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A study on Space and Language: Relationships between Ideograms, the Roman Alphabet, and Urban Space in the East and the West

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The influence of language on urban space and architecture

A recent research initiative examined the relationship between language and space to clarify how differing language systems have influenced architecture design. It explored the capacity of language to produce both symbolic and social dimensions of space.

Industrial Technologies

With EU funding support, the project EASTWEST (A study on space and language: Relationships between ideograms, the Roman alphabet, and urban space in the east and the west) analysed connections between written language and the production of urban space and architecture in the west and east. The team collected and digitised historical and topological maps of Beijing, Kyoto, London, Paris, Rome and Tokyo for data extraction. This exercise helped create a list of elements of the space, language and architecture of the selected case studies. After analysing the relationship between language patterns and the spatiality of western and eastern cities, EASTWEST highlighted links between the syntax of languages and the syntax of spaces. Studying the changes in urban forms, street networks and the structural principles of urban growth in the east and the west, project work has shed light on the influence that languages have had in shaping these cities. Consistent results across a range of urban phenomena indicate that space may indeed support the existence of common models for creating the language of cities. Many relations between the shape of selected cities and the way they function seem to involve the space-language relation. Project results have been published in an edited book and a scientific paper. EASTWEST has also signed a contract for publishing a book, with the working title 'East west – A study on space and language'. EASTWEST activities included numerous seminars, workshops, symposiums and conferences. The conferences were 'Space, language and architecture' (Rome, March 2015), 'Language patterns as 3D generator' (Milano, March 2015), and 'Patterns and layering: Language and architecture' (Venice, May 2014). New forms of writing and language are emerging with the digital age. Project work contributes to relevant research, noting that if language transforms writing into real, physical spaces, then new languages will influence the structure and form of this century's global cities.


Language, urban space, architecture, EASTWEST, ideograms, alphabet, cities

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