Correlating street quality, street life and street centrality in Tripoli, Libya

Remali, Adel Mohammad and Porta, Sergio and Romice, Ombretta (2014) Correlating street quality, street life and street centrality in Tripoli, Libya. In: The Past, Present and Future of High Streets, 2014-04-28, UCL.

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    Abstract

    The link between urban form and urban life has been the subject of a growing amount of research in the recent past. That particularly applies to streets, which are increasingly considered the heart of city life, economy and capacity of innovation rather than mere movement channels. From the point of view of streets’ spatial nature, research has indicated that two aspects are prominently relevant to social life: firstly, centrality, a product of the way streets are connected to each other in the street network; secondly, the quality of the building facades that constitute the street “scene” – variously defined in terms, for example, of “transparency”, “visual attractiveness”, “grain” or “maintenance”. Both these factors appear to be heavily linked to the amount and type of movement which the street generates/accommodates, with direct impacts on land-use, safety, estate values and a number of other key features of urban life. However, whilst street centrality has been widely explored by urban scholars as well as scientists in complex networks, along with its correlation with aspects of city’s performance, far less evidence has been raised on street quality, mostly due to the local nature of this factor that requires direct primary investigation through detailed field survey. This paper investigates the relationship between street centrality, quality and life in three neighbourhoods of Tripoli city centre, which have different origin, history and form, at the scale of the neighbourhood and the urban block. We analyse: a) the centrality of streets calculated through Multiple Centrality Assessment; b) the quality of street fronts according to a set of indicators; c) the social life on the streets, by counting the amount and type of human activities directly observed on the field. Results suggest that street life is highly correlated the centrality of streets and quality of their fronts, in ways that differ according to the type of streets, whether they are main, connecting streets or cul-de-sacs. The paper concludes that street centrality and street front quality play a major role in the nature of our relationship with the built environment.