URBAN DESIGN International

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 66–76 | Cite as

The urban density assemblage: Modelling multiple measures

  • Kim Dovey
  • Elek Pafka
Original Article


Discussions of urban density have long been central to theories relating urban form to city life. Both maximum and minimum measures of density have been linked to qualitative aspects of cities including health, safety, creativity, vitality and sustainability. Extensive research has produced a multiplicity of density concepts: densities of building bulk and floorspace; densities of dwellings, people and jobs; measured and perceived densities; interior and exterior; net and gross. From these are derived various density controls: floor area ratios, building envelopes, coverage and open space ratios. Despite research and practice of this kind, the modelling of interconnections between different concepts and measures has proven difficult. This article proposes an integrative approach towards conceptualising urban density that seeks to clarify and to link key concepts within a loose framework of assemblage theory. In this model three fields of density measures – buildings, populations and open space – are integrated and related to questions of scale and urban intensity. Examples of suburban, urban, high-rise and informal morphologies are modelled to show how different density profiles emerge according to different measures. The model provides a basis for re-thinking density as a multiplicitous assemblage and in a manner applicable to any urban morphology.


density morphology assemblage intensity floor area ratio plot ratio 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Dovey
    • 1
  • Elek Pafka
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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