Mariam Arakelyan

University College London
Master of Sciences in Space Syntax: Architecture and Cities
Huys Scholar 2021

Problem: I spent the last six years studying Armenian society, different layers that comprise us: social, economic, political, cultural aspects of our existence. I have come to understand that beyond the mentioned layers, human societies are also spatial phenomena: they occupy regions of the earth’s surface, and within and between these regions, material resources move, people encounter each other and exchange information. It is a known fact that societies create physical environments, however, it is less researched how the environment shapes us and our lives. I am certain that spatial structures and social processes are in strong codependency. Since there has been a lack of research on architecture and cities in Armenia, policy regulations are largely underdeveloped and not based on evidence. Due to this, urban planning during the past decades has been predominantly based on rather chaotic building practices. Researching building practices is essential in terms of understanding and forecasting social, economic & environmental impacts of development on mobility, land value, crime rates and health. In the long run, consistent research that fuels public policy will turn spaces in Armenia into more efficient and inviting ones and will contribute to better local governance. I believe that research-based planning practices have a huge, yet mostly overlooked potential to move our society in the direction of continuous development.

My Credentials: In 2015 I have graduated from Yerevan State University with a MA in Political Science. Upon graduation, I started working at Caucasus Research Resource Center-Armenia as a Junior Research Fellow and currently am holding the position of Program Manager. I have been actively engaged in qualitative and quantitative research studying different aspects of Armenian society. Specifically, I have been involved in projects tailored to strengthen local self-governance and researching territorial administration in Armenia.
In the 1980s, scholars at UCL developed a package of tools called “Space Syntax” for the analysis of spatial configurations and this is what I aim at studying at UCL and later implementing in Armenia. It is a combination of theories and tools that help to study relationships between spatial layout and a range of social, economic and environmental factors. These factors are patterns of movement, density, land use and land value, safety and crime distribution.
Space Syntax: Architecture and Cities MSc course at UCL will help me to bridge social and spatial parts of our lives via conducting research. And such analysis and its communication with policymakers will help the development of society and our state at large.

Solution: After completing my studies at UCL, in the short run, I plan on creating a team of urban researchers. The primary goal of the team will be to apply the Space Syntax methodology to the studies of Yerevan and other urban areas of Armenia, to identify existing problems (such problems could be transportation and mobility issues, car dependency, health inequality, crime rates and community cohesion). We will then communicate our findings with policymakers for the advancement of governmental policies towards urban planning, as well as propose solutions for major issues.
Given my background in academic and practical research, in the medium term, I intend to continue my academic journey on the same issues by doing more thorough research as part of my future PhD studies. This degree will also open doors for teaching in educational institutions, as I believe bringing my new knowledge into the Armenian context and discussing urban regeneration issues of Armenia in higher education institutions is an essential milestone. Reaching this milestone will contribute to the progression of future generations by raising the importance of urban affairs and striving for the sustainability of the development of urban analysis in Armenia by educating new and enthusiastic specialists.
Finally, my long term ambition is to strengthen my team/organisation to the point when we can study all Armenian cities and design urban regeneration proposals where needed.

I am aware that Huys Foundation is granting the Huys Scholarship to me with the anticipation of my good faith pursuit and implementation of the projects and undertakings described in this letter, to which I hereby commit.