Friday, May 21, 2010

Visualizing the Future

How does this future growth - even as it is driven by marketing and state enforced community growth - and proposed changes to existing urban areas become integrated with the needs of local communities? Developers have learned to be far more persuasive and aggressive about getting their projects into communities, although they do have to listen to the market when it comes to income based upon retail and commercial rentals as well as housing numbers. There are visualization techniques evolving to address the issue of context and site which go beyond the boundaries of individual structures and into the way that people want to experience their neighborhoods. Grist magazine has a demonstration of this technique, used in public presentations very frequently today.

The sophistication of this technique is that it makes a lot more square footage appear very human-scaled and vibrant, with cars and traffic generated by these scenarios somehow left out. It's an animated representation that is about as real as the old stand-alone building renderings that are part of the dog-and-pony show in community public hearings across the country. It's a sales tool, not a way of mapping the actual experience of an urban environment.

Ways of digitally exploring the environment are under development as tools to capture and understand existing spaces, see how they're linked together, and allow problem-solving to take place in a way that leads to creative and effective solutions that get way from the developer formulas. An example of this kind of mapping, seeing and recording of the urban experience is a system being developed by Microsoft.

The documentation of human-scale interactive experience is an important part of looking at an entire area and the impact of changes on the community as a whole. These digital tools - such as the Google Earth digital simulations of urban areas and their adjacent open areas, natural features and topographic structures - will permit the study and understanding of how urban structures can integrate with environmental processes and contribute to the conservation and preservation of resources instead of demolishing them with "dumb" buildings and roads. These kinds of studies can pinpoint areas that need to be devoted to open space and natural processes right in the urban environment because they're part of a larger ecological system that must remain functional if people are going to rely on its resources of fresh water and clean air.