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UAL Research Online

Discovery in flux: informing design for experience of exploratory walking in changing urban landscapes

Surawska, Olga (2019) Discovery in flux: informing design for experience of exploratory walking in changing urban landscapes. Other thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Surawska, Olga

Contemporary European cities have been undergoing rapid spatial and social transition (United Nations 2014). Increasingly complex urban environments have been posing challenges to wayfinding — a process of negotiating and moving around unknown quarters (Lynch 1960). Wayshowing — an information design discipline (Per Mollerup 2005) — provides systematic approaches eg directional signage to assist wayfinding. This practice-based and processled research set out to inform future frameworks for wayshowing responsive to urban change. The purpose was not to prevent change, but to reveal productive contrasts in urban transition, (re–)claim and promote city spaces for walking, in the spirit of spatial agency (Awan et al. 2011), enabling social justice and open access. The study focused on exploratory or discursive walkers (Wunderlich 2008) — urban safarians (Demos 2005) — discovering cities for pleasure. This research investigated if, when finding their way in ever fluctuating built and social realms, walkers too were in a state of flux: moving between space (the unknown) and place (the intimate), as in Tuan's a dichotomy of spatial experience (1977: 202):

Are space and place the environmental equivalents of the human need for adventure and safety, openness and definition?

Discovery in flux: informing design for experience of exploratory walking in changing urban landscapes Abstract A designerly tool based on this question was developed to trigger walkers to undergo a conscious experience in urban loose space: accessible due to temporary lack of top-down control (Franck 2008). During a practice-based study in Hackney Wick (London, 2013–14) nine exploratory walkers experienced wayfinding with the tool. Wayshowing outcomes ie routes and rated photographs, and pre- and post-walking interviews were studied to test whether Tuan’s definition provided cross-walker insight.

The results revealed that phenomenologically flâneurian walking combined with conscious reflection on situations was triggered and recorded by the tool. This place-creating tactic (de Certeau 1984) was later represented on an experiential map. Statistically place-like and space-like situations were equally popular but no clear common adventure or safety factors were found.

Although cross-walker experience patterns were impossible to define, this study provided insight into: the uniqueness of spatial experience; tools for recording and viewing this experience that brought different results than the interviews (re-telling); and ultimately evidence in critique of systematic wayshowing as a politically neutral, one-size-fits-all solution.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

This thesis is restricted by request of the author. Please contact UAL Research Online for more information.

Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: March 2019
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2020 14:40
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2022 10:15
Item ID: 15558
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/15558

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