POWERSTRUCTURES | The Urban Form of Regulations

Law, regulation, policy and code served humanity for centuries. Since the existence of urban form, legal mechanisms were obstructing untamed development and safeguarding population. The emergence of modern regulation in the US transformed legal devices into the prevailing forces in devising city form; from architectural details to citywide territorial subdivisions, law constructs the envelopes in which design later take place.

The exponential growth in regulatory information during the last century,  introduced new challenges in the comprehension and distilment of the law. Beyond amassing unmanageable amounts of laws, the sprawl of regulation also affects city form and its operation. The incoherence of the law’s intent as well as the constant amendment of the legal framework, stall development and yield undesirable tactile outcomes. The relationship between urban form and law, regulation and policy are being examined in this work, arguing that lawmaking is an act of design.

This thesis depicts the design, deployment and operation of a Tangible Regulation Platform, a physical-technological apparatus made for the distilment of regulations. This platform is set to exemplify the effects of the law on a designated territory, allowing planners, designers, stakeholders and communities a common ground for discussion and decision making. An accessible and self-explanatory tool, this platform illustrates the relationship between urban form and regulations, offering a transparent process of regulation-based urban design.

As part of its development, an observatory study was performed to determine the platform usability, comparing it to more classical methods of design and collaboration. Members of a local community were asked to discuss and perform design alternatives for a designated site in their living area. The groups were engaging the task using the platform and classical pen-and-paper interchangeably. This study helped to establish a workflow using such tools and augmented the future capabilities of a tangible multilayered design platform. Data and performance-based, this platform aims to flatten the flux of regulatory information into a tangible produce. Beyond excelling the processes of design under regulations, this platform is offered to help facilitate a discussion on the way regulations are being devised and spread, improving both contemporary design processes and their future outcome.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture

Advisory Board: Brent Ryan, Eran Ben Joseph, Kent Larson 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture


Citable URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/99301

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