Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Commute as Ritual: Wellington Harbour Ferry Terminal

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posted on 2021-11-12, 14:49 authored by Mitchener, Andrew R.

Transport infrastructure is the template upon which we build our inhabitations. Decisions regarding street arrangements, block sizes, and larger scale infrastructure design for example have an enduring and profound affect on the quality of our spatial environments. The conceptual framework we apply when generating and subsequently manipulating this template sets the parameters by which it is judged. By convention, transport infrastructure is considered a purely technical undertaking, within which designers rarely play any meaningful part. The spaces of mobility are thus from their very genesis conceived as instrumental in nature, judged as mere conduits whose function is to join meaningful places such as work and home, fulfilling an economic imperative. Recent research has shown however that affective, symbolic factors play a greater role than instrumental considerations in modal choice of commuters, suggesting that, to the end user at least, transport possesses a value beyond simple utility. Indeed, mobility itself is often cited as a defining characteristic of the modern world, implying a highly symbolic status. This gap between the instrumental conceptual framework we apply to transport infrastructure and the symbolically loaded experience of mobility is an opportunity for design to enrich the experience of users, framed in this research as commuters. Through investigation of the commute as a quotidian, secular ritual greater consideration is given to extra-economic value in the spaces of transport infrastructure. This research analyses the nature and function of ritual in contemporary secular life and argues for the applicability of a ritual framework for understanding value in transport infrastructure. The spatial implications of ritual (defined as symbol + action  and exhibiting the key sociocultural functions of mnemonic and liminality) are explored through the design of a harbour ferry terminal for Wellington.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McDonald, Chris