Tag Archives: geodesign

Urban Planning and the DNA of the City

A city looks and feels the way it does because of human intention. Early civilizations built their settlements next to waterways, designing them to accommodate this resource accessibility and their own survival. During the beginning of the industrial revolution, cities were planned with ever-evolving rules ensuring that city streets were wide enough to accommodate the full turn of a horse and carriage. In this way, the values of the people were encoded into the very DNA of the city.

A complex built environment can be reduced to three basic elements: links along which travel can occur, nodes representing the intersections where two or more paths cross and public spaces form, and buildings where most human activities take place. The functionalities of place are all defined by rules and procedures, which make up the core design vocabulary of a place.  Procedural design techniques automatically generate urban designs through predefined rules which you can change as much as needed, providing room for limitless new design possibilities. Continue reading

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Geodesign for a Sustainable Europe

With the rush to urbanize, how can historic landscapes and archaeological features be preserved to maintain a sense of place? How does society plan for an ever-increasing population while maintaining open space, rural character, and economic vitality? How do communities take full advantage of improvements in technology to design or retrofit spaces and create smart, sustainable cities of the future?

These are some of the questions that will be examined at Geodesign Summit Europe, which will be held in September on an ancient fortress island in the Netherlands.

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Bridging the Gap Between Scientists and Policy Makers: Whither Geospatial?

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

Thus spoke President Barack Obama in his 2nd inaugural address, to the delight of many, if not most in the scientific community. Indeed, there are many societal problems across the world that increasingly revolve around science. These include pollution and waste management, pandemics and biosecurity, access to clean air and clean drinking water, response to and recovery from natural disasters, choices among energy resources (oil and gas versus nuclear versus “alternative”), and the loss of open space in urban areas, as well as biodiversity in rural areas. And yet, there is a tension between the world of science, which is focused on discovery, and the world of policy making, which is focused on decisions.

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A 250-Year Plan for the Planet

Four years ago, designer and technologist Bran Ferren issued a challenge during the first Geodesign Summit: Become better storytellers using geodesign.

Ferren, the chief creative officer of Applied Minds LLC, returned to Esri in January to keynote at the fourth Geodesign Summit and reiterate his first call to action and deliver another: Develop a 250-year plan for the planet enabled by geodesign to create a vision of the future.

“Geodesign combines geography and data with modeling, simulation, and visualization to tell stories and (show) the consequences of your actions,” Ferren told more than 260 architects, urban and transportation planners, GIS and design professionals, educators, and others at the most well-attended Geodesign Summit to date. He sees great potential for geodesign to ultimately help find solutions to complex problems. “It is still in the shiny object stage but it will be very important,” he said.

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Geodesign Pioneer Honored

Dr. Stephen Ervin is as vibrant as his day of birth—Mardi Gras. Like the celebratory day itself, Ervin is animated, larger than life, and full of contagious energy. He has spent two decades working at Harvard University teaching courses, speaking at conferences, and authoring books about his passion—the intersection of computing, design, and science. “Geodesign has taken over my life,” Ervin chuckles.

The Assistant Dean for Information Technology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Director of Computer Resources, and lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Ervin still somehow manages to find time to evangelize and promote the principles of geodesign in various ways around the world.

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The Geoscape: A New Canvas for Understanding

For many years, Bill Miller directed the development of Esri’s training and support infrastructure. Later as an engineer/architect, he was intimately involved in the design of Esri’s state-of-the-art corporate headquarters and conference center. Perhaps his best-known contribution to the GIS community was development of the ModelBuilder environment released as part of the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension. More recently, he came out of retirement to rejoin Esri and head up a new Geodesign Services effort.

Miller’s vision for the integration of geospatial technologies with the design process was long shared by a group of people that included UC Santa Barbara’s Michael Goodchild, Esri President Jack Dangermond, Harvard University’s Carl Steinitz, and a handful of others. Miller took the first step towards making this vision a reality when he assembled a small team to develop ArcSketch, a free sample extension that allowed users to quickly sketch features in ArcGIS. ArcSketch was Esri’s first small step toward what is now commonly referred to as “geodesign.”

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Virtual 3D Cities Anytime, Anywhere

Virtual 3D cities and geodesign in 3D are hot topics these days, and with new and upcoming technology the ability to not just view cityscapes, but do meaningful work, design, and planning around them, is increasingly becoming possible – and more portable.

While many of these developments are part of core ArcGIS (as found in ArcGlobe, ArcScene, and Esri CityEngine) they are also now becoming more broadly available via lightweight desktop and browser-based applications to knowledge workers, planners, and city managers – where many geodesign decisions get made.

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Can Geodesign Help Us Adapt to Climate Change?

The earth’s climate is changing, leading to serious problems for humanity in areas such as food security, health, and public safety. We need to adapt swiftly. But where do we start? Should we reinforce or rebuild existing structures? Or should we abandon existing settlements and relocate the population in some cases? And how can mass rebuilding/relocation efforts be best accomplished from human, environmental, and economic perspectives?

Geodesign is a framework for understanding the complex relationships between human-designed settlements and the changing environment, for quickly planning ways to adapt existing communities and build new ones in a more sustainable manner. This methodology helps us assess risk, identify change, create synergies, develop strategies, adapt to change, and monitor the results. Geodesign takes an interdisciplinary, synergistic approach to solving the critical problems of future design—to optimize location, orientation, and the features of projects at local and global scales.

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GIS and The City 2.0

More than 50% of the 7 billion people inhabiting our planet now live in cities, a number projected to grow to more than 75% during this century. The growth of cities as the center of the human world was highlighted when “The City 2.0” was awarded the 2012 TED Prize.  “For the first time in the history of the prize, it is being awarded not to an individual, but to an idea,” the TED committee stated. “It is an idea upon which our planet’s future depends.”

Clearly cities will play an increasingly important role in our future survival. Cities offer easier access to services, and urban dwellers are more efficient consumers of limited resources. Cities are human destiny. But as our cities become more populated and more numerous, how do we best manage this complexity?

We need to start thinking about cities in a different way.

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Traveling Through Time with GIS

A “time machine” is a plot device frequently used in science fiction.  From H.G. Wells’ groundbreaking 1895 novel The Time Machine to Marty McFly’s use of a temporally-enabled DeLorean in Back to the Future, time travel has certainly captured our collective imagination.  But the science behind time travel is dubious at best.  And even though we can’t actually physically move backward or forward in time, we can at least experience some of the thrills—and benefits—of time travel through temporal analysis.

Geospatial professionals are well versed in visualization of spatial relationships and dependencies. But when looking for relationships and dependencies, examining proximity in time can be equally important. Pioneering environmental planner Ian McHarg put great emphasis on chronology, or the placing of geographic layers in chronological sequence to show relationships, dependencies, and causation through time.

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