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Spatial quality is about strategies, policies, design and effective creation and use of spaces. It applies to buildings, landscapes and infrastructure. While spatial data quality is also important, it is not spatial quality, but can be considered an important aspect of good spatial quality. Effective design will have higher spatial quality as functioning increases, use rises and a variety of needs for people and organisations are met.


Perspectives Header

Spatial quality is about strategies, policies, design and effective creation and use of spaces. It applies to buildings, landscapes and infrastructure. While spatial data quality is also important, it is not spatial quality, but can be considered an important aspect of good spatial quality. Effective design will have higher spatial quality as functioning increases, use rises and a variety of needs for people and organisations are met.

Spatial quality relates to created environments - infrastructure, buildings and landscapes. When we speak about sustainable designs today, we are implying integrated design that is efficient (including energy use) and meeting the challenges of social, economic and environmental demands. The most effective designs will invariably have high spatial quality.

Recently I reviewed the book Strategic Spatial Projects: Catalysts for Change which includes discussion about new approaches to sustainable design, creating new urban spaces and developing alternative approaches to design of urban environments. That book suggested that spaces ought to be considered along continuums, evolving and changing over time to become their potential use. By this route spatial quality can be seen as continually changing as the needs of people and organisations change, and greater numbers of users for these spaces are invited into the design processes for these places and locations.

It is important to recognise that poor data quality, a measure of the right kinds of data and data quality, is more often associated with data use and appropriateness to the task. High quality data supports better design because it is usually more accurate and precise geospatial data, has higher re-use possibility and most often is well documented in metadata terms and so on.

By comparison, spatial quality includes spatial data quality but is more directed toward the processes involved in achieving high quality spatial designs and effective use of spaces. What is the right use for a particular space? Who should be involved in the design for that space? Which process ought to be used to create the design for the space and, most importantly, how can we understand whether or not it is effective spatial quality - once designed and constructed?

As we begin to listen to planners, urban designers, spatial designers and local government planner, they are increasingly voicing that geographic information systems (GIS) are integral to achieving spatial quality. The integrated nature of GIS result in the ability to aggregate and analyse more kinds of spatial data, provide opportunities for a greater number of actors to participate and they can provide alternative or iterative possibilities for design outcomes.

A key aspect to spatial quality is the active nature of the process. The utilisation of space, alterations for places and the ingredients for new creation are dynamic. Even so, it is not usually easy to assess for spatial quality because each case is unique, and likely to place higher (and lower) grades on individual aspects of the process. But that should not deter us from attempting to quantify high spatial quality spaces and learning to understand how they achieved and designed.

There has never been a time when so many spatial tools and technologies, together with a wealth of urban planning knowledge and experience, could all come together toward increased emphasis and learning about spatial quality. Sustainability demands it and people wish to live it.

 

Additional reading:

-- Shared terms for spatial quality of strategic projects

-- Systematic evaluation of perceived spatial quality

-- “What is spatial design, and how can it be applied to sustainability problems?”

-- Spatial Planning and Culture

-- Reading space to 'address' spatial quality
Author of this article
Jeff Thurston

Jeff Thurston holds a Master of Science Degree in Geographic Information Science from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK and graduated in Forest Technology from Lakehead University in Canada. Jeff also graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems (UNIGIS) from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. Previously, Jeff worked at the University of Alberta located in Edmonton, Canada where he managed research facilities for inter-disciplinary research projects. He is based in Berlin, Germany.