Towards a socio-ecological spatial morphology: a joint network approach to urban form and landscape ecology


Interest in the green infrastructure of cities has rapidly increased in recent years. The reasons are several but generally relate to the great increase of research and policy on sustainable urban development. Of particular importance here is the more recent shift in this field towards greater emphasis on biodiversity and urban ecosystems and not only climate change and environmental engineering. This shift brings new demands for a deeper understanding of the morphology of green infrastructures in cities, understood as ecological environments and not only as areas for human use, as has been the general case in urban morphology.

In an earlier paper (Marcus et al., 2019), we discussed how descriptions of landscape patterns of both urban and natural kinds, as developed in urban morphology and landscape ecology respectively, could be integrated into a joint socio- ecological spatial morphology. That paper outlined a framework for such a morphology where green (and blue) as well as built-up areas in cities can be jointly described as configurations of patches.

However, the discussion in that paper does not address how to capture the relation between such configurations and the processes that they structure, or how such processes over time may alter such configurations, which is the aim of the present paper. It does so by extending the theory of generic function (Hillier, 1996) to other species than humans, and by applying the theory of affordances (Gibson, 1986) as a means to develop distance measures specific for different species.

The origin of the discussion in both papers is the need for progress in sustainable urban development for which this relation is vital, since if we are to address the function of both urban and ecological systems through spatial form, we need to develop an understanding of how such patterns underpin and structure urban and ecological systems.


Link to centre authors: Barthel, Stephan
Full reference: Marcus, L., Berghauser-Pont, M. and Barthel, S., 2020. Towards a socio-ecological spatial morphology: a joint network approach to urban form and landscape ecology. Urban morphology, 24(1), pp.21-34.