Exploring how urban waterfronts can encourage visitors' active engagement with water through a temporary design installation

Jacob Bjerre Mikkelsen, Quentin Stevens, Catherine Hills, Florian 'Floyd' Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Waterfront regeneration projects worldwide have transformed cities' edges into new public spaces. Although water should be the centrepiece of these transformations, users are often situated as passive observers of water; urban design of public spaces only affords distant views of water and limited possibilities for active bodily engagement and play. Formulaic urban design has often neglected the potentials of indeterminate spaces where users' desires can unfold. From these departure points, this paper uses a temporary design installation to investigate potential forms of active water engagement in a contemporary waterfront space. The installation prompts users to interact playfully with water through a variety of prototypes and devices. Observation of visitor interactions with the intervention provides data about users' desires for water engagement, in terms of three research questions concerning: engagement with the water and the marine life within it, the multiple behavioural affordances of the water's edge, and the adaptability of waterfront spaces. The study indicates the potential of temporary installations to test hypotheses and design possibilities, and thereby inform larger permanent waterfront urban design projects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-111
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Affordances
  • Design research
  • Open space
  • Play
  • Waterfront

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