Spatial Signatures in Great Britain
Spatial signatures characterise space based on form and function in a way designed to understand urban
environments. This map, part of the Urban Grammar project
shows a typology of spatial signatures in
Great Britain. Each type has a distinct character capturing what the place looks like (form) and how it
is used (function). Below you can find the "pen portraits” for the typology, shorthand descriptions of
the characteristics of each signature type.
The classification is released as an open data product available from the Consumer Data Research
. Access the data download
(you will need to provide a free login).
For more background on the spatial signatures, you can check the project website
Pen portraits are short descriptions of each signature type.
In “Wild countryside”, human influence is the least intensive. This signature covers large open spaces in
the countryside where no urbanisation happens apart from occasional roads, cottages, and pastures. You can
find it across the Scottish Highlands, numerous national parks such as Lake District, or in the majority of
“Countryside agriculture” features much of the English countryside and displays a high degree of agriculture
including both fields and pastures. There are a few buildings scattered across the area but, for the most
part, it is green space.
“Urban buffer” can be characterised as a green belt around cities. This signature includes mostly
agricultural land in the immediate adjacency of towns and cities, often including edge development. It still
feels more like countryside than urban, but these signatures are much smaller compared to other countryside
“Open sprawl” represents the transition between countryside and urbanised land. It is located in the
outskirts of cities or around smaller towns and is typically made up of large open space areas intertwined
with different kinds of
human development, from highways to smaller neighbourhoods.
“Disconnected suburbia” includes residential developments in the outskirts of cities or even towns and
villages with convoluted, disconnected street networks, low built-up and population densities, and lack of
jobs and services. This signature type is entirely car-dependent.
“Accessible suburbia” covers residential development on the urban periphery with a relatively legible and
connected street network, albeit less so than other more urban signature types. Areas in this signature
feature low density, both in terms of population and built-up area, lack of jobs and services. For these
reasons, “accessible suburbia” largely acts as dormitories.
“Warehouse/Park land” covers predominantly industrial areas and other work-related developments made of
buildings with large footprints. It contains many jobs of manual nature such as manufacturing or
construction, and very little population live here compared to the rest of urban areas.
Occasionally this type also covers areas of parks with large scale green open areas.
Gridded residential quarters
“Gridded residential quarters” are areas with street networks forming a well-connected grid-like (high
density of 4-way intersections) pattern, resulting in places with smaller blocks and higher granularity.
This signature is mostly residential but includes some services and jobs, and it tends to be located away
from city centres.
Connected residential neighbourhoods
“Connected residential neighbourhoods” are relatively dense urban areas, both in terms of population and
built-up area, that tend to be formed around well-connected street networks. They have access to services
and some jobs but may be further away from city centres leading to higher dependency on cars and public
transport for their residents.
Dense residential neighbourhoods
A “dense residential neighbourhood” is an abundant signature often covering large parts of cities outside of
their centres. It has primarily residential purpose and high population density, varied street network
patterns, and some services and jobs but not in high intensity.
Dense urban neighbourhoods
“Dense urban neighbourhoods” are areas of inner-city with high population and built-up density of a
predominantly residential nature but with direct access to jobs and services. This signature type tends to
be relatively walkable and, in the case of some towns, may even form their centres.
“Local urbanity” reflects town centres, outer parts of city centres or even district centres. In all cases,
this signature is very much urban in essence, combining high population and built-up density, access to
amenities and jobs. Yet, it is on the lower end of the hierarchy of signature types denoting urban centres
with only a local significance.
“Regional urbanity” captures centres of mid-size cities with regional importance such as Liverpool, Plymouth
or Newcastle upon Tyne. It is often encircled by “Local urbanity” signatures and can form outer rings of
city centres in large cities. It features high population density, as well as a high number of jobs and
amenities within walkable distance.
Signature type “Metropolitan urbanity” captures the centre of the largest cities in Great Britain such as
Glasgow, Birmingham or Manchester. It is characterised by a very high number of jobs in the area, high
built-up density and often high population density. This type serves as the core centre of the entire
Concentrated urbanity” is a signature type found in the city centre of London and nowhere else in Great
Britain. It reflects the uniqueness of London in the British context with an extremely high number of jobs
and amenities located nearby, as well as high built-up and population densities. Buildings in this signature
are large and tightly packed, forming complex shapes with courtyards and little green space.
Hyper concentrated urbanity
The epitome of urbanity in the British context. “Hyper concentrated urbanity" is a signature type present
in the centre of London, around the Soho district, and covering Oxford and Regent streets. This signature is
the result of centuries of urban primacy, with a multitude of historical layers interwoven, very high
built-up and population density, and extreme abundance of amenities, services and jobs.
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