emphasises the relationships between components of the city. To make a parallel with

linguistics, the focus is placed on an active vocabulary and its syntax. There is thus a tendency to use morphological techniques to examine the ordinary, non-monumental areas of the city and to stress the process and its structures over any given state or object, therefore going beyond architecture and looking at the entire built landscape and its internal logic.

Methods for Urban Morphology Analysis
The tools for analysis Urban Morphology have some theories like: Space syntax, Figure and Ground cities Three Theories of Urban Spatial Design: 1. Figure and Ground 2. Linkage theory 3. Place theory Space syntax- is a way of researching cities to understand how social and economic processes shape space over time. To use the current jargon it is a way of looking at cities as self-organizing systems. The best known aspect of space syntax is probably its set of methods for analysing patterns of space-or spatial configuration-in the built environment. These methods both uncover spatial structures in cities and relate them to the way people move, stop and interact. The space syntax also helps project the mid-and long term effects of designing and planning decisions and therefore allow designers and planners to work with social and economic process rather than against them. Space syntax work should illustrate some of the interesting and powerful new capabilities that are being developed. Space syntax has never been merely a set of techniques for solving design problems. Instead it is the way of researching the relationships between the way cities are structured and the way they function.

1)Figure and Ground theory is founded on the study of the relative land coverage of buildings as solid mass (figure) to open voids (ground) Each urban environment has an existing pattern of solid and voids, and figure and ground approach to spatial design is an attempt to manipulate these relationships by adding to, subtracting from, or changing the physical geometry of the pattern. The objective of these manipulations is to clarify the structure of urban space in a city or district by establishing a hierarchy of

spaces of different sizes that are individually enclosed but ordered directionally in relation to each other. (Roger Trancik, 1986:97.in Finding the Lost Space) 2)The linkage theory- is derived from "lines" connecting one element to another. These lines are formed by street, pedestrian ways, linear open spaces or other linking elements that physically connect the parts of the city. Burgess employed an ecological approach in placing emphasis on the relationship between organisms and their environment. He used similar biological factors used in explaining plant distribution and established a concentric-zonal theory which included a Central Business District, an area of transition (invaded by business and migrants), and area of upper class apartments and several commuter zones and suburbs on the edge of the city. The scientist Christopher Alexander proposes that urban development is a computational process similar to that of cell growth in an organism, and that the unfolding of these processes produces the urban landscape and its typologies. Some urbanists have sought to transform this theory into a practical emergent urbanism. Role of urban morphology in urban design-the design of urban landscape and its form is called urban design wherein the study of that form is called urban morphology. Urban design as architecture and urban morphology as geography, it is reasonable that the discipline to both that has as its central purpose the understanding of urban form should contribute both the theory and practice of designing that form. The process of dividing urban morphology and urban design provides much of the explanations for the weakness of the relationships between the study of urban form on the one hand and the design of that form on the other. It also consists of landscape management which connect and to the nature and development of an important part of urban morphology itself. This part is concerned with tracing how the physical configurations of cities have development overtime. An important basis for urban landscape management is the morphological regions linked to the social, economic, cultural forces driving the development of urban areas.

One type of a morphological region is the urban fringe or the fringe belt which has no exception and its wide significance for the understanding and management of urban landscape makes it good illustration of both urban morphological thinking and the potential of that thinking as a contribution to urban design. A fringe belt is a product of the very large variations over time in the speed of extension of towns and cities. It came to existence over during the period of very slow urban extensions often owing to a housebuilding slump or topographical or other geographical obstacle to housing developments. Such a long pause in the outward extension of an uraban area tends to be associated with the formation of a distinctive zone encircling the built up area. This is later embedded within the urban area and becomes a significant element in its historic-geographical structuring. The urban fringe is characterized by; -sparse road network with a low incidence radial roads that do exists tend to be heavily used. -large well vegetated plots containing institutions sometimes landmark buildings of architectural note. The fact that they form a boundary between historical and morphological distinct areas. They are heterogeneous in ground plans, building forms and land and building use. There are also public utilities, parks, recreational areas and allotment gardens. Changing forms-Different forms of urbanization can be classified depending on the style of architecture and planning methods as well as historic growth of areas. In cities of the developed world urbanization traditionally exhibited a concentration of human activities and settlements around the downtown area, the so-called in-migration. In-migration refers to migration from former colonies and similar places. The fact that many immigrants settle in impoverished city centre·s led to the notion of the "peripheralization of the core", which simply describes that people who used to be at the periphery of the former empires now live right in the centre.

