An integrated approach to urban form

Vítor Oliveira *1

*1 Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto


The diversity and complexity of the physical form of cities is reflected in the variety of morphological approaches to cope with it.  Researchers and practitioners dealing with specific urban form problems are often faced with the need to select between different approaches without much knowledge of their main strengths and weaknesses. Four different morphological approaches are compared: space syntax, historic-geographical, process typological and spatial analytical. In particular, the use of four fundamental concepts proposed in these approaches is explored: spatial configuration, morphological region, typological process, and cell.  The four concepts are applied in a traditional gateway area of the city of Porto, the Rua de Costa Cabral. The area contains considerable morphological variety, including continuous building frontages, broken frontages of single-family housing, and areas of isolated buildings.  The main points of contact between the different concepts and approaches are identified and a general methodological procedure is outlined. The main purpose is to understand how to combine and co-ordinate these four concepts in an integrated approach so as to improve our capacity to describe, explain and prescribe the physical form of cities.