4. Analysis of Utrecht's Urban Development

4.1 Interpretation of integration and choice patterns

For this part of the analysis of Utrecht, and thus the first test of the methodology, I used the Depthmap program to analyse the plans of 1300, 1400, 1550, 1846, and 2005. As explained previously, I used the integration (to-movement) and choice (through-movement) on both the local (neighbourhood) and global (entire town) scales. For the older plans in particular, the local integration and choice values offered a much more accurate picture, because most of these plans were incomplete. However, it was felt that this was not crucial, since this study's purpose was to compare the historical and archaeological evidence with the results that space syntax could achieve. Moreover, Depthmap performed both the axial (whole lines) and angular segment (segments from crossroad to crossroad) analysis in order to test which form of analysis correlates significantly with the situation as researched by conventional methods.

Figures 15 to 22: Analysis of Utrecht in 1300

The plan of 1300 in particular provided many opportunities for the analysis of integration and choice patterns. This plan highlighted the strong north to south rather than east to west focus. More than likely this was the result of smaller settlements being established in this area in the 7th century, which, by 1200, had merged to create the town of Utrecht. Local choice patterns show that the routes alongside the Oudegracht were main centres for local through-movement, whereas the main origins and destinations were not only on the Oudegracht but also in the areas to the east and west of the canal. The former centre of Utrecht at the burgh was also a main source of local integration but not choice. It seems that people considered this area as a destination rather than a handy short cut. Comparing the axial line as well as the segment patterns for local and global integration, shows that the cathedral area is a destination for local travel but not for global travel; in that respect the cathedral precinct is rather segregated. This is in contradiction to many English medieval towns, in which cathedral precincts were the most integrated spaces on both a global and local level. Analysing the local and global choice values, it appears that on the global level only the section around the Plaats is highly integrated, whereas according to local values it is the entire Oudegracht. Moreover the main east to west axis from the Biltstraat to Vredenburg is also very integrated on the global maps. However, this does not really change the north-south orientation of the integration pattern. Due to the fact that this plan is incomplete, the calculations have favoured the only east-west street in the grid. The local value, as predicted, has rectified this problem.

Figures 23 to 30: Analysis of Utrecht in 1400. | Figures 31 to 38: Analysis of Utrecht in 1550

The plan for 1550 was the first complete plan. A clear integration core can be seen around the main areas where the markets are located, in particular around the Plaats, the artificially created town square of Utrecht. The high integration value of the most eastern north-south street is probably due to the fact that most people approach Utrecht from this direction. It is, however, surprising that it is not the street leading from the eastern gate to the town centre but the streets adjacent to it that seem to have higher levels of integration. Comparing this plan to those of later periods it is very noticeable that the town plan of 1550 in its entirety is much more integrated. This is due to the fact that the nature of town life changes during the later centuries and those areas dedicated to living and office working were purposely created to be more segregated. With regard to the choice value, a clear focus can be seen along the Oudegracht and the streets along the eastern wall as well as the main route across the Nieuwegracht. In contrast to the earlier situation in 1300, the area around the Cathedral has low values for both the integration and choice values. Another development is the establishment of more bridges along the Oudegracht, which has resulted in a more integrated pattern around the canal in 1550.

Figures 39 to 46: Analysis of Utrecht in 1846

The integration and choice patterns for 1846 show an entirely different picture. The integration map shows much more of a network rather than single integrated streets. The local integration in particular shows how well the town is integrated as a whole. Moreover, the choice value has also formed a grid-plan, which incorporates the part to the south of the main east to west axis.

Figures 47 to 54: Analysis of Utrecht in 2005

In the plan of 2005 a very interesting integration pattern emerges; a radial and gradual transformation seems to occur, from the most integrated in the centre towards less integrated on the town walls. Large developments have taken place close to and in the town centre since 1846, in particular the establishment of Utrecht Central Station, Hoog Catharijne shopping centre, and the filling in of the canal to the west of the town centre to form the street called Catharijnesingel. These changes, however, also provided some problems, since up to 1846 it was easy to set boundaries for the areas studied, since the old town centre was entirely surrounded by water, and could only be accessed by the gates present. With the creation of the Catharijnesingel and the shopping centre, the town centre was extended and the town's edges became undefined. In redrawing the town centre, the entire shopping centre and its walkways were omitted, since they represent an economic space on two levels and would require significantly more time to analyse. Moreover, this problem has highlighted the reason for basing my study of the medieval town not on the most recent plan but on the first cadastral minutes. Despite its flaws as a result of the omission of the shopping centre, the axial and segment maps of 2005 still show some of the features of modern Utrecht. The east to west focus, due to the development of that shopping centre, can still be witnessed despite its omission. Most people from outside Utrecht approach the town from the west side, where there is a large multi-storey car park and the train station. From Vredenburg one usually walks east to then go south along the Oudegracht where the Saturday market is still held, in order to continue along the Oudegracht until the Town Hall on the Plaats, from where one turns west and north to return to the Vredenburg. Moreover, the areas also form a large connection with the areas to the east, which follows the most integrated streets, since many of the cyclists and buses use this route to traverse Utrecht towards the commuter towns of Zeist, Bunnik and De Bilt. Moreover, it also seems that the area around the Cathedral, a popular visitor attraction, has become much more integrated, in the global, but even more in the local, values in both the 1846 and the 2005 configurations. However, despite the redesigning of the north-western corner of the town this has not aided its integration into the town centre, resulting in it only being used to site large office blocks.


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Last updated: Wed Aug 8 2007