Thursday, 17 April 2014

Occupying Streets - abstract

Occupying Streets: Street Design in Station Areas in London and Frankfurt (2014)

This research investigated street design in inner city station areas, comparing Frankfurt’s station quarter with that of King’s Cross in London. Both are vibrant mixed use areas, with residential, office, commercial and evening entertainment uses in internationally well connected and culturally diverse station hub areas. Based on a gap in knowledge of street design beyond engineering and urban design, a diverse set of hard-to-reach users and some intermediary agents were interviewed in each case study. The research questions were; ‘how is street design orchestrated?’, ‘how are night and day significant?’, ‘how is quality of place reconciled with movement in streets?, and ‘how can we learn from streets?’ 

The research design analysed both the Niddastraβe in Frankfurt and the Caledonian Road in King’s Cross Street as physical environments and to understand how they worked or could be improved from the perspective of users and change agents on each street, and from interviews to discover the criteria stakeholders considered significant for making the street more liveable. Semi-structured interviews were developed as a participant observation tool as extant and future street design in each case were investigated using a mixed methodology. Analysis of the two sets of interviews found six themes of importance to users and agencies; distinctiveness, transport, conflict, recognition, accessibility and transition. 

The contributions to knowledge can be seen in four ways. The formerly under-recognised part that street design plays - making station hubs vital and liveable places - has been identified. A factor described as noir urbanism is shown to add distinctiveness and attractiveness to station areas. The need is outlined to work hard for genuine collaboration between end-users and professionals in co-production of streets, and especially by working live and in situ, which is rarely done. The urban soundscape, usually under-recognised in street design, is also presented as an integral part of the experience of the station area and the city.

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