This research focuses on how to increase the sociality of urban streams through design. It explores this topic through an investigation focused on a Aotearoa/New Zealand urban stream.
For Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand, streams are seen as culturally important as they are a traditional means of navigation, food sources, locations for settlements and a focus for community. The health of a stream is key to the mana of the landscape it is part of. For early Pakeha, streams were also a focus, providing food, water and transport to the residents that dwelt near it.
Streams located in urbanised or urbanising areas are increasingly subjected to a range of negative factors due to urbanisation. As settlements develop, human population rises and intensification of urbanisation tends to result in the significant loss of mana.
Over time uses change. The stream later often becomes viewed as a waste disposal system, a drain for a town’s unwanted stormwater and waste products. As land availability in urban areas becomes increasingly scarce, planners will start to turn their attention back towards the streams and the engineering of the banks. The stream starts to become narrowed and channelised and, relatedly, development is pushed right up to the newly stabilised stream’s edge. Or they might become sealed over. As a town becomes a city, the streams that were initially built around are forgotten as the quest for usable land is pushed to the point where streams become remembered in the name of a street that is constructed above as though it’s a memorial for the land that it once served. The structure of post-war suburban settlement and often still the case involves developers providing subdivisions with of family homes with fences that separate houses from each other and the properties usually face inwards towards a road and away from the creek with back fences joining up and closing off access to the creek, and often with limited attention to movement along the creek. Creeks become largely constrained within a fence-contained corridor where the houses are pushed as close as developers are able to have them. These factors contribute to deferring social movement and attention away from the creek, and in turn this contributes to their neglect, weeds, rubbish dumping, pollution, loss of biodiversity and a reduction in how safe people feel in creek line corridors. This mostly has a negative affect on the sociality of streams. Suburban culture tends to set-up to promote the individual and the single family and the way that creeklines have tended to be structured tends to restrict human involvement to individualised recreation.