An infrastructure of interaction : complexity theory and the space of movement in the urban street : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Design at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
This study uses complexity theory to examine the space of the street. In a morpho-ecological city, process creates form just as form creates process. The process of movement is a critical form generator within the urban system. In this thesis, the urban system comprising streets/ car/pedestrian is examined. If this collection of urban modes of mobility is a complex system capable of selforganising behaviour, what effect does the ordering imposed by traffic engineering have on this system? I look at the driving body and the walking body as co-creating the city by their movement through urban space. I suggest that, through attention to the fragments of interactions enacted during these movements, we can, through design, allow for the emergence of selforganising behaviour. Urban shared streets, descendants of the ‘woonerf’, appear to function more efficiently than engineered streets, without the usual traffic ordering. The counterintuitive success of these streets implies a self-organising behaviour that is generated by the density of interaction between the inhabitants of the street. These designs potentially work as a change agent, a catalyst, operating within a complex system. This has the potential to move systems from one attractor state to another. A city built with these spaces becomes a city of enfilades; an open system of spaces that are adaptable to uses that fluctuate with time and avoid thickening the palimpsest of traffic engineering. I look at siting shared streets in Wellington, based on jaywalking, a transgressive use of the streetspace that prefigures a shared space, and changes to urban networks associated with such designs. Interaction within the city is a creative force with a structure. City design needs to consider and address this infrastructure and design for it. The infrastructure of interaction has been subsumed by the infrastructure of movement. Shared streets indicate there may not be a need for this – they can be integrated. The process of movement creates instances of interaction; therefore designing spaces of/for movement must be designed to enhance the infrastructure of interaction. The result of such interaction is not just somewhat better; it may be a phase change - catalytically better .
Complexity theory, Urban streets, Urban space, Urban design