The Bartlett


Space Syntax: improving national and international urban environments

Space Syntax Ltd is a spin-out company established by Bartlett researchers. It has informed the development of more than 600 projects around the world, significantly improving urban environments.

Space syntax

Space syntax was pioneered between the mid-1970s and 1990s by Professor Bill Hillier, Professor Alan Penn and colleagues at The Bartlett School of Architecture. It allows spatial configuration to be included as a variable when analysing the socio-economic function, cultural significance and behavioural implications of spatial design. 

Built on empirical observations, space syntax theories can be used to predict how a space will be used in practice, allowing for the strategic planning of public spaces.

These theories have been put into practice by Space Syntax Ltd, whose high-profile projects include the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square in 2003, which led to:

  • 250% increase in pedestrian activity
  • 900% increase in its use as a pedestrian through-route
  • transformed public perceptions of Trafalgar Square as a destination.

Old Market Square, Nottingham

Another example of the impacts of this research is in the £7 million regeneration of Old Market Square in Nottingham. 

In 2003, Nottingham City Council began to transform this then dysfunctional urban space in a high traffic, politically sensitive and historically listed area. UCL research was heavily involved in the strategic design, pedestrian movement forecasts and detailed spatial analysis. 

"Only the churlish would fail to acknowledge the difference that the multi-million  investment in the Old Market Square has made to the heart of our city." - Nottingham Evening Post 

After the square reopened in 2007, it won multiple awards, including three Civic Trust awards. Its use has been significantly diversified and increased, and it hosts many events throughout the year. While other East Midlands towns saw a decline in footfall, Nottingham saw an increase, which helped to support local businesses.


In 2006, Space Syntax Ltd was commissioned by the Jeddah Municipality to provide spatial development strategies for Jeddah. 

The company has worked on six projects valued at over £1.5 million. They have developed regeneration strategies and development plans for more than 50 of the most challenging areas of unplanned settlement, with an estimated total population of 1 million. 

These projects have informed Jeddah’s draft strategic plan. They have also informed a mega project commissioned in 2013 that will help the development of Jeddah Sub-regional, Structural and Local Plans. 

Space Syntax Ltd is collaborating with AECOM to provide analytical models of the city. The project will produce city plans for the next 20 years, affecting millions of Jeddah’s residents and accounting for the use of billions of riyals. The city is already using these plans to issue planning permissions in 25 unplanned settlements with a total population of over 500,000. 

Following Space Syntax Ltd’s recommendations, all categories of unplanned settlements were designated to specific authorities or public–private partnership companies for further actions. The physical transformation of two of these areas (Al-Ruwais and Khozam) commenced in 2011 and is now occurring in another six areas. 

The municipality of Jeddah has also started physical interventions based on Space Syntax Ltd’s recommendations in eight other central areas, including the highly populated areas of Al-Balad, Betrumin and Qulail, which will transform how Jeddah residents inhabit and move through their city.