The Bartlett School of Architecture


Merve Okkali Alsavada

Image: Merve Okkali Alsavada (2022)


Investigation of the Spatial and Socioeconomic Impact of Waterway Networks on Cities

First and second supervisors 


In the historical cycle, cities with waterways have played a locomotive role in global international trade and, on the other hand, have provided a setting for people from various places and countries to come together due to their open and dynamic nature. The ports, industrial areas and the city centre have been indeed a unity with direct connections. However, changing circumstances, particularly the development of railways and motorways, have weakened the link between the city centre and its waterfronts over time. The alarming impact on the urban waterways and waterside areas has been increasingly recognised in diverse fields of knowledge.

The research offers a combined framework that is built through a series of case studies of cities with man-made waterways specially selected and designed to allow the pursuit of theoretical and analytical questions: “How do the man-made urban waterways affect the urban growth patterns of cities over time?”, “How does it relate to the building form and socioeconomics of cities?” and specifically, “What kind of difference can be found between different spatial systems with regard to man-made waterway integration? The study aims to make a quantitative comparison of cities and the distribution of street, waterway, building and land use types based on the centrality measures by applying multi-layered urban models. The research develops a multi-modal network of cities that combines the street, waterways and railways to understand the contribution of canals to the urbanisation pattern of different types of cities.

In that sense, the study can provide a valuable contribution to the future of waterway structures and waterfront settlements in which it will provide designers with a better understanding of principles and knowledge of systematic consequences for strategic design decisions. Also, the study enables a proposal of possible insights into the adaptation of disused, leftover, or deprived waterways and waterfront areas. This study will also explore key characteristics of urban waterways for integrating water transit systems into the existing public transport system and assess water transport options for cities with regard to city structure and existing land mobility networks.


Merve Okkali Alsavada is an architect and PhD researcher in the Space Syntax Laboratory at The Bartlett School of Architecture. She is also currently a Post-Graduate Teaching Assistant for Space Syntax: Architecture and Cities MSc/MRes

Her research interests focus on a computational and data-driven approach to analysing spatio-historical evaluation of cities, configurational network analysis of canal structures and their impact on urban culture and mobility by applying multi-layered urban network modelling. 

Before joining The Bartlett, Merve was a research associate in Turkey and worked as an architect on projects collaborating with experts in urban planning and computer science to investigate spatial patterning of neighbourhoods’ socioeconomic aspects and create a neighbourhood assessment index in Turkey. She also holds a Master of Architecture and Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Middle East Technical University in Turkey. 



Image: Merve Okkali Alsavada (2022)