Recent developments, such as inner-city redevelopment schemes, mean that new arrivals in cities no longer necessarily settle in the centre. In some developed regions, the reverse effect, originally called counter urbanization has occurred, with cities losing population to rural areas, and is particularly common for richer families. This has been possible because of improved communications, and has been caused by factors such as the fear of crime and poor urban environments. Later termed "white flight", the effect is not restricted to cities with a high ethnic minority population. When the residential area shifts outward, this is called suburbanization. A number of researchers and writers suggest that suburbanization has gone so far to form new points of concentration outside the downtown both in developed and developing countries such as India. This networked, polycentric form of concentration is considered by some an emerging pattern of urbanization e.g. Los Angeles. Urbanization can be planned urbanization or organic. Planned urbanization, i.e.: planned community or the garden city movement, is based on an advance plan, which can be prepared for military, aesthetic, economic or urban design reasons. Examples can be seen in many ancient cities; although with exploration came the collision of nations, which meant that many invaded cities took on the desired planned characteristics of their occupiers. Many ancient organic cities experienced redevelopment for military and economic purposes, new roads carved through the cities, and new parcels of land were cordoned off serving various planned purposes giving cities distinctive geometric designs. Landscape planners are responsible for landscape infrastructure which can be planned before urbanization takes place, or afterward to revitalize an area and create greater livability within a region. The terms urban fabric, urban tissue and urban grain are very suggestive. They hint at both the tangible substance of town and the intricacies of pattern. urban fabric is a material with its own properties in which materials have a bias has strength and weakness limits and potentials depending on the way it is cut or joined and the forces or stresses applied to it in relation to the bias of its internal structure.

The primary concern of urban morphology is the structure of urban form so if an understanding of internal is essential to successful manipulation of a material, urban morphology is essential to urbanism and urban design. The figurative and impressionistic use of terms such as been fabric and grain only hint at the idea of structure, but the structure of urban form pervasive and perhaps more importantly there are deferent kinds of structure with deferent characteristic at deferent scales. Individual buildings at one level of scale do not have e same handling characteristics as a street at another or a town as a whole at yet another. The generic structure of urban form is a hierarchy of levels related part to whole. That is to say, one of the characteristics of urban form is that it divides into distinct levels. The patterns found at different levels such as street, plot series, plot, building, cell and structure are not interchangeable and the long term success of a design depends on understanding not only the differences but also the relationships between levels. The levels are interdependent. The structure urban form is the product of a social or cultural process and the structures at different levels correspond to distinct cultural habits, from the more generic such as paths to the progressively more particular: nucleated settlements, property ownership by land parcel, detached houses, conservatories or light steel frame construction. Why bother about morphology-some of our most significant urban problems of the last century have arisen in cases where new urban and architectural forms have been developed at speed and to a large scale, but with little or no reference to existing urban form and context. This includes the great swaths of modernist post war urban redevelopment, many of which are being demolished in the name of urban regeneration.


1) Conzen, M.R.G., Alnwick, Northumberland: A study in town-plan analysis, London, Institute of British Geographers, 1969. 2) Gilliland, Jason and Pierre Gauthier, The Study of Urban Form in Canada. Urban Morphology 2006 10(1) 51-66.

3 )Malfroy, Sylvain and Gianfranco Caniggia, L'approche morphologique de la ville et du territoire. Zurich: Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Lehrstuhl fur Stadtebaugesichte, October 1986.

4) Moudon, Anne Vernez, Built for Change: Neighbourhood Architecture in San Francisco.' Cambridge MA, MIT Press, 1986.

5) Moudon, Anne Vernez, Getting to Know the Built Landscape: Typomorphology. in Franck, Karen A and Lynda H Schneekloth, Ordering Space: Types in Architecture and Design New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1994.

6) Panerai, Philippe, Jean-Charles Depaule, Marcelle Demorgon, and Michel Veyrenche, Elements d'analyse urbaine. Brussels: Editions Archives d'Architecture Moderne, 1980.



Faculty: f.

o. b. e.

Department: Architecture

Course: Urban Design 1(3106)
Mr Ncube

Name : Alexio Muzinde Mazorodze

N 007 1147 W


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