טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentNatapov Asya
SubjectCities as Visuospatial Networks: Linking Visibility
of Urban Activities and Pedestrian Movement
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors Dr. Dafna Fisher Gewirtzm
Professor Daniel Czamanski
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Abstract

Non-walkable, poorly planned urban environments are associated with physical inactivity and environmental issues. If we want cities to run properly, we first have to “teach them to walk”. Factors affecting city walkability include not only physical settings, but also processes of human spatial cognition (acquiring and utilizing spatial knowledge). This research proposes an interdisciplinary approach that links urban environmental qualities with human walking cognition.

While in environmental psychology and cognitive science, behavior and cognition in cities is intensively studied, the link between cognitive processes and urban development has not yet been developed. Current methods in the study of urban systems are based mostly on economic and transportation activities and ignore human spatial cognition processes like visual perception, although cognition is an active factor in the evolution and dynamics of space.

This multidisciplinary research links spatial cognition to urban dynamics by three complementary methods presented in the thesis as a collection of papers:

(1) Spatial quantitative analysis: Urban environment of the case study, the historical district of Tel Aviv-Yafo Israel, is represented as a chain of navigational decisions in the form of mathematical graphs (or networks).  A functional aspect of urban spatial networks was investigated; the spatial distribution of public food and drink facilities. Such cafés, coffee shops, restaurants and the like are known as ‘third place’ in urban sociology and are important in establishing a sense of place. The proposed graph analytic framework, termed Integrative Visibility Graph (IVG), is a novel quantitative method based on visibility analysis of urban structure and its functioning.  Several centrality measures and models from the graph and complex network theories are applied to the constructed graphs to evaluate the structural position of third place locations in the urban network.

(2) Behavioral qualitative assessment: To evaluate the effect of urban visibility on pedestrian route choices, behavioral data on individual decision-making is acquired through an experiment in an immersive virtual reality. Participants in the experiment select routes and the chains of their navigational decisions are then associated with the IVG scores. Our results suggest that pedestrian navigation choices are purposive and are influenced by the specific visibility attributes of urban environment.

(3) Computational simulation model of the visual search: Pedestrian visual search for urban locations is conceptualized as a stochastic process and modeled by random walks simulation. Comparison of the case study with other distinct visibility patterns identifies a navigational signature of the environment and allows measurement of visual distinction between different locations in the city.

The overarching mission of this academic work is twofold: First, to illuminate aspects of human cognition from an urban planning viewpoint. Taken together, the suggested research steps construct a novel behavioral paradigm in urban planning and design. Second, study results provide effective tools for exploring various scenarios of urban sustainable design, reshaping the infrastructure, mobility and architecture of our cities.