Bill hillier’s legacy: Space syntax—a synopsis of basic concepts, measures, and empirical application

Claudia Yamu*, Akkelies van Nes, Chiara Garau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
160 Downloads (Pure)


Bill Hillier’s space syntax method and theory enables us to describe the spatial properties of a sustainable city. Empirical testing of the space syntax method over time has confirmed the capacity and innovativeness of analyzing spatial relationships with the purpose of understanding and explaining the socio-spatial organization of built environments. However, the conceptual framework of space syntax elements is scattered around in various academic writings. This article, therefore, gives a holistic and compact overview of the various concepts that are used in space syntax, from its basic elements to various analytical techniques and theories. To achieve this compact overview, we reviewed all space syntax literature accessible since the 1970s for finding core references to various concepts used in space syntax. Following a short description of its foundation and evolution through the work of Bill Hillier, we explain its basic concepts and measures in the form of an extended glossary. Explanations are enriched with various space syntax analyses and scenario testing on various scales that were applied to the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. We conclude with a discussion about the advantages and limitations of space syntax and about how this method adds value to the creation of sustainable cities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3394
Number of pages25
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Scenario testing
  • Space syntax
  • Spatial configuration
  • Spatial relationships
  • Theories of the built environment
  • Urban space


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