Posted by Selma Bjorklund

A million people heading the right way

I grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden, a city with a population of a little less than a million, connecting to the western archipelago. We pride ourselves in our great knowledge of fishing and boat construction, and we are famous for our “Gothenburg jokes”, which are essentially just bad puns. In Gothenburg there’s a saying: if the logical direction from point A to B would be left, you should probably turn right. The city’s street network has evolved in different stages over hundreds of years, and it has come to a point where if you don’t know the exact way by heart, you’ll probably get lost.

Imagine this scenario, but instead of applying it to an old fishing town on the west coast of Sweden, let it be the case of Madinah, home of al-Masjid an-Nabawi. Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, or the “Prophet’s Mosque”, is the second holiest site in Islam after Mecca, which after its expansion will accommodate 800,000 pilgrims and visitors during Hajj (the annual Islamic pilgrimage). This, together with the local inhabitants, leaves the city of Madinah with up to one million people wanting to go from point A to point B.

Let us for a moment go back to our original scenario: “if you don’t know the exact way by heart, you’ll probably get lost”. In the case of Madinah, this would obviously be unthinkable, and this is where Smart Space add their experience in people-centred design.

Our placemaking and crowd flow studies provide strategic, evidence-based advice on optimised street network geometry, circulation routes, congregation spaces and mass egress strategies. For Madinah, detailed people flow modelling and spatial analysis was carried out to evaluate and inform multiple design options from a holistic view ensuring visitor safety, comfort and ease of way-finding.

In the video above, you can see a simulation from our SmartMove software, which allows us to see people movement and the impact our design choices have on crowds and individuals. As much as I love my hometown, I sometimes wish for easier journeys through the city. Had Smart Space been there to help a hundred years ago, maybe the saying would have been: “if the logical direction from A to B is left, go left”.