CityScope Platform for Real-Time Analysis and Decision-Support in Urban Design Competitions

CityScope Platform for Real-Time Analysis and Decision-Support in Urban Design Competitions

Jesús López Baeza, Julia L. Sievert, André Landwehr, Jonas Luft, Philipp Preuner, Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, Ariel Noyman, Joerg Rainer Noennig
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJEPR.20211001.oa8
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This paper presents a digital online tool and interaction process that supplies algorithmic analysis and predictive simulation for early-stage urban design proposals within the framework of public competitions. Specifically, the system supports the decision-making of two user groups: 1) planners in the process of developing urban designs proposals and 2) competition juries in evaluating those proposals. The system provides instant assessment of the design solutions' environmental and spatial impact regarding selected target criteria such as noise propagation or pedestrian accessibility. Enabling the easy testing of functional programs and the identification of feasible trade-offs between multiple design targets, the system supports rapid design iterations as well as the objective evaluation of proposals. Applied for the first time within an innovative tender format for a new residential and business district in Hamburg, Germany, the new toolset paves the way towards a more holistic and interactive form of sustainable urban design.
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Urban design and development projects evolve through a complex and lengthy process. From project initiation via stages of public deliberation and tendering up to the physical execution of urban and architectural designs, a multitude of stakeholders, functional requirements, and target criteria need to be coordinated and harmonised (Alexander & Witzling, 1990). Within this process, the results of early-stage urban design competitions play a crucial role, as their procedures and outcomes strongly determine the shape and quality of future urban environments (Alaily-Mattar & Thierstein, 2018).

This paper presents ongoing research and innovation cooperation aiming for a novel methodology for urban design competitions, with the goal of providing real-time analysis and instant decision support.

The key idea is the application of the CityScope, a digital instrument that supplies algorithmic analysis and predictive simulation to planners and decision-makers in the various development stages of an urban design endeavour. The presented new tool and methodology focus on early-stage design proposals and can assess their performance in regards to environmental and spatial impact. Iterative, interactive, and participative in nature, the CityScope-based approach aims to “reinvent” the conventional formats of design competitions by going beyond their linear and deterministic procedures, as well as beyond their limited capacities in terms of urban analysis and simulation. Addressing planning offices participating in urban design competitions, the presented tool and methodology help to visualize quickly and in detail selected key performance indicators of design proposals while they are being generated, or already submitted.

In the context of urban design competitions, the proposed system addresses two specific use cases. The first one considers its usage by design studios in the earliest phase of design work, in which schematic proposals are drafted that outline elementary functional and spatial features of a future urban area. For this case, the system was designed to rapidly deliver information and real-time interaction which in turn enables urban designers to observe the environmental effects of the proposals, to estimate their overall qualitative performance, and to optimize their spatial layout and functional programs. For example, the toolset may provide instant answers to questions like: “How does the placement of a certain building in a certain location influence the propagation of traffic noise in the entire area?” The real-time calculation and visualization of the results may substantially enhance the ongoing design work and subsequent decision making processes.

The second use case of the system considers the concluding phases of design competitions when multiple designs have been submitted and expert juries assess them. At this stage, the CityScope system helps the jurors to evaluate the completeness of submissions, to check their compliance with key competition criteria, and to judge the different proposals on the basis of unified and objective performance indicators. The comparison of design proposals by way of algorithmic analysis benefits an unbiased and transparent assessment process, and also eases the challenge for juries facing the task of assessing proposals which were submitted in inconsistent or non-standardized formats (e.g. physical models, perspective drawings, text descriptions).

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