New software can make cities more beautiful for life

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New software can make cities more beautiful for life

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A data-driven and visual potential approach can turn urban planning into science-based evidence live urban life can only succeed in eligible neighborhoods.

 Urban planning is more an art than a science. But data collection and extension can provide a more scientific basis for deciding the shape of the urban environment.

In 1748, Italian surveyor Jeanbatist Noli published a map of Rome, which soon became one of the most influential works in the history of urbanism. Nolley’s map is a detailed plan of the city. It outlines the appearance of buildings and streets, as well as enclosed urban spaces such as colonnades in St. Peter’s Square.

Since then, Noli’s approach, known as iconography, has been copied from urban sailboats anywhere. In fact, his maps in Rome are so good that the government continued to use them for urban planning until the 1970s, the MIT Technology Review notes.

Back then, city sailors were interested in comparing built and underdeveloped space in cities using maps similar to those of Noli. The diagrams show the built-up space in black and the unbuilt space in white, which currently makes the task easier.

In the 1990s, urban planner Alan Jacobs used these maps to compare cities around the world. The maps clearly identify and compare the lattice structures of cities like New York, more complex networks of older cities like Rome, and an open, functional approach in modernist cities like Brazil.

A new approach to urban planning

Surveyors like Jacobs and Nolley always draw their plans by hand. This is a time-consuming process, so urban sailboats have a reason to welcome automated charting and comparison tools, especially for today’s digital counterparts.

One of them is Jeff Boeing of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles – he has developed a suite of computing tools that can potentially transform the way speedboats “see” cities.

Tools can quickly create Noli cards, figures, and various other city maps in ways that set the stage for a revolution in urban planning.
Two directions of technological development

The Boeing method is the result of two directions of technological development. One is to produce high-quality planet maps that are freely available through Open Street Maps. Another is the development of Boeing itself, a software package called OSMnx, for analyzing and visualizing open-source map data.

This software allows Boeing to create huge amounts of Noli cards and other types of scales. They all show how different cities can be.

The scientist goes even further, experimenting with other ways of visualizing urban landscapes. For example, software allows him to study the structural properties of cities and their level of clutter – their entropy.

It also uses polar histograms, otherwise known as “roses,” to show the number of city streets that move in certain directions. This immediately reveals that the city is following a structure or is developing steadily.

Creating “Living Communities”

According to statistics by Edward Tuft, one of the goals of data visualization is to allow viewers to think about data at different levels. Good diagrams, he says, are “tools of reason.” But how can these visualizations be used to the benefit of cities?

One of the major attributes of cities is the creation of so-called “living communities”. This vitality is the intangible and immeasurable quality of cities. The fact is that many city governments are struggling but unable to achieve the formation of “living communities”. They do not understand exactly the factors that make cities successful.

There are different theories about this vitality. Perhaps most convincing is the late social activist Jane Jacobs, who describes in her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” the “magic ingredients” of a good city. She argues that urban life can only flourish in neighborhoods that meet several conditions.

For example, they must perform two or more functions to attract people with different goals, day and night. City blocks should be small, sidewalks wide, and intersections numerous, to create many conditions for people to meet and interact with.

The main criticism of Jacob’s work is that there is no evidence to support it. However, existing urban datasets can be visualized and validated (or rejected) by representing the parameters of different cities and their parts. Boeing software tools can help.

An urgent goal

According to urban planners, this should become an “urgent target for urban sailboats” worldwide. There are too many examples of gross mistakes in the way cities develop, often due to the lack of a clear idea of ​​what makes a city sustainable.

A new data-driven and visualization approach, such as Boeing’s, can turn urban planning into an evidence-based science.

New software can make cities more beautiful for life

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