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Urban Design, Architecture and Space Syntax in the Conception of Public Spaces—A Look at Luanda’S Revitalization

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The imagery of sub—Saharan African cities often depicts challenges of infrastructural deficiencies and the prevalence of informal settlements. However, that setup does not represent the entirety of these cities, as is the case of Luanda in Angola. Although the city presents a formal and informal urban settlements duality and extensive urban sprawl, public open spaces in the city centre of Luanda offer few opportunities for trivial encounters and socialisation. The Bay of Luanda is the largest and widely recognized option for a public open space providing opportunities for social interaction. The revitalisation of formal, preserved but underutilised or privatised public open spaces in Luanda sets the starting point of this paper, which looks at urban revitalisation at a micro-scale where communities and the private sector may contribute. Although it is vital to pursue urban infrastructural improvements, it is also important to cater for the preservation of historic urban centres, which have challenges of their own and have the potential to promote inclusive public life through vibrant public spaces. Furthermore, Public Open Spaces (POSs) are essential in promoting social interactions and walkability, thus generating vibrant public life, which is the core objective of an urban revitalisation strategy. Moreover, local cultural, social and economic dynamics are crucial in urban revitalisation. Although space syntax is a valuable tool for urban design and interventions, it is not a substitute for public participation. The historical backgrounds of the locale, and the cultural richness of the community embedded in the built environment, encapsulate de poetic complexity and layers of the architectural and urban design of the place through time. Although the process cannot be entirely perceptive to the eye, it is from POSs that we see it best. This paper aims to present an overview of the urban revitalisation background and the importance of built fabric configuration for urban vitality as theoretical frameworks for an urban revitalisation strategy. It then introduces the usefulness of Space Syntax as a tool to anticipate human spatial behaviours and aid in locating different activities to enhance public life by taking advantage of the space syntax methodology. Finally, a speculative analysis of the configuration-function relationship employing space syntax methods was applied to understand how the urban system functions and bring analytical, evidence-based rigour. Preliminary conclusions suggest that since one of the challenges of urban revitalisation is the unpredictability of the outcome and the heavy upfront financial burden, space syntax represents a valuable tool of predictability for these interventions. Furthermore, the research underpins the importance of POSs for city branding and tourism, to promote the micro-economy, and essentially promote social interaction and inclusion, which is the focus of this paper.


  • Public open spaces
  • Urban revitalisation
  • Social inclusion
  • Space syntax

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This work is part of an ongoing PhD research thesis of Ana Cristina Inglês at the Instituto Superior Técnico of the University of Lisbon under the supervision of Professor Miguel Pires Amado.

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Correspondence to Ana Cristina Inglês .

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© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

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Inglês, A.C., Cannas, L., Heitor, T. (2023). Urban Design, Architecture and Space Syntax in the Conception of Public Spaces—A Look at Luanda’S Revitalization. In: Mora, P.L., Viana, D.L., Morais, F., Vieira Vaz, J. (eds) Formal Methods in Architecture. FMA 2022. Digital Innovations in Architecture, Engineering and Construction. Springer, Singapore.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-981-99-2216-1

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