Architecture in the Making
Architecture as a Making Discipline
and Material Practice

Spatial Capital – An Analytical Theory of Urban Form

Marcus, Lars

Project Contact:
Project Type: Research Project
Project Period: 201101-201301


The project aims to outline a theory of a partly new field of research in Architecture and Urban Design tentatively named spatial morphology. Based in the space syntax program, representing a successful combination of the complex system perspectives of modern spatial modelling and imaginative geometric descriptions of urban morphology. In sympathy with such a line of enquiry, research aiming to expand this program into a wider field of spatial morphology, has been undertaken at KTH School of Architecture over a ten-year period. This has proceeded along two lines. First, there is a strand developing analytical tools and empirical studies that incorporates geographical data into the purely geometric analyses characteristic for space syntax. Second, there is a strand developing new geometric description and measures aiming to capture other spatial variables than traditionally in space syntax research. Paired with empirical studies investigating the influence of spatial form on different urban systems these strands are here developed and synthesised into a theoretical framework called Spatial Capital.

The point of departure is the development of pertinent geometric descriptions of urban form. In the context of spatial capital, three fundamental geometric variables in urban form have been identified. First, density, that is, the possibility to enhance urban space through built form by adding floor space on top of each other. Second, diversity, that is, the possibility to enhance urban space through built form by dividing it into additional spaces. Third, accessibility, that is, the possibility to structure urban space through built form by creating particular configurative relations between spaces. Taken together, it is argued, these defines essential geometric variables in urban design, while at the same time acknowledging the fact that what is truly important is the configurative combination of these variables in both actual urban design as well as morphological analysis of real cases.


Lars Marcus is professor in Urban Design at KTH School of Architecture in Stockholm. He manages the research group Spatial Analysis and Design (SAD), in the field of Spatial Morphology, here interpreted as the study of how spatial form generated by architecture and urban design supports, structures and sets limits to people’s use of space as an aspect of everyday life. He has also developed and chaired the international 2-year master program Sustainable Urban Planning and Design (SUPD) and is founder and partner in the consultancy firm Spacescape, performing spatial analysis, design support and policy development in architectural and urban projects for architects, municipalities and real estate companies.


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