Buildings & estates

Acting across a wide range of sectors, from retail environments to research departments, parliamentary offices to passenger terminals, we study existing space-use patterns and advise building owners on redevelopment options. By putting the movement and interaction of people at the heart of the design process, we help organisations create places that work for their occupants.

Space Syntax’s science-based and human-focused approach explains how the spatial layout of buildings influences the ways that people use them. We offer diagnostic and strategic design services to the funders, owners and occupiers of buildings and campuses. We harness the capabilities of in-use surveys, data analytics and predictive computing to shape the social, economic and environmental impacts of development.

We address key performance issues including:

Communication & innovation
Innovation in the workplace is often the result of informal, unplanned interaction, especially between colleagues working in different parts of the same building. Space Syntax analysis demonstrates why some buildings are more successful at this than others; how interaction can be generated in new designs; and what can be done to re-work failed layouts.

Movement & wayfinding
The physical layout of rooms, corridors and vertical connections exerts a strong influence over patterns of movement in retail environments, museums and galleries. Understanding the effects of spatial layout on visitor activity allows design proposals to be generated that facilitate access and encourage natural wayfinding. Combining detailed observation studies with customer flow models and sales data analysis, we help to generate schemes that optimise patterns of moving, browsing and buying.

Spatial culture
Different organisations use space in different ways. Some want to be more open, some more closed. Spatial layout can reinforce cultural identity if handled intelligently, or it can undermine business performance if handled badly. Understanding the quantifiable differences between different building designs can ensure cultural ‘fit’ and avoid costly mistakes.


There are two key stages to our approach:

Stage 1  Building Baseline Study

At the diagnostic stage, we undertake research and generate insights to help designers, managers and occupiers understand how and why buildings operate the way they do. When appropriate, we undertake movement and space use surveys of existing buildings. We interview and questionnaire staff and visitors to gather data on their perceptions and priorities. We use spatial layout models in combination with statistical analyses to show how the design of horizontal and vertical circulation influences user behaviour such as purchasing patterns in retail environments, circulation patterns in galleries and patterns of interaction in work environments. Taken together, this body of data forms a Building Baseline Study to guide the design process.

Stage 2  Design Strategy

The insights generated by the diagnostic stage are then used at the strategic design stage to provide an evidence-based, creative input. We assist in the development of retail and curatorial strategies and we work to make schools, hospitals and workplaces safe, convivial and, ultimately, fit for purpose. We use forecast models to demonstrate how, in plan and section, building designs are going to work. Our work is highly visual, engaging and designed to communicate with both technical and non-technical audiences.  



Technical note: the Space Syntax approach