The book Spacematrix - Space, Density and Urban Form is released in March 2021
Meta Berghauser Pont
, Associate Professor at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering is, together with Per Haupt, the author of the recently published book "Spacematrix – Space, Density and Urban Form". The book explores the potential of urban density as a tool for urban planning and design and is a revised and extended edition of the authors 2010 volume, which includes an extensive analysis of the relations between density, urban form and performance – a prerequisite for understanding and successfully predicting the effects of specific designs and planning proposals.
Meta Berghauser Pont says the extended version of the book Spacematrix is new in three ways, and first of all provides new insights on the effects of density through the inclusion of a systematic review of more than 200 empirical studies around the globe, including aspects such as mobility, economics, and health.
– Second is the trend of increased space consumption and decreased density in Amsterdam that was discussed in the 2010 edition is updated to also include recent development in Amsterdam and compared to developments worldwide, Meta says,
– Very interesting is that this decrease in density is not a phenomenon unique for Amsterdam but a general phenomenon in Asia, North and South America and Europe. However, through the detailed analysis of Amsterdam, we have been able to reveal a trend break. In Amsterdam, since 2000, densities have started to increase, from 63 inhabitants per hectare in 2000 to 74 in 2020. That is almost 20 percent!
The third main streak added in the 2021 version is the database of building types, which is extended with two more cities in Europe and covers now Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, London, and Stockholm. Examples from three Asian cities are used to contextualize the European examples.
Takeaways for professionals
The content of Spacematrix is of interest to professionals working in the field of urbanism, such as architects, urban planners and designers, as well as developers, economists, engineers and policymakers. It also offers researchers a method to quantitatively describe urban form and connect this to a wide range of performances.
Meta Berghauser Pont describes the potential utilization for the book from a city planners’ point of view:
– Spacematrix gives insight in the tradeoffs related to densification, called for by for instance UN Habitat to develop more sustainable cities. The strong dichotomy that is found between, on the one hand, the positive effects of density in relation to infrastructure, transport, and economics and, on the other hand, the negative environmental, social and health impacts formulates a challenging task for urban planners. Most of the reported negative effects of densification can be related to a lack of pervious green areas and pleads for a shift in mainly focusing on decarbonizing cities to also making cities more resilient where urban greening plays an important role besides densification.
Architects is another obvious group of professionals that could benifit from the methodology and concepts described in Spacematrix. Meta Berghauser Pont explains:
– The book shows that population density is a too crude measure to describe building types. With the Spacematrix, a more effective method is provided to distinguish e.g. high and spacious building patterns from low and compact ones. The book also foregrounds the important role of block size in the discussion on densification and associated economic and social aspects.