Master´s Thesis 2020 Urban Challenges

Yan Zhang

Why not Strangers?


In this project, I focused on the psychology and behavior of strangers in public space by exploring spatial possibilities of interrupting urban circulations and narratives.



As Kio Stark said,“Cities are machines for interactions among strangers. ”. Most of us stay close to our acquaintance, but are not aware of that strangers are also an important component of our social relationship. We are quite self-isolated in our own expected narratives and are afraid of or don’t bother to have any interactions with strangers. Of course, different cultures and personalities are the main internal reasons, but the design of modern public space should also take some blame of not providing the appropriate external environment for the freedom and vibration of multi interactions to happen.

So, my thesis question is:

How can the design of public urban space promote the interactions between strangers with respect to social distance, by interrupting expected narratives in daily life?

Delimitation diagram

My thesis is about the design of public space and activating urban life. It can improve the social sustainability. And it is not just focusing on the people that stay at the place, but also the passers-by will be taken care of.

I will add some interventions to interrupt the urban circulations. But these interruptions of expected narratives will help you build better connections with bigger amount of people.


I started my design from a prototypical research without any context, which can help me explore the maximum possibilities without any limitation. After that, I brought the prototype into a specific site. My research and intervention were mainly from an elemental perspective, and focusing on the dynamics in between multi elements. So here are some vocabularies that I used a lot. An architectural element is the component of architecture, and parameters are the variables of them that designers can adjust to control the consequence. After I got the result of the physical interventions, I also integrated the thinking about color and materiality to reinforce the effect.