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Form and urban change : an urban morphometric study of five gentrified neighbourhoods in London

Venerandi, A and Zanella, M and Romice, O and Dibble, J and Porta, S (2017) Form and urban change : an urban morphometric study of five gentrified neighbourhoods in London. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 44 (6). pp. 1056-1076. ISSN 0265-8135

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Research in Urban Morphology has long been exploring the form of cities and their changes over time, especially by establishing links with the parallel dynamics of these cities’ social, economic and political environments. The capacity of an adaptable and resilient urban form for ensuring a fertile environment for economic prosperity and social cohesion is at the forefront of discussion. Gentrification has emerged in the past few decades as an important topic of research in urban sociology, geography and economy, addressing the social impact of some forms of urban evolution; to some extent, these studies emphasise the form of the environment in which gentrification takes place, however, a systematic and quantitative method for a detailed characterization of this type of urban form is still far from being achieved. With this paper, we make a first step towards the establishment of an approach based on “urban morphometrics”. To this end, we measure and compare key morphological features of five London neighbourhoods that have undergone a process of piecemeal gentrification. Findings suggest that these five case studies display similar and recognisable morphological patterns in terms of their built form, geographical location of main and local roads and physical relationships between street fronts and street types. These initial results, while not implying any causal or universal relationship between morphological and social dynamics, nevertheless contribute to; a) highlight the benefits of a rigorous quantitative approach towards interpreting urban form beyond the disciplinary boundaries of Urban Morphology and b) define the statistical recurrence of a few, specific morphological features amongst the five cases of gentrified areas in London.