Exploration of Linkages Between Urban Form and Socio-Demographic Experience in San Antonio, Texas




Viertel, David C.

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Cities represent the dynamic products of human will and ingenuity. As such, spatial patterns captured in the urban matrix might logically reflect human experience and ambitions. By utilizing new sources of remotely sensed data to model the surface of the city, this dissertation presents a novel approach to exploring these connections between constructed urban form and the characteristics of residents. This unique methodology utilizes elevation and morphological elements, assessed contextually in terms of census aggregation units, to provide representative measures of city form. Socio-demographic characteristics including census housing statistics and indexed crime variables are employed to reflect urban experience. Linear regression comparisons between binned values of form and dependent demographic characteristics model the underlying relationship. An application of this technique to the city of San Antonio, Texas, explores linkages between physical structure and lived experience and serves as a case study in the analytical application of these techniques. Regression results show a high level of correlation between physically expressed variables such as number of single family homes in a block group or number of rooms per dwelling and summary assessments of elevation. On the other hand, housing variables like median home value and median age were better-modeled in relation to elevation, slope, and curvature measures. Crime variables including assault, rape, homicide, theft and vehicle crimes coincided with representative measures of elevation alone. Crimes such as burglary and homicide showed less of an obvious relationship to elevation, slope or curvature. Results indicate that elements of form do often correlate to recorded sociodemographic measures. Explorations of these patterns suggest elements of urban morphology may act to facilitate or inhibit particular characteristics. Additionally, social messages implied in spatial relationships may be detectable through contextual analysis of the urban surface. If built morphology acts to signify elements of urban life, a greater understanding of this dynamic relationship may assist in illuminating both the social and spatial aspects of life in the city.



city and town life, urban sociology, city dwellers, social conditions, economic conditions, urban geography


Viertel, D.C. (2008). Exploration of linkages between urban form and socio-demographic experience in San Antonio, Texas (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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