Is compact urbanity more connected?


  • Xilu Liu
  • Ameen Farooq



The concept of urban compactness is widely accepted as an approach in modern architectural and urban design fields, this belief may vary relative to the density and connectivity of various neighborhoods working within cities of developing countries. Beijing has several compact residential neighborhoods in many of its urban districts. This paper argues that urban compactness as predictor of connectivity may carry an altogether different meaning when compared to the U.S objectives for achieving sustainable compactness by increasing density that is tactically connected. The accelerated pace of migration following the economic progress from the countryside to cities in China helped grew the middle class while shifting demographics has added serious demands of housing and infrastructure within and outside of Beijing districts and its urban core. Various neighborhoods within and round Beijing districts are swelling with unwarranted compactness, causing serious environmental and ecological challenging making basic living conditions unchecked. In addition, crowding, traffic congestion, pollution and limited housing surrounding this compactness is a threat to the public health. Several residential blocks of various sizes in close proximity to each other appear to add physical compactness seemingly well threaded in urban fabric various urban districts. Morphological analysis of selected neighborhoods revealed that many urban neighborhoods similar to case study examples are marred with unregulated urban interventions with little cohesive system of connectivity within these neighborhoods. This study analyzed morphological patterns of street connectivity using Space Syntax method tounderstand if physical compactness also means more connected. The morphological variables notably, integration, connectivity and choice were used as key variables to describe the quality of connectedness of a diverse range of mixed-use commercial and residential typologies that were served by dense street networks. Analysis of spatial morphology of selected compact neighborhoods provided perceptive clues to redevelop a spatial program to bring about a meaningful design intervention to achieve better connections to the unregulated compact urban neighborhoods for achieving more pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhoods that could co-exist with the existing vehicular street networks. The findings indicated that much of mixed-use developments in close proximity to each other were part of a fragmented maze of dead-end streets serving these residential blocks. The incoherent street networks serving these neighborhoods created a lack of control between pedestrian and vehicular circulations causing congestions and unsustainable conditions for social and public realm to coexist.