Geodesign Summit Kicks Off its Fifth Year with a Promising Vision
Tom Fisher, dean of College of Design at the University of Minnesota, kicked off the fifth GeoDesign Summit on the Esri Campus in Redlands, Calif. this morning. The attendance of more than 300 attendees come from 19 countries and 33 states. The growing number of practitioners include the disciplines of architecture, planning, ecology, forestry, banking, finance, health insurance, mining, marine science, transportation, sanitation, urban design, among many. This past year the Geodesign events have expanded with 200 in attendance in Holland, 500 in attendance in Beijing with another 50,000 online. Programs in universities are expanding, with many other schools with courses and planning programs that incorporate the term and approach. Geodesign has gained acknowledgment as a valuable skill set for the work world with interest from faculty and students.
Fisher went on to discuss the evolving definition of geodesign that applies system thinking to design in a geographic context through the support of digital technology. It’s a new way of thinking to understand complexity with the systematic and incredible spatial power of geography and design in ways that hasn’t happened before. GIS is the tool that has created the push. Its data rich analytical power that synthesizes and offers a speculative approach to design. Understanding how it was and is from GIS with what it can be with design. It is particularly powerful in a time when we need to think differently and do things differently, driving how we work in the future.
Dangermond shared his thoughts on the event and the evoloution of the technology, and said that the creation of the event is not on his shoulders, it’s something that was inevitable as a means to address today’s challenges. These challenges deal with population growth, the change in land uses, the impacts on climate, biodiversity change, and on and on. The counterbalance to these trends, with the ability to stop and counteract is with designers, geographically changing what we do and affecting these challenges.
According to Dangermond, we collectively need to create a better future, bringing all the best science, technology and design thinking to change things. GIS provides a technological platform for integrating our sciences, with the concept coming from Ian McHarg who talked about how to bring sciences together as a platform for designing the future. He spoke about integrating the “ologies,” but what he didn’t have was the power of technology to bring things together.
GIS has emerged as a powerful platform for integrating and quantitatively analyzing the patterns and impacts. While it is in its early stages of evolution, it is providing the practical means and empowers the idea of geodesign. Geodesign takes geographic knowledge and allows us to design and evaluate alternative plans and make the best decisions. The definition continues to evolve, with a continual cross-disciplinary effort to get the definition and the practice right.
The applications are across many fields with reconstruction, master planning economic development, parks and open space, resource planning, conservation. From urban gardens to master planning, to locating where stores should be. Looking at alternatives and looking at their consequences with scientific approaches to determine the best design and approach.
GIS is about integration of both the data, and indirectly it has the ability to integrate people around common geographic information, breaking down the barriers. Jack first understood this in Carl Steinitz’s class at Harvard where multiple disciplines were brought together to understand the future of Boston. Understanding the consequences of alternatives is what GIS represents, taking away politics and bringing it into a science frame where we can build a future together.
GIS and increasingly geodesign are changing how we think and how we act by bringing together geographic science into what we do. The whole workflow is interesting, but the problem is that only a few people are using it. Given the challenges that we’re facing, this has to change. As a technologist, Jack thinks about how we get connected to each other with our mobile device we can understand more about our location and are transforming our relationship with our planet. If GPS and satellite images could reach out in the same way that mobile devices are engaging a third of our planet, we could change our world.
GIS is about organizing geographic information with a rich and multidisciplinary use. It has brought this vision of integration of information and collaboration to many different people and is being implemented in many patterns. The desktop, the Internet with servers and web cloud-based services has meant that it can become pervasive. The new pattern of Web GIS will transform everything, bringing the analytic and design tools to everyone else. It integrates a lot of trends — big data, faster machines, more measurement, cloud computing, devices and content. Web GIS will come to us in the form of apps that have a reach that all can use with content accessible so that we manage our own view of the world easily and collaborative.
Any kind of information can be integrated, with spreadsheets, databases, real-time sensor data, and reaching back into our history so that we can see change. This pattern is built on Web maps, coming from the map overlay approach with multiple views on one set of information, but not all in one databank, they are now increasingly distributed. When you try to put data all in one location it required too much compromising of “the truth.” This new pattern allows us to take distributed databases as services, reading in any data set and integrating them dynamically. This is really transformational, and has been sneaking up with us over the past several years. Dynamic services can be kept with the creator and served to users. We can visually overlay and do spatial analytics against this data — analyze, predict and interpret this dynamically.
This technology can dynamically bring it together, creating new collaborative approaches with open data and services. Web GIS becomes a platform for geospatial professionals to serve their knowledge to designers and the public. This will make mapping and geodesign available to everyone in organizations and beyond.
The cloud is coming alive with live data services from image and street base maps with demographic data and landscape data. Instead of spending half your time gathering data so that you can do the design, you just connect and use it. Half of the effort has been gathering the information, and today students can just access and use, which is a big change. Apps provide the access, viewing and querying with situational awareness so that maps come alive. This is just beginning.
Landscape Planner is a new application that collects and organizes data, runs analytics and follows a methodology to quickly design with impacts in mind. This new application is complemented by the lightweight apps that run on our mobile devices.
Procedural modeling is a rules-based 3D approach that started in the entertainment industry to build the digital sets for animated movies. These rules-driven environments are also quite powerful for visualizing cities, with Esri’s CityEngine, with analytical information that as you build buildings you can understand their impacts. You can set up performance measure or performance reports so that you’re designing and evaluating at the same time. You can quickly understand alternatives such as development with and without transit. 3D visualization in a browser without any software to look at before and after scenarios, shade and shadow analysis, 3D zoning, crime rate, flooding and other scenarios. The Web scene capability also allows you to share with citizens for further collaboration.
Dangermond closed by saying that we need to create a better future. It’s important to acknowledge that we’re on a mission. Being able to leverage the science, technology and design talents are really important. The field of geodesign will improve our understanding of the planet to inspire design thinking as a way to approach problem solving for the planet.