Urban complexity: Toward the measurement of the physical complexity of street-scapes

Yasser Elsheshtawy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


This paper introduces a method for measuring the physical complexity of street-scapes. The objective is to perationalize the term "complexity," thus enabling urban designers and urban design review boards to specify a desired complexity value for a building or a number of buildings. Moreover, such a measure - which is performance-based - will allow architects to develop buildings that do not imitate the surroundings but are equivalent, lower, or higher than the established complexity value of the surrounding context. The measurement instrument is based on the Gestalt laws of visual organization and builds on previous findings in the field of experimental aesthetics in order to accommodate the nature of architectural organization principles. The usage of the instrument is illustrated through an application in a selected setting. Its validity is tested by conducting an experiment with 33 subjects. The results were encouraging and showed a high correlation between the instrument measures and the subjects' perception of complexity. However, several limitations are present in the instrument and are discussed in the paper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-316
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Architectural and Planning Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


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