Evolutionary Computation

Location: South Hackney, London, 2018


In modern urban planning, the role of sacred architecture are generally considered as urban preservation. Historically a space inhabited by the community, albeit by a specific religious community,are usually vacant nowadays unless certain socio-temporal events take place due to congregation numbers and funding declines.

In spite of this, the rise of interior public space play a large role in urban life. Public interiors such as train stations define an increasingly familiar experience of being ‘within’ a ‘continuous’ city (Pimlott, 2007). Arguably these space are often addressed as ‘Urban Interior’. Combining these concepts, the hypothesis primarily challenges to what extent can St John of Jerusalem Church, as space, regardless of the building’s typology and use, display capabilities of ‘continuous’ integration in the existing network. By optimising integration and visibility, as Space Syntax theory, demonstrates whether design theory of permeating a building with an open access route, as a form of ‘Urban Interior’ theory, illustrates a rationale approach to spatial configuration. The solution will suggest, to a certain degree, the distinction of evolutionary design in computation to predict ‘reality’, and design intuition of evolution in ‘movement potential’, a distinction of which Space Syntax theory builds upon.

Additionally, an initial test will use the height of the spire focal point as an axis and wayfinding tool to orientate the building’s form towards a desirable condition derived from computation. This is to test if the historically assigned North-East orientation that Churches have, can hypothetically be manipulated to accommodate a ‘better’ means to the built environment.

Teklenburg’s ‘Space syntax: standardised integration measures and some simulations’ (1993), establishes a standardisation of Hillier and Hanson’s normalised measure of Integration from the ‘The Social Logic of Space’ (1984). Teklenburg expresses values to be independent of the number of lines in the study area. This
is a reliable application in generative design, as values are less influenced by operational decisions regarding the construction of the map. The mean integration value should desirably be close to a value of 2, becoming more densely occupied.

To further understand space at human-scale, Space Syntax theory explores Benedikt’s architectural spatial analysis, ‘isovist’ (1979). Isovist represents the position and visual field of the observer, the volume from a given point in space, together with a specification of the location of that point. The points collectively will produce a numerical measure of an area of space, of which further investigation can be made with the area value.

In order to gain a maximum value, by an individual axial the theory of ‘Urban Interior’ is addressed. In essence, it is a method to exploring and manipulating the spatial pattern of an existing network. Approaching ‘Urban Interior’ as an evolutionary urban system, an ‘organic’ pattern theorised in ‘Spatial and social pattern of an urban interior - The Architecture of SANAA’ (Aragüez and Psarra, 2007), with computational evolutionary algorithms and solvers (Rutten, 2010) the idea is to achieve an ‘evolutionary solvable’ solution with the two exchanges of ‘evolution’.

The idea is to develop a set of measures that quantifies human-level perception and experience of a space systematically with a single calculation. The tools used were Rhino 3D, Grasshopper, Python and Galapagos Evolutionary Solver. Building on Varoudis’ integration Python code from Hillier and Hanson, Teklenburg theory, and isovist component on Grasshopper, displayed measures of individual values that could potentially be maximised. Therefore, a ‘desirable’ path (x) can be achieved between parallel restrictions as genomes, automated by an evolutionary segment with Galapagos in accordance to maximising integration and visible area as fitness. To maximise the path in the urban system, only the surrounding buildings are input as boundaries, not including the building the hypothesis is proposing to ‘organically’ integrate. As Galapagos starts solving, path (x) will progress along genome points on the parallel restrictions, and thus a Biological Evolution proceed from Natural Selection, from the fitness values. Building on the results, an additional genome (the church spire) is placed in the script, to test the most advantageous orientation, in context with ‘desirable’ path (x), to propose an ‘ideal’ position with a computation solution.

The result of the ‘desired’ path (x) did not prove the design solution of permeating the space as ‘Urban Interior’ being adequate. In fact, the new segment grown through Evolutionary Solver, exists in reality as an urban path, verified on Google Maps. The result is questionable as urban paths are usually not included in Space Syntax axial integration measures, although the result suggests aspects of evolutionary computation reflecting designers’ intuition, assuming the designer experienced the most scenic route from one street to another. To draw a comprehensive conclusion, further studies examining other examples of networks and urban paths will be advantageous. The final test on orientating the form shows striking results, as the ‘ideal’ orientates itself on the path suggested as ‘desirable’. Although the likelihood of the building orienting will not happen, understanding ‘evolution’ in Space Syntax and computational theory, can be an efficient and ‘organic’ tool in analysing the built environment.


Aragüez, M and Psarra, S. (2007) Spatial and social patterns of an urban interior – The Architecture of                      SANAA. In: The Journal of Space Syntax 7 (2) pp. 193-218

Benedikt, M. L. (1979) To take hold of space: isovists and isovistfields. In: Environment and Planning B 6 pp.            47-65

Hillier, B. and Hanson, J. (1984) The Social Logic of Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pimlott, Mark. (2007) Without and within: essays on territory and the interior. Rotterdam: Episode Publishers.

Rutten, D. (2010) Evolutionary Principles applied to Problem Solving.At:                      

        http://www.grasshopper3d.com/profiles/blogsevolutionary-principles (Accessed on: 19.02.2018)

Teklenburg, J. A. F. (1993) Space syntax: standardised integration measures and some simulations. In:

        Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 20 pp. 347-357

© 2020 by Samantha Li. All rights reserved.