Patterns in Urban Infrastructure

Keith Duddy of S23M, in collaboration with Simon Kaplan of the Urban Institute, gave the following talk at the inaugural Urbanism New Zealand Conference in Wellington on Tuesday, 15 May 2018 (1.30pm - 2.00pm).

Pattern-based thinking as a basis for interdisciplinary urban infrastructure delivery and value creation


S23M and the Urban Institute represent a cross section of the skills and approaches needed for whole of life-cycle planning and delivery of urban infrastructure. This ranges from the analysis of the needs and motivations for urban infrastructure, to the delivery of smart street amenities and the use of this digitally-enabled hardware to deliver insights and innovation to a city through ongoing data collection and analysis. The lens which unifies each of the disciplines involved in such a project is the Pattern. We use the concept of a Pattern Language, introduced by Christopher Alexander as a tool for thinking about urban forms and architecture in 1977, and which has been adopted by computer scientists Gamma, et al. in 1994 as a conceptualisation of software engineering. Patterns are fractal in nature, and are used as ways of envisioning urban environments from the largest granularity of the city through to the scale of a neighbourhood or precinct, and cover both the architecture present in that geography and the affordances provided for the navigation and fascination of citizens. More recently, patterns are used as characterisations of computer programs and the data traces of smart devices, fixed and mobile, which are increasingly embedded into urban environments.

As the collaborators who would plan, purchase, install, operate and maintain smart urban infrastructure are from many disciplines, we present a framework for the communication of the concepts that they would use to transfer meaning through an increasingly finer-grained set of patterns: starting from the layout of streets and street infrastructure, and ending down in the computing infrastructure that correlates data representing events and actors. This approach enables dynamic analysis, reconfiguration and better use of city infrastructure, with the goal of more sustainable use of resources and a richer experience for city dwellers.

Download the slides presented at the conference (4.5 MB)

About the authors

Keith Duddy
Senior Advisor – S23M

Keith has a background in the modelling of real-world phenomena for use by computational systems. He has been focussed on the construction and healthcare sectors for the last decade, making web-based tools and repositories for building designs and health records.

He comes from a distributed computing background, and was a pioneer in the use of models and model transformations to create distributed computing solutions for enterprises as diverse as telecommunications and government services. He has published both in the academic literature, as well as practical books and book chapters for computing practitioners.

Keith loves working with diverse groups of people to solve problems by revealing different points of view from different disciplines using visual modelling, capturing these models in formal ways for comparison, semantic matching, and the generation of computer systems to support inter-disciplinary teams.

Simon Kaplan
CEO – Urban Institute

Simon is CEO and co-founder of [ui!] (Urban Institute), and Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Future Environments at Queensland University of Technology. [ui!] supplies smart city data analytics solutions and state-of-the-art smart city technologies.

Simon has spent 30 years investigating how groups co-design complex artifacts — from cities to large software systems — and how tools can usefully support the design process. He believes design patterns are a critical piece of the solution.

Prior to joining [ui!], Simon held posts as Director of NICTA’s Queensland Research Laboratory, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at QUT, Head of the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at The University of Queensland, and co-Founder of North Shore Labs.