Axial Line Analysis Revisited: Reconsidering its Value for Architecture

By Michael J. Ostwald and Michael Dawes.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Developed in the late 1970s and refined over the following two decades, the Axial Line method is part of the Space Syntax suite of tools and associated theories that sought to apply mathematics to architectural and urban plans to uncover the relationship between social structure and spatial configuration. The aim of this paper is to consistently and critically demonstrate the Axial Line method. This paper is a response to repeated propositions that this approach is largely impenetrable to the average built environment professional. In response to these calls for clarity and consistency, this paper offers a series of worked examples, based on hypothetical architectural settings, of the three main stages in the process. The first stage involves the construction of an Axial Line map, the second applies a series of mathematical formulas to the data contained in the map, and the third suggests how the mathematical results might be interpreted and represented graphically. In presenting a critical interpretation of the Axial Line approach, the paper offers several original contributions to the method.

Keywords: Space Syntax, Axial Line Analysis, Architectural Analysis, Axial Line Map

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.219-242. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.423MB).

Prof. Michael J. Ostwald

Dean, School of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

Professor Michael J. Ostwald is Dean of Architecture at the University of Newcastle, Australia and a Visiting Professor at RMIT University (Melbourne). He has a PhD in architectural history and theory and a higher doctorate (DSc) in the mathematics of design. He has lectured in Asia, Europe and North America and has written and published extensively on the relationship between architecture, philosophy and geometry. Michael Ostwald is a member of the editorial boards of the Nexus Network Journal and Architectural Theory Review and he is co-editor of the journal Architectural Design Research.

Michael Dawes

Research Assistant, School of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

Michael Dawes is a graduate architect who completed undergraduate research on Space Syntax methods, and is currently a research assistant on a major ARC grant undertaking mathematical and computational modeling and analysis of twentieth century houses.