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Co-Presence in the Architectural Studio

A Study of Co-Presence in a University Architectural Studio using Bluetooth Contact Tracing Technology

Published and Presented at the ‘13th International Space Syntax Symposium in Bergen’ at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences on 20-24 June 2022


The concept of ‘co-presence’ in space syntax analysis is considered a fundamental prerequisite to various forms of social interaction (Hillier and Hanson, 1984). Spatial organisation is seen to have a significant influence on the pattern formation of co-presence in architecture (Hillier and Hanson, 1984; Hillier, 1996). The pursuit of facilitating collaboration is a concept often driving building design with spatial organisation considered to have an influence on behavioural patterns (Golledge and Stimson, 1997; Sailer and McCulloh, 2012). However, accurately identifying the precise location and duration of social interaction (and hence the building’s influence) can be challenging using conventional methods such as self-reporting and observational analysis due to a lack of reliability/subjectivity and the inability for a researcher to observe ubiquitous nature of interactions in a large space.

This research investigates how non-intrusive, low-cost Bluetooth sensors and space syntax methods can provide both insights into, and practical data on, co-presence between undergraduate students at Lancaster University’s new School of Architecture. These findings could prove useful to educators, space syntax researchers and architects by showcasing the specific uses of applying contact tracing technologies to academic spaces alongside functional optimisation through “soft”, adaptive, spatial solutions such as desk allocation rather than “hard” solutions such as building refurbishment.

In this study, the authors employed wearable Bluetooth contact tracing devices (Proxxi Technology Corporation, 2022), visibility graph analysis and a post-experimental group debrief to explore the relationship between the location of a participant and the frequency of their interactions within the context of an architectural studio environment. We found that spatial configuration impacted the frequency of co-presence events between participants in certain locations, with those whose drawing boards/desks were in more integrated spaces encountering the other participants more frequently. The results showed that 56% of the variation in the number of interactions between participants can be explained by the step depth levels between desk locations a positive correlation of 0.6701 between a participant’s total number of interactions can be explained by their desk space integration.


Golledge, R.G. & Stimson, R.J. (1997) Spatial behavior: a geographic perspective.

Hillier, B. (1996) Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hillier, B. & Hanson, J. (1984) The social logic of space.

Proxxi Technology Corporation (2022) Proxxi Contact. Available at: https://www.proxxi.co/contact [Accessed: 1 January 2022].

Sailer, K. & McCulloh, I. (2012) Social networks and spatial configuration – How office layouts drive social interaction. Soc. Networks.