We can design resilient cities that use their size and collective energy to create refuge for both humans and displaced wildlife, that promote the emergence of positive microclimate, that replenish depleted water sources and that restore degraded terrains, pushing back on processes such as desertification, land erosion and contamination. This entails innovative strategies of urban re-greening and re-wilding as well as of urban agriculture.
A critical quality of urban planning today it to mobilize collective agency and intelligence to face the challenges ahead. In this way local solutions can be evolved in response to the given challenge.
In this recent collaboration with UNDP, ecoLogicStudio has been testing the potential of Artificial Intelligence to develop a new green planning interface. This planning solution combines the scalability of a sophisticated planning application to the design sensibility and intuitive accessibility of its design interface. This enables a high degree of customisation and evolution to each specific urban application, or urban design solution.
At its core, this application uses sophisticated algorithms to analyse hi-resolution data on urban landscape and infrastructure (mostly available open source) to produce simulated scenarios of sustainable urban development and a new way of urban planning – one that is dynamics, iterative and comprehensive.
These simulations have three key characteristics:
They are open to multiple external input, that is, all urban stakeholders can interact with several layers of data and see the effects of their actions on the proposed planning scenarios – and what we have used here is satellite imagery and open street maps.
They are time based and non-linear, and in that sense they enable all stakeholders to appreciate the effects of new policies and strategies systemically, across disciplines and planning regimes, being able to look at urban planning, at the same time as re-greening as well as mitigation of climate impacts.
They have a powerful visual and morphological output, thus enabling all stakeholders to visually appreciate the simulated urban form across several orders of scale.
As demonstrated by our test run with early adopter cities, such as Aarhus, Tallinn, Barcelona, Caracas, which were then applied in our joint project Vranje, Guatemala and Mogadishu, our design scenarios simulate the evolution of restorative urban networks.
This process questions traditional planning concepts such as zone, boundary, scale, typology and program. Such outdated notions actually constrain the emergence of a truly systemic approach to urbanisation, one that recognises the true nature of contemporary cities as complex dynamical systems – where built environment, and human systems interact regularly with green spaces.
This issue is most evident in the case of Guatemala City.