The world’s urban population is rapidly growing, now exceeding its rural population, and is expected to reach 70% of the world’s total by 2050. Research in environmental psychology increasingly supports the Biophilia Hypothesis which holds that our connection with Nature is innate. Thus, how do we maintain a human connection to Nature in an increasingly urbanising world? This paper is based on current research work and explores the boundary between built and natural environments, specifically how visual connectivity to Nature affects how people use social spaces, compared to spatial connectivity. Case study work is being undertaken at Arcosanti urban laboratory in the Arizona desert. Arcosanti construction began in 1970 to test Paolo Soleri’s Arcology Theory which proposes, in opposition to sprawling cities, a new form of urban setting which is compact with tightly restricted horizontal growth, leaving the surrounding natural environment as undeveloped “wilderness”. Through development of a Space/Nature Syntax methodology applied within a uniquely compact urban form, this research attempts to understand how designing to maintain the instinctive bond with Nature can affect social interaction and inform future design choices within built environments. This paper describes the development of, and basis for, the Space/Nature Syntax methodology, presents initial findings achieved through its recent application at Arcosanti, and outlines future work. Initial analysis indicates that visual connectivity to Nature is a significant influence on certain types of social interactions when compared to spatial connectivity, although more research is needed to verify the level of significance.
Keywords: Social Spaces, Biophilia, Environmental Psychology, Space Syntax, Urbanisation, Wilderness.
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