Streets, Spaces and Places : Three Pompeiian Movement Axes Analysed

Abstract: This study is an urban analysis of Roman Pompeii. It explores the spatial structure of the town just before the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 72, and how public space was used for movement, activity and interaction between people.For this, Space Syntax was used, a topological method developed in the 1980s to analyse and plan modern urban contexts, based on the configuration of spatial systems in the axial and in the convex dimension, representing movement and “place” respectively. This method was used to establish an axial map of Pompeii, and to analyse the spatial configuration of three specific movement axes. The axial map strengthens one of the hypotheses discussed in current research about Pompeii, namely that of an older town nucleus in the west part of Pompeii.One part of the thesis is a hypothetical reconstruction of a town-wide traffic system for wheel-borne traffic. The routes were reconstructed to fit the archaeological evidence and meet certain other criteria, and were then independently checked against the axial analysis. As a conclusion, a regulated traffic system could be seen to have existed. A good case was made for how it could have worked.Another part of the thesis deals with the relation between public and interior space. The different types of interior spatial units lining the three chosen movement axes were investigated. The aim was to see how differences in both density of doorways and type of interface gave rise to different urban environments.  It was found that commerce and a concomitant dense interface with many street doors largely followed the dimension of movement.The segmentation of public space along the movement axes was explored in order to gain an insight into which segments of space held specific functions, and how how these functions related to dense and less dense interfaces between public and interior space. This segmentation emphasizes official buildings and monuments, which are allowed to disrupt what is otherwise the norm for the permeable interface between exterior and interior space.As a result, the picture of a town with two different types of interaction between people emerges. On the one hand, both fleeting and more intense interaction was facilitated in those spaces where official buildings and monuments were prominent, and where group identity was stressed. On the other hand, the more unregulated interaction largely took place “along the road” between these spaces.