My research explores how urban design enables and constrains ethnic cultural differences and intercultural encounter in the urban public spaces of Western cities. The unprecedented growth of ethnic diversity in Western cities raises questions about the role that physical form plays in mediating intercultural relations in the everyday spaces of everyday life. Immigrants from different ethnic groups bring their own habitus to new settings, which manifest in different ways of occupying urban public spaces. While several studies have explored this issue from a sociological and cultural perspective, ie. human-human interactions; whereas the literature on human-nonhuman relations remains largely unexplored. This study draws on assemblage thinking, affordances, habitus and actor-network theory, as a methodology for studying human-nonhuman relations in three civic squares in the cities of Melbourne, Copenhagen and Toronto. Formal and informal spatial practices are identified and investigated through observation, mapping and interviewing. This research seeks to reveal important insights to help governments and designers better align urban design schemes with the increasingly ethnically-diverse everyday life in our cities.
Jonathan is also the founder and director of the Urban Behaviour Lab, a specialist design research practice for the built environment.