Mapping the Spatial Structure of Historic Cities


Research into historic urban environments and urban heritage often focuses on buildings. This short course differs by focusing on the space in between the buildings, exploring how the underlying structure of streets and open spaces in cities influenced the way that people once moved around, interacted and traded. You will learn principles of mapping which will help in the interpretation of spatial layouts, whilst also exploring how other layers of information – both economic and social – can add layers of significance to these maps.

The principles of mapping that we will explore include: how to understand ideas of ‘spatial configuration’ and the network qualities of space; how to appreciate the ‘lines of sight’ that people benefitted from as they moved around historic urban environments; and how to explore more micro-level aspects of urban morphology. We will consider the concept of ‘spatial culture’ and explore how this may have varied both across cities and within cities at different stages in their development. We will also explore the use of different tools – such as tracing and hand-drawing, and the increasing use of historic Geographical Information System (GIS) technologies. The course will conclude by considering what lessons can be drawn from the historic layout of towns and cities for contemporary challenges – such as the need to create more ‘walkable’ cities. It will therefore be relevant to a broad audience of archaeologists, historians and contemporary architects and planners. At the end of the course, you will think differently about urban space!

Programme details

Tuesday 17 September 2024 (online and in-person)

13.30- Introductions and house-keeping

13.45- Overarching concepts

14.15- How to map urban space? Key tools and principles

15.00- Short break

15.30- Applying these tools and principles to historic towns and cities

16.30- Discussion

17.00- Close


Wednesday 18 September 2024 (in-person only)

9.30- Meet at Rewley House and introduction to the day

10.00- Walk around historic part of Oxford to illustrate Space Syntax principles (including coffee break)

12.30- Lunch at Rewley House

13.30- Class exercise: mapping and exploring a local historic spatial culture

15.00- Coffee break

15.30- Presentations and feedback

16.30- Discussion: what lessons for contemporary cities?

17.00- Close


Description Costs
In-person tuition: Tuesday 17th & Wednesday 18th £410.00
Online tuition: Tuesday 17th only £145.00
Dinner Tuesday 17th - 3 courses £26.00
Lunch Wednesday 18th - 3 courses £17.60
Single Standard room with Breakfast (Tue night) £101.40


The in-person course fee includes:

  • Tuition 
  • Refreshments

Payment of fees must be made in full at the time of booking.

Please note that businesses and organisations can be invoiced on provision of a Purchase Order and completed application form. These can be emailed to the CWHE Programme Administrator, email:


Dr Francesca Froy

Course Director

Dr Francesca Froy is a Departmental Lecturer teaching on Oxford’s Sustainable Urban Development  programme and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture. She has recently been researching how the changing urban morphology of cities such as Greater Manchester and Sheffield in the United Kingdom might have influenced their economic evolution and diversification. She is also interested in how we can learn from historic urban layouts when trying to address contemporary problems, such as how to create more walkable cities.

Dr Sam Griffiths

Course Director

Dr Sam Griffiths Sam Griffiths is Associate Professor in Spatial Cultures in the Space Syntax Laboratory at the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. His research focuses on theories and methods for studying the historical relationship between people and built environments, the spatial culture of industrial cities and space syntax as an interdisciplinary research perspective in the humanities and social sciences. He has published a number of articles and book chapters on these topics. He is co-editor, with Alexander von Lünen of Spatial Cultures: Towards a New Morphology of Cities published by Routledge in 2016 and has published a monograph for Routledge Writing the Materialities of the Urban Past: Cities and the Architectural Topography of Historical Imagination (2021).


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation is available for this course at Rewley House.

Please enquire at the time of booking for availability and prices with Continuing Education Residential Centre +44 (0)1865 270362, please do quote the course name as a reference at the time of booking. 

All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.