Towards a quantitative approach to morphological regions in GIS

Diniz, Mariana and Serra, Miguel; (2022) Towards a quantitative approach to morphological regions in GIS. In: Annual Conference Proceedings of the XXVIII International Seminar on Urban Form. University of Strathclyde Publishing, Glasgow, pp. 381-390. ISBN 9781914241161

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The urban landscape is the result of a cumulative, historical stratification process, in which urban entities acquire formal and physical aspects that reflect the cultural and social functioning codes of the precedent periods in the city's formative process. Within this perspective, the concept of Morphological Regions and the method of Morphological Regionalisation, stand out as very important contributions to the study of the historico-geographical structure of the urban landscape. Central to that method, is the understanding of the way in which urban landscapes are structured: the existence of unitary areas which comprise an individualized combination of the three basic form complexes – namely the town plan, the building fabric and the land and building utilization — delimited by their degree of internal morphological similarity. However, from a methodological point of view, the identification of such areas (or morphological regions) remains based on qualitative visual analysis and on the personal expertise of the analyst. We propose to address the method of morphological regionalisation from a quantitative perspective, based on typological descriptions of urban form components derived by algorithmic means. The paper identifies and addresses the underlying premises of the method of regionalisation, arguing that its qualitative procedures can be translated into quantitative and objective parameters, through multi-variable geometric descriptions of urban form in GIS and through statistical clustering techniques. We attempt to contribute to the construction of a more robust method of morphological regionalisation, supported by a systematic and quantitative approach, applicable to large-scale comparative analysis of contemporary urban forms, which often elude previous historical typologies.

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