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Multiple centrality assessment : understanding and designing mixed use streets in professional masterplanning

Porta, Sergio and Strano, Emanuele and Venerandi, Alessandro and Adam, Robert and Romice, Ombretta and Pasino, Paola and Bianchi, Gianpiero (2013) Multiple centrality assessment : understanding and designing mixed use streets in professional masterplanning. Urban Design (125). pp. 12-14. ISSN 1750-712X

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Non-residential economic activities are the heart of mixed-use streets. That makes mixed-use streets extremely difficult to get successfully planned and developed: activities require, in order to keep on flourishing and nurturing city life, certain conditions around. Those conditions, in turn, depend on spatial as well as non-spatial drivers, and equally they depend on each other. Like the emergence and evolution of living organisms, that of mixed-use streets goes through an infinite succession of individual and collective initiatives the vast majority of which are destined to fail due to adverse “environmental” conditions. Managing such conditions is the only chance that designers have to influence the development and evolution of main streets in their plans. One of the most profound spatial determinants of non-residential uses in cities is street centrality. Multiple Centrality Assessment (MCA) is a computer-operated procedure for mapping the centrality of urban streets and spaces. It applies to spatial cases a set of methods drawn from research into the physics of complex networks in nature, society, culture and technology which emerged in the late 1950s and have gained momentum since the 1990s. Centrality is a critical element of the structure of all complex networks; its importance in spatial networks has been widely acknowledged in geography, transportation planning and regional analysis, as linked to a notion of proximity. In urban design, since the mid 1980s Space Syntax has developed a wider understanding of centrality in urban systems. The MCA has re-interpreted these as a special class of complex networks. In both centrality goes beyond proximity, dealing with how people experience and navigate the system of streets and intersections. The importance of street centrality for urban designers and planners is twofold: it influences collective behavior – impacting on key-dynamics such as real estate values, land use and crime; it is a primal factor in development and evolution of city form over time.