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
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
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
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
The result of such interaction is not just somewhat
better; it may be a phase change - catalytically