IA and urban design

Lately I've been interested in the connection between information architecture and urban planning, city culture and design, and related areas. Not the connection between IA and (traditional) architecture, but city structures and urban development. (“Information architecture is to the Web what urban planning is to cities.”) I'm obviously not the first one to make this connection, what with things like How Buildings Learn and A Pattern Language popping up on mailing lists and IA book surveys. I recently came across a handful of new (to me) links and thought I'd share:

  • An Information Architecture Approach to Understanding Cities: “Cities are systems of information architecture. Here, "architecture" refers not to the design of buildings, but to how the components of a complex system interact. ... This paper argues that a city works less like a commercial electronic system, and more like the human brain. ... An effective city will be one with a system architecture that can respond to changing conditions. This analysis shifts the focus of understanding cities from their physical structure to the flow of information.”
  • Legibility Enhancement for Information Visualisation (PDF): “Navigation in computer generated information spaces may be difficult, resulting in users getting ‘lost in hyperspace.’ This work aims to build on research from the area of city planning to try to solve this problem.” (1995)
  • Enterprise Architecture: Infrastructure and Integration: “Enterprise Architecture in large organizations is more like City Planning than constructing a building.” (Link is to a page with an abstract and a downloadable ZIPped PPT.) This talks more about enterprise (read: IT) architecture than IA as we know it, but it touches on IA and information management as well. There are some interesting urban design metaphors and correlations.
Know of any more?

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Cities and IA

Jeff, you've probably already seen it, but there's some very interesting material in Steven Johnson's Emergence about cities as self-organizing information storage and retrieval systems.

While he never comes right out and says "information architecture," any working IA's heart will be warmed by his sudden detour into categorization by affinity, rapid search, and intuitive interfaces.

I also have some stuff on v-2 which (while less technical, more meandering, and not precisely on-topic) is still highly relevant. See, for example, Building code = genotype/architecture = phenotype and Nomad histories 001: Hong Kong.

Thanks, too, for those great links.

The architecture of information spaces


This one, despite the "Information Architecture" title, is actually about Built Architecture for information spaces.

Cities of Text

This article is mostly about Intranets, but it's got a great set of comparisons between urban planning and design: