The Bartlett School of Architecture


Athina Lazaridou

Athina Lazaridou | PhD thesis | Three-dimensional spatial navigation in real and virtual museums

Athina Lazaridou: Spatial Navigation in real and Virtual Museums in Two and Three Dimensions


Primary and secondary supervisors


A key issue in the architectural design of atria museums is the variety of ways users can interact with the three-dimensional layout of space to create emergent patterns of spatial navigation. This issue is addressed in the context of a coherent body of literature which, together with space syntax theory and method, real time observations, agent-based models and virtual reality environments provides a specific rigour in the spatial analysis of the layouts and exploration patterns.

The intention is to evolve an overview of these three-dimensional spatial and navigational aspects; thus enriching the development of the two-dimensional space syntax approach and contributing to a better understanding of the architectural design of museums. Most space syntax studies on human navigation focus on spatial characteristics and route choices in two dimensions and have not yet properly addressed the effect of the third dimension on exploration.

This thesis studies three European atria museums: the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Acropolis Museum in Athens, which, taken together, provide a basis for investigating the theoretical and methodological questions of this thesis. The analysis begins from the apparent similarities among the museums, creating a suitable background for exploring critical differences with regards to their spatial layout and visiting patterns. The results deriving from this analysis are then used to create systematic variations in the virtual reality (VR) experiment being conducted at the Ashmolean Museum, examining correspondences between users’ experiences in the real and in virtual environments.

Significant analogies are demonstrated between real and virtual behaviour with the findings showing how the museums’ three‐dimensional architectural design impacts significantly on the navigational processes of visitors. Although the atria in all three buildings are used as compositional devices structuring relationships between exhibition spaces and the three dimensional organisation of buildings, there are significant differences in terms of how this relationship is structured and the differing impacts produced on navigation patterns and gaze directions. The present study ultimately leads to a deeper understanding of architectural design regarding three-dimensional museum environments, and its implications for users’ social and cognitive processes.


Athina Lazaridou
Athina Lazaridou holds a Bachelor in Architecture from the Aristotle University Thessaloniki (AUTH) in Greece, a Master (MSc) in Architectural Advanced Studies from the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies (UCL) and a PhD in Architectural Space and Computation from the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL), London, UK.

She worked as part of the ‘Somer’s Town Cycle to School’ Public Engagement project in collaboration with UCL and the Camden Council, London (2014-15). She has taught as a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant (PGTA) at the Bartlett, UCL. During 2011-14, Athina organised and led numerous design workshops in Greece together with the Department of Urban and Spatial Planning, AUTH and Gehl Architects. She worked for Space Syntax Limited in London (2007-09).

She was a Member of the Management Committee for COST Action TU1002 (2007-09). She has won numerous scholarships and awards among which an AHRC Collaborative Skills Development Grant, as a CLASH Fellow in collaboration with UCL, King’s Cultural Institute and the Royal Festival Hall in London, a Ph.D. Scholarship by the Greek State Scholarship Foundation (I.K.Y), an Erasmus-Socrates Funding for studies at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany and many research project and conference funds by UCL. Athina is a licensed architect (ARB, TEE-TCG) and an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UCL Arena One, UK. 

Publications and other work
  • Lazaridou, A., Psarra, S. (2017). ‘Spatial navigation in real and virtual multi-level museums’. Proceedings of the Eleventh International Space Syntax Symposium, Lisbon: University of Lisbon.
  • Lazaridou, A. (2016). ‘Spatial navigation in real and virtual museums in two and three dimensions’. Student Showcase, Annual Book, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London, UK.https://issuu.com/bartlettarchucl/docs/thebartlettbook2016-preview/94
  • Lazaridou, A. (2016). ‘Navigating multi-level complex museum environments’. 1st Interdisciplinary Navigation Symposium (iNAV), Bad Gastein, Austria. 
  • Lazaridou, A. (2015). ‘Navigating three-dimensional museum environments’. Proceedings of the Human mobility, cognition and GISc Conference, Copenhagen: Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management. 
  • Lazaridou, A., Psarra, S. (2015). ‘Experiencing three-dimensional museum environments: An investigation of the Ashmolean Museum and the Museum of Scotland’. Proceedings of the Tenth International Space Syntax Symposium, London: UCL. 
  • Lazaridou, A. (2014). ‘The Ashmolean Museum. Analysing atria through Space Syntax’. LOBBY, Un/Spectacle, No1, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.
  • Lazaridou, A. (2013). ‘Visibility and permeability relations in three-dimensional cultural environments: The Ashmolean Museum as a case study’. Proceedings of the Ninth International Space Syntax Symposium, Edited by Y O Kim, H T Park and K W Seo, Seoul: Sejong University. 
  • Lazaridou, A. (2011). ‘Spatially and socially interrelated places; How Thessaloniki’s city centre embodies multidiversity’. 17th European Colloquim on Quantitative and Theoritical Goegraphy (ECQTG2011), Harokopeio University, Athens. 
  • Lazaridou, A., Karaveli, E., Oikonomou, M., Tsiolaki, F. (2011). ‘Thessaloniki Old Harbor Site: Towards a Sustainable Future Development’. Urban Green Conference, Drama, Greece. 
  • Vandoros, A., Lazaridou, A., Kurpizidou, K., Kondylis, A. (2009). ‘Analysis of the historical building at Anageniseos Street and its surrounding area in Thessaloniki.’. Greek Architects website, www.greekarchitects.gr
space syntax