Research and expertise

My research activities lie at the intersection of three topics: urban planning, spatial cognition, and complexity. My work addresses the built environment as a complex system of interrelationships between physical properties and cognitive processes. I aim at redirecting the practice of urban planning from conventional modelling based on economic factors and transportation demands, by enriching it with an adaptive and integrative approach for enhanced walkability, sustainability and resilience. In particular, I focus on analysing and modelling of visual perception and study the ways this basic cognitive property contributes to spatial memory, navigation, wayfinding and emotional experience in cities.

I apply quantitative methods to encode urban space as networks of navigational decisions and assess it through behavioural experiments in an immersive virtual reality. With a view to cross-fertilising behavioural sciences, computation and urban planning, I collaborate with experts from diverse fields, such as cognitive psychology, neuroscience, physics, geomatics engineering and computer science.

My work has been published in high-impact journals, conference proceedings and books, presented at international conferences and workshops and won competitive awards and fellowships at top universities and institutions worldwide.

I welcome postgraduate enquirers who wish to pursue a PhD in my areas of research interests.

Current research projects

  • Spatial cognition, visual perception and spatial memory
  • Pedestrian movement, wayfinding and navigation
  • Route choice, route planning and navigation systems
  • Visibility and urban morphology
  • Micromobility of underrepresented groups (elderly, visually impaired, etc.)

Recently completed research projects

  • AgeCogCity: How does visual perception shape our cities? Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship. Horizon 2020 European Commission. The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation
  • Gender and ethnicity in the Whitechapel Market. Israel Science Foundation Post Doctorial Project in Social Sciences
  • Spatial features of evacuation wayfinding. The Joan and Reginald Coleman-Cohen Postdoctoral Project. British Technion IIT Society
  • Linking building-circulation typology and wayfinding. German Research Foundation (DFG) Spatial Cognition Interdisciplinary Transregional Collaborative Research Centre, Institute of Computer Science and Social Research, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg
  • European Cultural Heritage Identity Card (EU-CHIC)
  • Educational Linkage Approach in Cultural Heritage (ELAICH)

Recent publications

  • Ashery, S.F.*, Natapov, A.* (2020) A democratization of urban space: Gender and ethnicity in the Whitechapel Market, Journal of Urban Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2020.1749006.* equal contribution
  • Natapov, A., Grinshpun, H. (2020) Hidden in the most visible place: measuring visual accessibility and social performance of urban kiosks. Journal of Urban Design, 25:3, 412-432. DOI: 10.1080/13574809.2019.1592667.
  • Natapov, A., Kuliga, S., Dalton, R.C., Hölscher, C. (2020) Linking building-circulation typology and wayfinding: design, spatial analysis, and anticipated wayfinding difficulty of circulation types, Architectural Science Review, 63:1, 34-46, DOI: 10.1080/00038628.2019.1675041.

Teaching

I contribute to the learning and teaching activities across the School's programmes, including:

Undergraduate

  • Principles of Urban Planning
  • Design Skills and Urban Data Analytics

Enterprise

Recently completed projects

  • Smart Environments Research Initiative (SERI), ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • Study of Real Estate Economics and Real Estate Appraisals, Ruppin Academic Cente

Short courses

  • Human Mobility, Cognition and GISc PhD Course, University of Copenhagen
  • Parametric Design Thinking: Cognitive Models and Styles, Computational Design Processes and Digital Tools in conjunction with Sixth International Conference on Design Computing and Cognition SIXTH(DCC'14)
  • Smart Cities, A Five Session Lecture Course, Tel Aviv University
  • 5th Annual French Complex Systems Summer School 'Complex Systems and Complex Networks', The ISC-PIF Paris Île-de-France Complex Systems Institute

Profile

I joined Loughborough University as a Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design in July 2020, having completed a postdoctoral fellowship as a Marie Curie Researcher at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at the UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment.

I am an architect by training and a graduate of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Before my doctoral studies, I worked for several architectural firms in the USA specialising in developing concepts for large-scale urban projects. While working on my doctorate, I was invited to be a guest researcher to the Spatial Cognition Research Center of Computer Science and Social Research Institute at Freiburg University. As a research assistant, I have also participated in several projects of the European Union on Architectural Cultural Heritage.

Professional affiliations

  • Member of the UK Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

Awards

  • The British Academy Endorsement. Promising Talent in Social Sciences, Anthropology and Geography
  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Seal of Excellence Certificate. Horizon 2020 European Commission. The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation
  • The Raphael Reiffer Prize for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis. Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning IIT

External activities

  • Member of Editorial Advisory Board Cambridge Scholars Publishing
  • Reviewer in Professional Journals: Landscape and Urban Planning; Architectural Science Review (ASR); Computers, Environment and Urban Systems (CEUS); Journal of Urban Affairs; Journal of Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science; International Journal of Geographical Information Science; ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information; Journal of Scientific Research and Essays (SRE); Journal of Architectural Engineering Technology

Key collaborators

My research and enterprise activities are conducted with a range of academic and stakeholder partners, including:

  • University College London (UCL)
  • Lancaster University
  • ETH Zurich, Chair of Cognitive Science
  • Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore ETH Center
  • Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (IIT)
  • University of Bahrain
  • University of Life Sciences in Lublin