Healthy Cities

Healthy Cities

Public Health through Urban Planning

Chinmoy Sarkar, Chris Webster and John Gallacher

Mounting scientific evidence generated over the past decade highlights the significant role of our cities’ built environments in shaping our health and well-being. In this book, the authors conceptualize the ‘urban health niche’ as a novel approach to public health and healthy-city planning that integrates the diverse and multi-level health determinants present in a city system.

Chapter 5: Spatial Design Network Analysis for Urban Health (sDNA-UH)

Chinmoy Sarkar, Chris Webster and John Gallacher

Subjects: environment, environmental geography, geography, cities, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics, urban and regional studies, cities, urban studies


The relationship between the structure of configured urban space in a city and human behaviour has long been established in architecture and urban design scholarship. In his seminal work on environmental cognition Lynch articulated the idea that the cognitive maps with which people perceive and navigate through urban space depend on the legibility of the city structure (K. Lynch, 1960). He proposed that cognitive maps of urban settings consist of a set of five basic types: paths, path intersections (nodes), landmarks, districts and boundaries (edges). Paths form the predominant element in urban morphology and may include channels along which individuals move, which may be in the form of roads, walkways, transit lines, canals and railways. Districts act as distinct internally homogeneous subsections or neighbourhoods, which an individual is 'inside of'. Edges constitute boundaries between two phases, representing breaks in continuity, for example shores, railway cuts, a boundary between two districts, and so on. Paths connect within and between districts, while nodes are strategic points acting as destinations, and landmarks act as meta-level points of reference. Norberg-Schulz (1971) proposed a similar topological schema. The relationship between human functioning and perception psychology within an urban space was conceptualized to evolve as a result of the three intrinsic sensations of centres or place (proximity), directions or paths (continuity) and areas or domains (enclosure).

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