Urban MorphoMetrics

The quantitative science of urban form

What is Urban Morphometrics

Urban Morphometrics (UMM) is an emerging, unsupervised and systematic  approach to measures and classify urban form, with unprecedented precision of detail and extent of coverage. 

The rigorous understanding of mutual similarities between places allows a whole range of new studies to be performed, questions to be asked and knew knowledge to be produced, leading us towards an entirely new theory of urban evolutionary change, more in line with issues of resilience, adaptation and emergency.

Measuring urban form

Urban Morphometrics (UMM) extracts the inner spatial patterns that distinctively characterise urban places, in the form of numerical place codes, from two inputs: building footprints and street networks.

Figure 1. Selection of 64 morphometrics calculated in the Greater London area.

Classifying urban form

Once we describe urban forms through their defying indicators, we can then identify, map and correlate them across the settlement and between settlements. This helps us understand their location and extent but also the city’s overall and local character, which paves the road for many important questions.

Figure 2. 

Left: Numerical taxonomy of Amsterdam (left): building/cells’ colors identify each of the 14 Urban Types, where similarity of colors reflect similarity of form patterns. 

Top: Dendrogram of the 14 UTs of Amsterdam (right): similarity between UTs is expressed by the y-value of their point of conjunction (the lower the value the higher the similarity).

Designing urban form

UMM is not only a descriptive tool; it can help guide design in the production of new urban forms. It can do so through traditional normative guidance, that is by providing precise urban form profiles to which designers can align to, in the form of design codes; through generative design, that is by shaping new urban forms starting from the key traits of existing ones; and through a combination of both.

Figure 3. 

Left: map extract of the numerical taxonomy of Kochi (India). Building/cells’ colors identify each Urban Type, where similarity of colors reflect similarity of form patterns. 

Right: design exercises based on the morphometric profile of the historical (red) Urban Type, carried out by three different urban designers.

Tools for urban morphometrics

Urban Morphometrics performs 2 services:

  1. it  characterizes  the built environment by computing a comprehensive set of morphometrics through the momepy Python library, developed in the context of a research project at the Urban Design Studies Unit (UDSU) University of Strathclyde, and supported by the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation
  2. it the identifies patterns of urban form using code notebooks, that cluster morphometrics to identify urban types (homogeneous patterns of urban form).