Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban environments are geographical semiotic information systems represented by neighbourhood layouts, organization of streets and house designs. These geographic features form statements of and contexts for different socio-cultural functions and behaviourial patterns. Geographical semiotic information systems as expressed by urban environments are necessary means by which individuals and groups learn, use, and evaluate their urban environment. This dissertation examines these ideas as a basis for analysis of samples of four different neighbourhood designs in Damascus, Syria.;Analyses and comparison of examples of four urban environments in Damascus called Traditional house neighbourhoods, Attached apartment neighbourhoods, Detached apartment areas, and Elevator apartments are presented in four parts. Part I presents the conceptual framework, and theoretical underpinnings drawn from semiotics, architectures, and behaviourial geography. Five conceptual models are presented to relate the communication process to people interacting in the built environment.;Part II uses syntactic analyses to evaluate neighbourhood street patterns. Connectivity among different spaces reflects socio-cultural rules that relate to behaviourial concerns with privacy, security, sharing, integration, and control. Analyses show differences and similarities among the samples with regard to these human interests.;Part III is a pragmatic analyses of residents' expressed preference for specific features in urban environment. These analyses show experience with design elements prove to be an important factor that affects inhabitants' satisfaction with their residences. Also, urban social values that people admire most (such as display of wealth, social status, and cleanliness of neighbourhoods) are important information people use in judging urban environments.;Part IV is a semantic analysis of meanings associated with the built environment as understood by the inhabitants. It demonstrates that the more frequent interactions are with a design element, the more varied and intense are meanings people associate with it. Associated meanings combine functional, temporal, social and/or spiritual signative evidence. The analysis demonstrates the utility of geographical semiotics to inhabitants. It further illustrates how understanding geographical semiotics of the urban landscape is indispensable for developing meaningful urban environments.



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