What is an intersection?

The intersection is a study of human physical interaction, of space, motion, speed and time. Contemporary society is characterized heavily by intersections, as seen in the work of Piet Mondrian. Mondrian was one of the earliest artists inspired by the pattern of organizing the modern world in a system of grids and perpendicular intersections. His paintings during the 1930's and `40s document the age of the metropolis and the conscious structuring of society for the interaction of information and people. As reflections of the rectangular grid system at the basis of computers or city streets, Mondrian's visions are metaphors for any system of communications or travel in contemporary society.

However, the idea of the intersection has always existed. Long before cars and traffic lights, travelers had to direct themselves as they clustered together to form the first villages and cities. Even in the natural world, the concept of intersections plays a crucial role in the harmony of life. Our own bodies serve as incredible systems of intersections, networking sensory and response information, nutrient distribution, excretion collection and expulsion, and the ultimate information processing unit--the brain. Human life is completely dependent on the efficient and effective operation of these "intersections".

Why today's intersections need to be redesigned

Intersections are aptly called that because they are locations where many different modes of transportation cross. But while a tremendous amount of engineering and design has been advanced for motor vehicles, when it comes to pedestrians there's far less research. Disabled people have their own set of design needs and these differ and may even conflict depending on the disability. Therefore, our project will be to design the urban intersection that takes into account all the different modes of transport that pass through it. A special emphasis will be placed on persons with physical difficulties such as paraplegics and the blind, as well as persons with mental disabilities, such as retardation. The intent is to maximize safety, efficiency, and aesthetics, while staying within a reasonable budget. (taken from Gateway handout)

Our focus: Rt. 9A at the intersection of Liberty and West Streets, Battery Park, NYC

Special Considerations for NYC intersections

While Paris is a combination of a radial city plan as well as a grid system that allows for radial expansion, NYC is almost exclusively a grid system because of the special constraints that being an island creates. Most importantly, Manhattan is restricted from expanding radially by geographic barriers, specifically the Hudson and East Rivers. As a result, land in NYC is particularly valuable and must be conserved. Our intersection design needs to take this factor into account.

Another special concern will be NYC's many different travel modes and the incredible density of human population. With so many different types of travel, there is a wide range of speeds, motions, and special physical requirements, such as wheelchairs. Therefore, special attention must be directed towards a strict regulation of travel, while giving the population a feeling of space and freedom.