Monday, May 17, 2010

Reactive Design: Movement Patterns in Cities

Way-finding and efficiency within cities has always been an integral ingredient in urban design, but with the advancement in technology along with an improved appreciation for vibrancy and artistic expression within urban environments, we have the opportunity to start to explore different approaches for legibility within cities as well as capitalizing on the way public spaces and streets are being used by people and vehicles. Approaches which are more 'reactive' than 'proactive'.

Emphasising how people and vehicles use streets and other public spaces by physically recording movement patterns and tracks can demonstrate the complexity and importance of way-finding and spatial networks, and also create the opportunity to better plan an already established urban environment.

This can be achieved in the form of installation civic art (even though the image to the left of the Rosenthaler Platz intersection in Berlin was created by guerrilla street artists who dropped paint illegally onto the road from bicycles to create this effect) which would provide interest and excitement, or through more modern forms of data collection such as GPS navigation or mobile phone signals.

From analysing the way people or vehicles use a space, more efficient space usage can be developed without changing the way people currently use the space. For example, if King George Square in Brisbane was monitored for a day to see how people use the square, I would think that we would find that the majority of people use the space as a thoroughfare, rather than a urban square. This information could support the idea of a possible redesign to make maximum use of the space, while not adjusting the current movement patterns of people.

Land uses could change, interfaces with mixed-use facades could be more interactive and vibrant, public space could be safer and more inviting, vehicular transport could become more efficient, visitor way-finding within cities would be easier, etc.... all depending on how people use public spaces in cities already.

Could 'reactive urban design and planning' shape our cities into better places?

See more about the Berlin road paint operation at

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